The two Manchester clubs meet at the Etihad Stadium on Monday evening, with United currently three points clear.

However, if Roberto Mancini's men beat their bitter rivals they will reclaim top spot on goal difference.

"If City win they would probably go on to win it from there," Ferguson said.

"Even though they've got to go to Newcastle I think they would have a great chance. If we won we'd be strong favourites. Even with a draw we'd be favourites. No doubt about that.

"Two games to go, one at home and one away, we'd have to be happy with that. One thing, though, we won't be going to City just looking to make sure we don't lose."

United let slip a 4-2 lead at Old Trafford against Everton last week, which allowed City to narrow the gap after an easy win over Wolves.

"Given the chances we created against Everton and the quality of our performance, we should have won comfortably," he said.

"Maybe I should have brought on a couple of defenders just to see it off. I mean, there was only seven minutes to go and we were winning 4-2. Bloody hell, there you go.

"I always thought City would be our big challengers this year, particularly after the early-season program they had.

"I mean, they didn't really play anyone at the start of the season, and they got off to a flyer because of it.

"We had Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in the first four or five games. We had a really tough start and because City had some good results that projected them forward.

"I always expected them to be there at the end after that."

The Red Devils have the upper hand in meetings this season with two wins to their name, but City did humiliate them by winning 6-1 at Old Trafford.

"It doesn't matter what has happened for the rest of the season," Ferguson said.

"They're undefeated at home and we have the best away record. It doesn't matter. This is a one-off fame.

"The City crowd will be up for it. We expect them to be. But that's not unusual for us. We've been to Anfield, the Emirates, places like that. The atmosphere will be just the same.

"I have to trust my players. We have enough experience, enough pace and enough good footballers with determination.

"We'll be all right in that respect. A game of this nature can be decided by anything - and you only hope it isn't decided by a bad decision.

"There is a focus on this game so it's important that it is good. We're representing the city all over the world.

"There's 203 countries going to watch it. Even Michel Platini is coming to watch. That creates a certain occasion and we want to represent ourselves in the right way.

"It's difficult to know how City will approach it. My feeling is that he will be cautious. It doesn't matter, all I know is that we want to do well."