Manchester derby: City are United"s main rivals now, not Liverpool – Sir Alex Ferguson

Megabucks City are United's main rivals now… not Liverpool, admits Fergie

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UPDATED:

21:20 GMT, 26 April 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted for the first time that Manchester City are his biggest rivals in English football as he prepares for Monday's make-or-break Barclays Premier League game at the Etihad Stadium.

The Manchester United manager has always maintained during his neighbours' recent rise to prominence that he still viewed traditional rivals Liverpool as the main threat.

But as he looked ahead to the potential title decider at City's ground, Ferguson warned his club's supporters there will be many more titanic battles against Roberto Mancini's team.

Top billing: Sir Alex Ferguson insists he is looking forward to Monday's title-deciding derby against Manchester City

Top billing: Sir Alex Ferguson insists he is looking forward to Monday's title-deciding derby

He said: 'We have to get used to playing City in important games, they are not going away. The financial support they have means we will be playing them in a lot of big games. We will be playing them in cup finals and semi-finals. We have already done that last season and if we are going to be contesting for league titles regularly – and I think we will be – then this will become just as important as the Liverpool game.

'Certainly in importance probably at this moment in time it supersedes the Liverpool games in the sense that City are our direct opponents now. Manchester City are without question up against us to win titles and that is what I focus on. I only focus on the team that can actually affect our progress in terms of winning.

'This game could decide the title.'

Ferguson stressed it is still hugely emotional when playing Liverpool but it is clear beating City to the title would be something that would bring enormous satisfaction.

Wet and wild: Carlos Tevez and James Milner brave the Manchester rain at Carrington

Wet and wild: Carlos Tevez and James Milner brave the Manchester rain at Carrington

Asked if he enjoyed the challenge, Ferguson said: 'I am a confirmed masochist, I joined the club about 26 years ago. I do not know if you thrive on it, I can't even say I can look forward to it. But I am up for it, I am prepared for it and I think my players will be prepared for it so hopefully we will be OK.'

United lead City by three points with three games to play, but City have a superior goal difference.

Sportsmail understands City full back Micah Richards is close to recovering from a hamstring strain for Monday’s match.