Rio Ferdinand says Manchester United will stop more Manchester City supporters from coming "out of the woodwork" by winning the Premier League title this season.
United's lead at the top of the table has been cut to one point following City's 2-1 victory at home to Chelsea on Wednesday, with Roberto Mancini's team able to reclaim pole position when they face Stoke at the Britannia Stadium tomorrow.
The clubs are due to meet in a potential title decider at the Etihad Stadium on April 30, but with City defeating United 6-1 at Old Trafford last October and leading the title race until last week, Ferdinand admits there is a determination to keep City waiting for their first Premier League trophy.
"Walking around in town, you see more and more blue shirts than you probably ever would have seen over the last 10 years," Ferdinand said.
"But success sometimes brings people out of the woodwork, so fingers crossed, we can delay that and make sure that we get this title sewn up this season."
United's trip to City next month, two weeks before the end of the season, could see one of the clubs end the title hopes of their neighbours.
And although Ferdinand expects the game to be high-stakes, he admits United are hoping to travel to the Etihad with the title already won.
The 33-year-old said: "Who knows? We'll have to wait and see, but in an ideal world, we'll have it sewn up by the time we go there. I don't expect it to be finished by then. Every game is a cup final now and every result will sway the title.
"If we win the games that we've got left, we win. But it's not as easy as that.
"We're in the position that we want to be but, more importantly, we want to remain there until the end of the season.
"I think this is a vital period, each game is a must-win game. If we win all of our remaining games until the end of the season, we will be champions.
"That's what we're going out to do. We've left ourselves in a position where we are going to be a couple of points behind or on top. Right now we are top and we have got to finish it off.
"But there is no better feeling at the end of the season than sitting there and knowing you have got a winners' medal hanging around your neck.
"Those are the memories that you think about and drive you on to achieve things and try to be a part of this club's history."
United manager Alex Ferguson is hoping to have Portuguese winger Nani available for Monday's home game against Fulham after being sidelined for three games with an ankle injury.
Nani has returned to training this week and defender Phil Jones is also in contention following a bout of flu.
Ferguson said: "There are no problems with injuries. It's much better now.
"Anderson and Michael Owen are the only ones out, with Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher obviously still long term."
Meanwhile, striker Wayne Rooney has apologised to a nine-year-old football fan after he fired a stray shot into the crowd which broke the youngster's wrist.
Jamie Thomas, from Shropshire, was watching United for the first time on Sunday when the shot from the striker caught his arm.
Rooney used his Twitter page to say sorry to the schoolboy and promised to send him a personalised gift. He said: "I want to apologise to Jamie Thomas. I have arranged for a letter and a signed shirt to be sent to his home address."
It is not thought he was aware of the incident at the time.