Manchester City can prove dominance over United and Liverpool in one week

When Sir Alex Ferguson was asked in 2009 whether his Manchester United side would ever go into a Manchester derby match as underdogs, his reply of "not in my lifetime" was widely greeted with mirth and knowing nods of the head from the watching journalists. The old sage had spoken again and the club he had disparagingly named the "noisy neighbours" had been put firmly back in their place.

Nine short years later, it is clear for all to see which of the Manchester giants has swept enthusiastically to the forefront.

City -- one victory away from securing their third league title in seven years -- will do just that if they defeat United next weekend. For United it is the nightmare scenario and one that has been inching towards reality over recent weeks.

City's usurping of United's top dog status is not all, however. There is another very realistic scenario that could heap even more humiliation on their neighbours: this game of the century, this utterly unique opportunity to win the title against their fiercest rivals is not even top of City's list of priorities: what if they go on to win the Champions League?

Not only have City overtaken their neighbours and consolidated that position of superiority, they are now in a position to state that the two games against Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinals are far more important than closing out the title against United. Ferguson would not have been alone in finding it tough to imagine such a scenario.

Liverpool it was who -- on the occasion of the aforementioned news conference -- the United manager had quoted as his club's fiercest rival. Now, the shoe appears to be on the other foot.

City may well decide that it is worth playing the reserves against United at the weekend to spare the legs of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and the like for the second match against Liverpool in a week's time.

"History" was the one word reason Ferguson gave for naming the Liverpool rivalry as the most relevant. From Monchengladbach through Benfica, to St Etienne and Nottingham Forest, Liverpool fans have witnessed some stunning nights of European drama down the years.

However, it is nearly 30 years since the last of Liverpool's league titles and sporadic European success since then has also begun to fade into memory. City, the first English side to be European and domestic winners in the same season (1970), represent what comes next as well as what has been.

Nobody can doubt that, with the help of Sheikh Mansour's billions, City have broken up the cartel of clubs who have ruled the Premier League roost for more than a decade. Liverpool, United and now Arsenal -- a club seemingly permanently lodged in the top four places for two decades -- are experiencing what it is like to be on the outside looking in.

Now it is City that possess the longest unbroken run of appearances in the top four (the 2009 season was the last time they finished lower than 4th). Since then Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and now Pep Guardiola have brought the ship home in 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 4th and 3rd.

A third title will be added this weekend if City can fend off United over 90 minutes in what promises to be a scorching Etihad atmosphere.

Before that, however, is the small matter of Liverpool away in Europe. You get the impression the City players will relish the Anfield atmosphere and also the opportunity to prove that the 4-3 reverse there in the league was an aberration in a season of silky smooth progress to the top.

After all, not in our lifetime have we seen a Premier League side do the things City have done this season.