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Richards lays down gauntlet to United

MICAH Richards believes Manchester United are "a bit frightened" of Roberto Mancini's Manchester City ahead of this weekend's Premier League clash at Old Trafford.

City are two points ahead of United at the top of the table and will play their first derby game at the home of the reigning champions in the absence of the banner that has taunted them for not winning a trophy in 35 years.

Richards, a relative veteran of the fixture having played in 10 derbies, insists City are ready to shrug off their noisy neighbours tag and build on their FA Cup success of last season.

"United now know, much as they won't say it, that we are a genuine threat to them," the 23-year-old defender said. "To get that banner down is quality -- we have got the last laugh.

"We are not going out and saying we will win this game or that game, but they call us the noisy neighbours. I think they're a bit frightened."

And Richards is hoping for a full-blooded encounter that lives up to the billing of such a high-profile cross-city derby.

"The last four derbies have not been that ferocious really," he said.

"Three or four years ago it was ridiculous, some of the tackling.

"I'd like to see that again, that ferocity, as it makes it more special. We all like to see nice football, but everyone loves a good tackle.

"It's harder these days, as if you tackle someone hard you get questioned. I preferred those ferocious derbies -- if it's a foul obviously the referee has to pull it up, but with those 50-50 challenges he should just let the game flow."

Richards insists that unlike previous years, City believe they have what it takes to win at Old Trafford.

"It used to be the case that we went to United and got battered every time, but in the last year or two we have gone to United and sometimes looked the better team, on their own patch, so it shows how far we have come in a short space of time.

"We have improved a lot and want the ball down to play -- in those days it was about getting 11 men behind the ball and defending, and if we got a chance we had to take it. That's what we did.

"If you speak to Mancini, he wants to go there and win.

"People talked about us last season being boring and negative, but if you watch us now we are completely the opposite."