Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has claimed Manchester United's dominant position in the Premier League is due to weak performances from their opponents.
Mancini's side face United at Old Trafford on Monday knowing the title race is already over whatever the result of the Manchester derby.
Second-placed City are 15 points behind United and Mancini has conceded his team will not retain the title they won so dramatically on the final day of last season.
United, who can still beat Chelsea's Premier League record of 95 points, have been by far the most consistent of the top sides this season.
But Mancini risked being accused of sour grapes when he insisted United's advantage at the top was due the opposition being too fearful and cautious when they play Ferguson's team.
"No one plays well against United because they only play with fear," Mancini was quoted as saying in several English newspapers on Monday.
"Every team that plays United plays very soft because they think 'This game is difficult, we can't beat them'.
"I'm not saying these teams don't give 100 per cent but their mentality is poor. They think they can do nothing but, if you play with the right mentality, you can beat anyone.
"If you play strong against United, you can beat them just like they can beat us."
City have won the Premier League and FA Cup in the last two years, yet Mancini believes United intimidate opponents more because of their sustained period as the English game's dominant force.
"We are young as a team and don't have the same importance as United right now," Mancini added.
"I think we need to improve as a team but, for this, we need more years.
"We can't do it in two years but if we improve for 10 years, and win every year, it'll probably be the same for us."