Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson spoke this week about the forthcoming Manchester Derby weekend, stressing its importance to United's finishing position in the Premier League and chances for a 20th title.
Some have suggested that the match is too early in the season to have a significant impact on which of the two Manchester sides will finish higher. That is a suggestion that Ferguson disagrees with, admitting that the clash "could be significant" as a "six-pointer" in regards to United's relative position to Manchester City.
United currently sits two points behind City, which means that the winner of Sunday's match will be at the top of the Premier League table. But a loss would put United's hometown rivals five points ahead, and even a draw could result in Chelsea advancing into second place to bump United down to third.
Ferguson was quick to give City credit for their success in the Premier League, saying, "City have done fantastically well, and if they had not thrown a two-goal lead away at Fulham they would have been top of the league with a 100 percent record."
But United has hardly done significantly worse, only dropping four points on the season to City's two, making the two sides early-season favorites for the first and second place positions at the end of the year (with Chelsea flying shockingly below the radar, given their success as well).
Said Ferguson: "The game could be significant at the end of the season. It's really a six-pointer, there's no doubt about that. Whichever team wins, it makes a difference of that."
Despite City's success, United are still widely considered to be the better side. The defending title-holders defeated the rivals in the 2011 Community Shield in August, and a recent fan poll on the Premier League website revealed that nearly 50 percent of respondents believed United would emerge as the victors (compared to City's 32 percent).
And, of course, there's United's incredibly enviable home record at Old Trafford over recent years that is sure to make a difference.
But Ferguson knows that his side's undefeated streak at home could be in jeopardy when City's surprisingly potent offense comes across town for a visit.
In the end, it obviously comes down to much more than one or two matches. After all, this isn't La Liga we're talking about here.
Even if City come out of top, Ferguson knows that all is not lost.
"By the end of the season, you hope—with their record in the second half of the season — that we'll be better."