Pablo Zabaleta feels the Manchester derby defeat last season was the catalyst for City’s title charge.
Manuel Pellegrini was on the brink of the sack after his side were beaten 4-2 by United in April at the Etihad Stadium, but following the painful defeat, City battled back to win a club-record 11 successive league matches.
The Chilean coach has since signed a contract extension and has lifted the club to the top of the Premier League table, having won 13 of 15 league games since the derby loss.
Argentine defender Zabaleta feels the painful defeat gave City the additional motivation in the title fight, one they fell short in as Chelsea claimed the league by eight points.
“Yes, it hurt,” he said. “It was a very hard defeat because of the way we played in the game wasn’t good.
“You don’t expect to lose like that and you expect to play much better with the players we have in the team.
“We’ve set our standards high and we know how well we can play. We knew after the game we needed to change the way we were playing and we went on to win 11 games in a row.
“We finished second in the Premier League, above United. You get frustrated when you lose a derby like that, but now we have another chance to show how good we are.”
City make the short trip to Old Trafford to play Louis van Gaal’s United – who sit third in the table – on Sunday.
Pellegrini’s men can open up a five-point lead over their rivals with a win and Zabaleta acknowledged the fixture is important for both sets of supporters.
“We’re not thinking about revenge,” he added. “We just see it as a chance to win another game at Old Trafford and I remember playing pretty well there and winning 6-1 and 3-0.
“This is the biggest game for sure in England. We know how important it is for the fans, for the club and also because we play against a team that is joint second in the league, two points behind.
“We have a chance to try to win the game and extend that lead. Both teams play for something important, not just pride. They have a chance to beat us and go top of the league and we have a chance to extend the gap.
“Both teams are playing for something really big.”
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