Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini claims Sir Alex Ferguson is his inspiration as he prepares to take his team to Old Trafford to face the champions on Sunday.
City are top of the table with a two-point advantage over Ferguson’s team after eight matches.
They beat United in the FA Cup semi-final on the way to winning their first silverware in 35 years and are expected to launch a sustained challenge for the title this season.
City are a growing force three years after Sheikh Mansour’s takeover and that period has been marked by hostility between the two clubs, with Ferguson rarely passing up an opportunity to criticise a club he has branded “noisy neighbours.”
But Mancini feels that Ferguson, who is closing on a quarter of a decade in charge at Old Trafford and has praised Mancini’s work, is the benchmark for all young managers.
“I can say thank you to him because I have big respect for him because he won everything for 25 years. He is a teacher and I learn from him,” Mancini said.
“He wants to continue to win and that’s important for me and all young managers.
“He’s 69 and after 69 years he is there every day concentrating and I think it’s difficult to be at that age and have the same strength every day, want to win every game, want to work every day, it’s not easy after 50 years because he started very young.
“I hope I can do the same but it won’t be easy.”
Mancini has a fully-fit squad, with Nigel de Jong and Samir Nasri overcoming knocks sustained in the 2-1 win over Villarreal.
The Italian is pleased with the progress his squad have made in almost two years since he took charge but he believes the hard work starts now if City are to have a chance of overtaking United.
He also believes that all of City’s performances against United – not just in the FA Cup – have given them confidence ahead of the Old Trafford match.
“I think that United have an incredible history and are always on the top. We are there now and if we want to stay there, we have to continue to work,” he added. “We have improved a lot in the last year but we have to continue to work.
“I think that for us it was not important only to beat them in the semi-final but in all of the games that we played against them last year, we always played like them.
“Sometimes we lost and sometimes we drew but it was important that we played like we did.”
Mancini has often been criticised for his approach to key away matches in the past.
City have managed 27 goals in eight Premier League matches this season but Mancini admits he would still be happy with a draw at United.
But he maintains he will not go to United to defend as he has often done in the past.
“I think that if we leave Old Trafford with a point that is good for us but that’s not our mentality and it’s the same for United,” he said.
“Any time City or United play, they want to win every game. It’s very important because derbies usually are different from other games, but in this case it will be very different because the first time after a long time we can go there on the top.”
Watch Roberto Mancini’s praise for Ferguson: