Manchester: Sir Alex Ferguson insists Manchester United will see off the title challenge posed by his "noisy neighbours" Manchester City and believes that Chelsea still represent a real threat to his club retaining the Premier League crown.
Roberto Mancini's City visit Old Trafford for the first Manchester league derby of the campaign in the unfamiliar position of looking down on United from first place - and a two-point cushion - in the league standings.
However, Ferguson believes that their local rivals are just another in a long line of challengers to United's position as the dominant team in English football.
"The important thing is we don't go away," said Ferguson. "It doesn't matter where the challenges come from in this league you know every year you are going to have to beat someone.
"This year it may be City. I think you are a wee bit premature in writing off Chelsea as far as I am concerned. They have got the most experience in terms of players. Their squad is full of top experience.
"You cannot discount them. We hope we finish above both of them. That is the name of the game for us.
"City's money doesn't matter. They are where they are at the top of the league at the moment and at this club we always accept a challenge. We've done that time and time again. It's another situation, another game in the history of the club. I enjoy that.
"It's the type of challenge we have accepted well over the years. You don't always want to be behind a club in the way we were for a couple of years with Chelsea but we showed the vigour and determination and decision making that got us back in front of that particular football club.
"Sunday we have another situation against an emerging City team that's gone to the top of the league. It's early doors of course and there are a lot of winning posts along the way and one of the winning posts is Sunday's game. It could be a significant point of the season.
"It's a six-pointer, no doubt about that. Whichever team wins, it makes a difference but it's early doors and you can recover from it.
"The way we react in the second half of the season, you hope we will be better."
Much of the preparation for this most eagerly-awaited of derby meetings has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding City's former United forward Carlos Tevez and his alleged refusal to play for Mancini in the recent Champions League group defeat at Bayern Munich.
Ferguson refused to comment directly about the Argentinian forward, or his controversial agent Kia Joorabchian, but did have a strong view on how Mancini has handled himself since taking on the job as City manager.
"I think Roberto has done great," said Ferguson. "I think he has shown his mettle dealing with a lot of situations in recent times. He has done fantastically well."
Ferguson, whose squad reported a clean bill of health ahead of the derby, also conceded that City's FA Cup semi-final victory over United last season not only allowed them to end their trophy drought but will also prove a turning point in City's fortunes.
"It was a turning point because they won the cup," he said. "It was the first time they'd won something for 35 years. That is a turning point."
Meanwhile, Mancini, who has often spoken of his team being "two yards" behind their rivals, believes City are closing the gap and capable of remaining in first place for the remainder of the campaign.
"Yes, I'm sure," he said. "I don't know if we can win all the games because until now we've had seven victories and one draw. The season is hard, we have a lot of games to play but I think that we can stay there for a long time.
"Now, it's one yard. United over City is one yard because in the last two months we worked very well and we have reduced the gap. United is United."
Closing that gap to nothing remains Mancini's ultimate goal.
"It should be our target," he said. "When you have Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, you work to be like them. This should be our target.
"I don't know if it will be possible and in how many years we can do this but we'll work for this. We want to become one of the best teams in Europe."