Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing Sunday's encounter with Manchester rivals City. REUTERS REUTERS

Sunday's top of the table clash between Manchester rivals City and United could be key to determining the Premier League title, a prospect Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing.

City head into the Old Trafford clash top of the Premier League following another summer of extravagant investment. Unbeaten in their opening eight league games, Roberto Mancini's side are widely acknowledged as the chief rivals for United's crown.

Ferguson believes Sunday's result will go some way to deciding this season's title race, but having dropped just two points in their last 25 games at Old Trafford the United manager is confident his side will be returning to the top of the table by Sunday evening.

"I think City are doing fantastically well," Ferguson told Sky Sports. "If they hadn't thrown away a two-goal lead at Fulham they'd have a 100 per cent record.

"It could be quite a game on Sunday and I'm looking forward to it. You can only judge at the end of the season, in terms of the bearing of the title race.

"Whichever team wins, it will make a difference. But it's still early doors and we can recover from that, no doubt about that."

Ferguson has often cited United's fixtures with Liverpool as the biggest games of the season but, following Sheikh Mansour's huge investment in their city rivals, the Scot has acknowledged the increased importance of the Manchester derby.

"We've had to accept challenges time and time again. This is another situation and we have to do something about it. It's the type of challenge we have accepted well over the years.

"You don't want to be behind clubs but we were for a couple of years with Chelsea. We showed vigour and determination and decision-making, which put us back in front of them."

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Mancini has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Old Trafford, after his side came through their 2-1 Champions League win over Villarreal unscathed.

Mario Balotelli is available following his European suspension and could partner Sergio Aguero in the City frontline.

Edin Dzeko is also in contention for a starting berth but Carlos Tevez is not expected to feature, with the striker set to be charged for refusing to warm up against Bayern Munich, a claim the Argentine denies.

Ferguson is likely to pick his strongest available line-up for Sunday's clash after he rested key players during United's previous two outings.

Midfielder Tom Cleverley (foot) and defender Rafael (shoulder) are long-term absentees but Ferguson has no other new injury concerns following Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League win over Otelul Galati.

Wayne Rooney is likely to partner Javier Hernandez up front after the pair were surprisingly named on the substitute's bench at Anfield.

Nemanja Vidic returned to the side for the mid-week trip to Romania and is expected to start alongside Rio Ferdinand in central defence.

Man Utd probable XI: De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Anderson, Young; Rooney, Hernandez.

Man City probable XI: Hart; Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy; Y Toure, De Jong, Silva, Nasri, Balotelli, Aguero.