Striker Wayne Rooney feels it would be especially satisfying if Manchester United can clinch the Barclays Premier League title this season with Manchester City having been their closest challengers.
United, who are hunting a 13th Premier League crown, knocked City off top spot for the first time since October last weekend when they defeated West Brom 2-0 while Roberto Mancini’s men were beaten 1-0 at Swansea.
Rooney concedes there is still a long way to go but admits it would leave a sweet taste in the mouth if they can claim the title ahead of their big-spending local rivals after being forced to play catch-up for so long.
“If we can win this league then I’m sure it will be very satisfying for all the players, fans and everyone connected to the club because there was one stage when we weren’t expected to win the league, which is mad when you are talking about Man United,” he told BBC’s Football Focus.
“So it’s great we are back on top and the aim is to stay there until the end of the season. There’s still a long way to go of course, 10 games left, we know we have to stay focused for all of those game to stay top. We know what we have to do.”
The prospect of United retaining their crown looked to have taken a significant blow when they suffered a humiliating 6-1 home defeat to City back in October.
That was United’s heaviest derby loss for 85 years, their worst defeat since 1955 and shattered their 37-game unbeaten home run in all competitions.
It also left City five points clear of United, but Sir Ferguson’s men fought back and now have their destiny back in their own hands.
“We’ve stuck in there, we’ve kept going, kept working and thankfully we’ve gone above them now,” added Rooney, who described the derby loss at Old Trafford as a “nightmare”.
“It dented our pride. We’re all proud people and we don’t want to lose like that, particularly at home and against your closest rivals. It was a nightmare game for us.
“It was important we came back well and strong from that. I think the next six games after that were 1-0 victories, so we put it out of our minds and looked forward rather than back. I hope we don’t experience a day like that again.”
Rooney also revealed he is really enjoying his football at present after taking his tally to the season to 27 in all competitions with a superb strike in United’s Europa League exit at the hands of Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.
Rooney’s current form will serve to magnify just what England will be missing at this summer’s European Championships where the 26-year-old will sit out the first two matches through suspension.
When asked about the national team, who are searching for a permanent successor to Fabio Capello, Rooney said: “It’s obviously exciting to see who will take over and take us into the Euros. It’s an exciting tournament to play in so hopefully we can go there and do well and hopefully bring some success for England.”
On the prospect of being unavailable from the outset, he added: “I just have to make sure I’m there, getting among the players, getting in the spirit with the players and round the hotel and trying to get people relaxed more, I’ve got a job to do there as well as on the pitch when I come back playing.”