Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure says he is upset by "untrue" claims he was involved in a dressing room fight with team-mate Mario Balotelli.
"It's not true. I am a footballer, not a boxer," Toure told the Daily Mail.
"People don't know my relationship with Mario. He's not my friend, he's my brother and I love him."
City led the Premier League title race for almost six months but have faltered in recent weeks, dropping to second place, five points behind neighbours United with seven games left to play.
Roberto Mancini's men, who trailed 2-1 at the break against Sunderland before fighting back from a 3-1 second-half deficit for a point, have won just one of their last four league matches.
The run started with a 1-0 defeat by Swansea at the Liberty Stadium, where it was also claimed that Toure and enigmatic 21-year-old Balotelli, who Mancini admits he does not know what to expect from, had a bust-up.
"They said I fought with Mario at Swansea and against Sunderland," 28-year-old Ivory Coast midfielder Toure said.
"That shocked me. My lawyers called me about this and it was the first I knew about it.
"To say we had a fight is very sad. It upset me and I feel sorry for Mario. He suffers most from these things.
"At half-time against Sunderland it was very difficult. But everybody was quiet. We were just looking at each other, trying to find a way to turn the result.
"But I didn't even talk to Mario. The next day he sent me a text message saying, 'Apparently we had a fight'. I just want to stop people writing and thinking that."
Mancini believes Balotelli's behaviour on and off the pitch is blown out of proportion, although he feels the striker could give his critics less ammunition.
"There are some people who think bad things against other people, like Mario," he said.
"Every time Mario does something, [it] is like a war.
"There are other people on and off the pitch that do worse than Mario and no-one says anything because maybe they play for an important team or are not like Mario."