Yaya Toure sees the balance of power in Manchester tilting firmly in favour of the “difficult neighbours” and believes Manchester United fans know it.
Manchester City dominated Thursday’s derby clash at the Etihad Stadium only but could not find a winning goal despite Marouane Fellaini’s late dismissal.
Away fans were caught on camera wildly celebrating the draw, even though it kept City a point ahead in fourth place, and Toure has been around long enough to notice the shift that represents.
When he arrived in England seven years ago, the Red Devils were the Premier League’s pre-eminent force but City are on course to finish above their rivals for the fourth year in a row since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
“I think it is a big change. In the past United were always able to dominate, always able to control and win games. And now, seeing the fans celebrate (a draw) like that, means City is coming close,” he said.
“Of course, their history and achievements are much stronger, they have much history, but we are coming.
“All the time when we finish above them during the season it means City is improving very well.
“We are a difficult neighbour.”
The battle between the Manchester sides this year has been intriguing on a number of levels, not least due to the presence of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the dugouts, but the rewards were supposed to be grander than a top-four finish.
Many predicted they would be battling for league titles and cup trophies, a situation Toure still expects to unfold after both teams strengthen in the summer.
“United and City are always fighting for the title, every year, this year is quite difficult and quite disappointing,” he said.
“United are building something very interesting, we have to be aware of that and City next year are going to be a much stronger team.”
The Ivorian could not resist a well-aimed jibe in United’s direction, even in the process of tipping them to strengthen.
“Next year, I hope United is going to attack a bit more,” he added archly.
Whether Toure will be part of City’s plans next year remains unclear. He was blackballed by Guardiola when the Spaniard arrived only to regain a key role in the side.
Asked if he expected to be offered an eighth year at the club, the 33-year-old said: “Why not? It depends on the club, as a player I just do my job.”