Ferguson turns up derby heat
Sir Alex Ferguson turned up the temperature in trademark fashion ahead of Sunday's derby with a ruthless dismissal of Manchester City's new wealth and power.
Asked if he was concerned by City's threat, Manchester United's old prize-fighter made no attempt to disguise his incredulity at the very idea of the empire being challenged from Eastlands.
"Where are they at the moment? Excuse me. At this moment in time it is Chelsea and Liverpool who are sitting above us."
It will have raised hackles at Manchester City - especially after doing the double over United last season - but the brutal truth is that he is right.
Most Manchester City fans would, reluctantly, accept the validity of Ferguson's argument - but Sunday's game at Eastlands will at least provide Mark Hughes and his players with the opportunity to send a signal to Old Trafford.
City have looked exactly what they are for much of this season - namely a team and club in transition.
They have an excellent recently-acquired manager in Mark Hughes and their new owners only had time to fire one, albeit spectacular, shot across the bows by beating Chelsea to the signature of Robinho.
The real action is more likely to start next summer, when it appears no target will be out of bounds - although whether they will actually arrive is another matter.
It might be worth asking Ferguson the same question about City's threat this time next year, when we see if the Abu Dhabi United group have funded their new project as spectacularly as most reports suggest they will.
As I stated in a recent blog, City's history has been littered with instability and the last thing required at Eastlands is another knee-jerk change.
United, in contrast, are an established force blessed with outstanding talent all over the pitch and a remarkable manager and personality in Ferguson.
Everything is in place to compete for trophies on all fronts again this season.
This is why Ferguson's comments regarding the local threat, while they may seem harsh to some City fans, are true.
What City fans do have, more than at any other time in recent memory, is hope. Bags of it in the shape of the billions that are likely to be pumped into the club from the Middle East.
And, even in the recent hard times, they have had their successes against neighbours United, with Sven-Goran Eriksson's City doing the double over United last term.
City will see Sunday's game as an opportunity to show off their new status to the neighbours, while attempting to improve a league placing of 11th that has been undermined by poor away form.
Ferguson correctly pointed out that money can make a difference when spent properly, citing the case of Roman Abramovich's highly-priced (but ultimately successful) rebuilding of Chelsea.
It can also work the other way, but the long-term prognosis for City will be good if they stick to the principle of letting Hughes decide the targets and then simply back him with finance - while maintaining their superb academy system.
Ferguson is the prime example of stability that City can look to as their model.
He was not aiming any disrespect in City's direction to down-play the current scale of their threat - but it may just make Mark Hughes and his players more determined to show he could have a serious fight on his hands in the future.