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Fergie: Battle is on now

ALEX Ferguson has conceded that Manchester United are now in a real fight with neighbours City for Premier League bragging rights.

Dismissive in the past of the challenge presented by Roberto Mancini and his team, Ferguson now sees Sunday's first Manchester derby of the season in a new light.

“The last couple of years the derbies have become more intense and there is more importance attached to them,” said Ferguson.

“On Sunday, it is top of the league and second-top, and it really builds up into a fantastic prospect for everyone. I am looking forward to that,” he said with relish.

Ferguson also doffed his cap to the progress Manchester City have made under Mancini after beating Otelul Galati with two Wayne Rooney penalties when he was asked to rate this season's Champions League challengers.

“Barcelona and Real Madrid, without a doubt are among the favourites. But I think the English teams like ourselves, Chelsea and Manchester City will make a good show of it.”