Steve McClaren believes the Sky Bet Championship final will be contested between the correct two teams.
McClaren's Derby will face QPR, where the former England manager began the season as part of Harry Redknapp's coaching staff, at Wembley on Saturday with promotion to the Barclays Premier League the prize on offer for the winners.
The Rams finished third in the table while QPR were five points behind them in fourth spot.
Derby finished 13 points ahead of their play-off semi-final opponents Brighton and 12 points in front of fifth-placed Wigan, who the Hoops defeated over two legs.
McClaren said: ''Just because we finished third and quite a few points in front of the other teams, it doesn't mean we will go up, football isn't like that.
''In football you don't always get what you deserve. We're just pleased for the club - for the likes of (chief executive) Sam Rush, the supporters and the city as a whole. We've developed very quickly and got into the play-offs and finished third with a record points total and as top goal-scorers.
''So in that respect I think the right two teams have made it through.
''Leicester and Burnley were the top two teams in this division and it's good to see that ourselves and QPR, who finished third and fourth, have reached the final. You could say we both deserve to be there and we'll see how the cards fall on Saturday.''
Asked about the prospect of facing his former club, McClaren said: ''It will be good to see Harry and the staff again because I had three great months there but when this job came up, well, I'd have walked up here for it.
''I was at Loftus Road for their second leg against Wigan and I tried to see Harry and some of the others after the game but it was chaos around the dressing room area. But I saw some of the staff and players before the game and managed to speak to them and it was good to see them.
''We'll have a cup of tea or whatever together at Wembley before the game and a hug afterwards, whatever happens.''
Redknapp refused to be drawn on his future ahead of the clash.
The veteran boss takes QPR to the winner-takes-all showdown in what could be his final match in charge.
There have been reports that Redknapp will leave Loftus Road should Rangers fail to secure promotion back to the Premier League, or that he may even be ready to quit management altogether.
But when asked whether Saturday's result will have a bearing on his future, the 67-year-old former West Ham, Tottenham and Portsmouth chief would only say: "I don't think beyond Saturday.
"I have not even thought about a player for next year. My focus is getting a result on Saturday, then we can all sit down and start planning for the future.
"We haven't thought about that yet. That's the difficulty of the play-offs, it depends where you are next year."
Rangers are desperate for a return to the top flight at the first attempt but face a Rams side rejuvenated under Steve McClaren, who began the season on Redknapp's coaching staff.
"It's a massive game," added Redknapp. "Obviously we want to get back into the Premier League so there is a lot at stake.
"I think Derby are the favourites. They have been on a great run and Steve has done a fantastic job with them. They are a young side, full of energy.
"It's got all the ingredients of being a good match-up.
"We can't get too carried away with the occasion, We have to make sure we have clear heads, we are focused and we play the way we want to play.
"If we got up it would be fantastic. That was the aim at the start of the season."
Rangers have been boosted by the availability of defender Yun Suk-Young.
There were fears the 24-year-old would have to link up with the South Korea squad for their pre-World Cup training camp as FIFA designated May 19-25 as an official rest period for all players selected for the tournament.
But coach Hong Myung-bo has allowed the left-back to stay with the Rangers squad for the Wembley clash.