Yaya Toure believes the dynamic between Manchester City and cross-town rivals Manchester United has changed significantly since his arrival in 2010.
United were the dominant force in English football for an 18-year period prior to Toure signing from Barcelona, but should City win all their remaining five Premier League games this season, it would see them finish above the Old Trafford side for the fifth time in six seasons.
And Toure, who has been a key part of City’s resurgence, believes the away fans’ reaction to Thursday’s 0-0 draw is a sign of the times.
“Yeah, it is a big change because in the past United were always able to dominate,” he said. “They were always able to control and win games, and seeing the fans celebrating like that it shows that City have come close.
“Of course, the history and achievements of United is much stronger but we are coming. They know now we are difficult to play and they tried to do their best to defend and use the counter attack.
“To be honest we played well but when you don’t win it is difficult to take it.
“All the time we finish above them in the season, it shows City are doing very well.
“Today we missed that last pass or goal. Credit to them. At the back, they were very strong and my friend [Eric] Bailly was very good.”
City dominated Thursday’s game and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession – but couldn’t turn their superiority into goals.
United appeared content to sit back and hit City on the counter, something Toure admits made it difficult for the home side to play their expansive attacking game.
He praised United’s pace on the break but feels City were somewhat unlucky not to emerge with three valuable points in the race for a top-four place.
“Yeah, when you play against teams who played 4-4-2 it was difficult to find the space between the lines,” he said.
“We just had to take our time because we know they were looking for the mistake.
“And if you make the mistake, [Marcus] Rashford and [Anthony] Martial they are very quick. We had to be careful.
“We had to try and control them – tried to make them suffer and tired.
“Physically they [United] are very good but they were lucky as well.
“We had good chances to maybe score one, two or three goals. We were unlucky today but we have to accept that.”
With City set to finish the season empty-handed and United currently outside the top four places, both sides have faced criticism this season.
But the Ivorian believes the two Manchester Clubs will emerge in better shape next season, with plenty of transfer activity expected at the Etihad and Old Trafford over the summer.
“Yes, for sure [both sides will improve],” he said.
“United are building something very interesting. We have to be aware of that but I think City are going to be much, much stronger as well.
“Next year we are going to expect more and I hope United are going to attack a little bit more.”