Pablo Zabaleta says City need to show passion and be totally committed from the first minute until the last if the Blues are to leave Old Trafford with three points.
With the teams in and around the top six having a good weekend so far, dropped points could be costly as what shapes up to be a fascinating title race heads into the winter months.
A win for City will guarantee top spot going into next weekend, whereas a defeat could leave Manuel Pellegrini’s side drop down as far as third.
“If you walk around the city you see that everyone is talking about that game,” said Zabaleta. “That shows how much it means for the people in the city.
“Of course I’ve been here for a long time and I’ve been involved in a lot of derby games. Sunday is another one and those games we have to play with passion, character and attitude that we need.
“Forget about the talent because I’m 100% sure we have talent, but apart from that we need to play the game with 100% passion and show real character to win the game and give City fans the chance to enjoy their day.
Derbies are always different games because of how much it means to the fans
"It is the game that everybody expects their team to win and psychologically if you have a chance to win that game it can lift your confidence and let the people celebrate.
“As players we know that and hopefully we can put in a great performance on Sunday, get the three points and extend the gap.”
Zabaleta admits United are a serious title rival and accepts this will be one of the toughest away days of the campaign – but knows a City win would open a five-point gap up on the Reds.
“I think they are one of the big contenders for the title and they have brought in some good players and of course, United will be there for the rest of the Premier League title race,” he said.
“United have spent a lot of money over the last few years to make a strong team again and play to win trophies. United have been winning for many years but in truth have been struggling for two seasons but they are still a big club and we have to respect them.
“I am sure that they think the same thing about City as it’s a different era for this club. For the city, I think Manchester has been improving since it had two successful clubs in the city and that’s great for the league, for England and also for the city to enjoy that moment with two clubs looking for the title.
“Hopefully we can win this game. Nothing will be decided by who wins or loses on Sunday, but it would be good to keep the momentum going and keep winning games.”