Former Manchester United star Roy Keane says City have yet to prove they can win big matches.

Story highlights

Manchester derby takes oplace on Sunday with City two points ahead of United

United legend Roy Keane says City team yet to prove they can win big games

Keane says he would "give up everything" for the chance to play another derby

United hold a 67-43 advantage ahead of the 161st meeting between the clubs

CNN  — 

Alex Ferguson may have dubbed last weekend’s clash with Liverpool as “the biggest match in world football,” but this weekend’s Manchester derby will be a better reflection of the balance of power in England’s Premier League.

City travel to Old Trafford with a two-point lead over Ferguson’s second-placed defending champions United after eight rounds, and victory on Sunday would be a major statement of the title ambitions of Roberto Mancini’s expensively-assembled squad.

“Over the last year or two, City have made a lot of progress getting into the Champions League, and Mancini won the FA Cup, but talk is cheap – it’s all about winning these games. But it’s easier said than done,” United legend Roy Keane told CNN on Friday.

“What City learned from last year was that they drew a lot of games. If you want to win the Premier League you’ve got to win matches. For City to make real progress, can they go on and beat some of the big boys?

“City have had a good start to this season, but they’ve played nobody yet. It’s when they turn up against Chelsea, Liverpool and United on Sunday. Even Arsenal are still a big test for anybody, even though they’re having a hard time.

“United have done that over the years, they’ve always been capable of winning these big, big matches. United have been down this road many times before, but City haven’t. People have been asking if City can go on and win the league … we’ll find out on Sunday.”

First European wins for Manchester clubs

Keane captained United and won seven of the club’s record 19 English titles plus the European Champions League during his 12-year stint at Old Trafford. City, by comparison, have been domestic champions only twice – and not since 1968.

United have won 67 derbies to City’s 43, with 50 draws.

A fiercely combative midfielder, Keane infamously claimed in his autobiography that he tried to hurt City’s Alf-Inge Haaland in the 2001 Manchester derby, when he was sent off and fined – and then further punished after the comments were published.

Perhaps surprisingly, the outspoken Irishman stopped short of condemning City’s former United striker Carlos Tevez, who is expected to be charged by the club for failing to resume warming up as a substitute during last month’s Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich.

“It’s difficult to comment on what’s going on, I’ve learned that from my own experience,” Keane said.

“If anything I can sympathize with the manager. Players don’t even like warming up – modern players, half of them are clowns. That’s why managers are so stressed all the time.

“People talk about the pressure of winning football matches and the media – to me that was a doddle. With certain players who don’t want to get warmed up, what’s wrong with them? But there’s two sides to every argument.”

Keane moved into management after retiring in 2006, and has had mixed success after guiding Sunderland into the Premier League at the first attempt, being sacked second division Ipswich in January.

But his passion for the game, especially one as big as Sunday, is as strong as ever.

“I’d nearly give my wife and kids away to go back and play one of these games. That’s what you miss about the game,” the 40-year-old said.

“People talk about the contracts and winning trophies, but it’s about these games. Sitting in the dressing room, the manager doesn’t have to do too much.

“He’d be going, ‘Right lads…’ and you’d be kicking doors down, going ‘Let me at them!’ It sounds crazy to people on the outside, they’d be saying he needs to relax a bit, but you’d give it all up to go back – give up all of the success for one more game.”

However, he won’t be in the stands at Old Trafford cheering his old team on.

“I’ve kept my distance, I’ve always done that. People might think it’s strange, but when I left I thought I needed to keep my distance and get on with my own life and challenges. But I’ll be watching on the television, absolutely.

“I can never see United losing at home, but City will give them problems.”