MICHAEL CARRICK does not believe tonight's Manchester derby can be billed as a title decider.
Even Alex Ferguson has labelled the encounter between City and United at the Etihad Stadium as such, claiming it is the most important derby he has been involved in during his 26 years at Old Trafford.
Yet United midfielder Carrick is not so sure.
After this evening, both clubs will have two Premier League matches to play, including tricky trips to the north-east, where City head to face Newcastle next weekend and United visit on the final day of the season for an encounter with Sunderland.
City also have to face a QPR side even more desperate for points following yesterday's horror show at Chelsea, while Swansea -- so impressive on their return to the top flight -- visit Old Trafford next Sunday.
And the fixture list has led Carrick to conclude that nothing will be decided tonight.
"Whatever happens, the title race won't be over at the final whistle," Carrick said.
"Obviously we're the two main contenders and this is going to be a big three points, but there will still be two games left to play and the way the last couple of weeks have gone, I don't think you can look at the derby as a decider.
"Who knows what might still happen? We can only look at this game as an opportunity to win three points.
"Don't get me wrong, it would be a massive step towards the title if we win, but it won't hand us the trophy."
Carrick is aiming to win his fifth championship in six seasons as a United player, but none of them have been achieved with any degree of comfort. This time around is no exception after United threw away two points against Everton last week.
It means a City win will also take them top, although Carrick prefers to focus on the position as it is now.
"We are still in a good position," he said. "We're three points in front with three games to go. I think some people have forgotten that.
"Every time we've won the league since I've been here it's gone right down to the last couple of games."