Manchester City have not given up on the Premier League title but goalkeeper Joe Hart knows it is possible the club could finish outside the top four this season.
City occupy the fourth and final Champions League place, a point clear of fifth-placed West Ham, but are 15 points adrift of Premier League leaders Leicester City, though they have played two fewer matches than Claudio Ranieri’s high-flyers.
And as City prepare to host sixth-placed United on Sunday, Hart said the team’s season is still up in the air.
“It’s possible we could finish outside the top four. It isn’t how we see our season ending – we still want to believe that first place should be our goal – but anything can happen.
“Our attitude has to be aim for the top, otherwise what is there to turn up for?”
This season’s second Manchester derby is remarkably different to past fixtures as both teams fight for that coveted fourth position, with the title seemingly out of reach, but Hart added: “Globally it doesn’t carry the same swing as the semi-final in 2011 or the league game in 2012 – but, for me personally, it’s the most important derby ever because it’s the next one.
“It’s a game that will shape us until the end of the season.
“The first one I played in was the anniversary of the Munich disaster which was an amazing occasion – Manchester really coming together, showing to be really close, very respectful and then topping it off with a great game of football. It was a great win for us but it was a great day, it was something really special to be part of. Every victory against United sticks out and every loss hurts.
“There are three points available. It’s just as important as Norwich was and just as important as [AFC] Bournemouth is going to be. This is the game to focus on, there are the three points up for grabs and we keep wanting to move up.”