Paul Scholes has taken a swipe at Manchester City and started the buildup to Liverpool's weekend visit to Old Trafford by claiming that matches against the Anfield club are "always the biggest games and the best atmospheres" for Manchester United.
City are the reigning Premier League champions and the Manchester derby has intensified in recent years, not least on account of Sir Alex Ferguson's famous "noisy neighbours" remark towards Roberto Mancini's side. Liverpool are eighth in the league, 21 points adrift of United and have not claimed the title since 1990, but Scholes insists Sunday's fixture remains a key one on the calendar.
"Whether Manchester City have overtaken Liverpool now [as United's biggest rivals], I don't know; it'll probably take years for City to create what Liverpool have done," said United's veteran midfielder.
"Liverpool historically are our biggest rivals, they're always the biggest games and the best atmospheres. But I'm sure City will run them close."
Scholes does not believe the ferocity of matches between United and Liverpool has been diminished by the fact the teams are not in direct competition for the championship.
"I think it was the top one [fixture] for quite some while," he said. "Liverpool probably haven't done as well as they'd have liked over the last few years and they'd probably admit that. But it's definitely still right up there – it'll always be right up there."
Scholes has also spoken of his contentment at coming out of retirement to play for United. The 38-year-old announced he would stop playing at the end of the 2010-11 season but returned to Ferguson's team a year ago amid an Old Trafford injury crisis.
"I just wanted to come back playing, and I'm glad I did," Scholes told Inside United. "At the time there were a lot of injuries and I thought maybe I could help, so I tried to. The second half of last season I played quite often. Unfortunately we just fell short of winning the league; that was disappointing, but I'm glad I came back."