MANCHESTER – Yaya Toure believes Manchester City can prove they are the number one team in Manchester if they finish the Premier League season above their old rivals United.
A 0-0 draw against United in Thursday's derby at the Etihad maintained City's one-point advantage over Jose Mourinho’s side in the race for a top-four finish and qualification for next season's Champions League.
Victory for City against struggling Middlesbrough would help Toure's team ensure they finish above United for the fifth time in six seasons.
"Yes, of course, all the time we finish above them in the season, it shows City are doing very well," said Toure when asked about the shift in the balance of power.
"United are building something very interesting. We have to be aware of that but I think City are going to be much much stronger next season as well.
"Next year we are going to expect more and I hope United are going to attack a little bit more.
"City are always fighting for the title and this year was quite difficult, quite disappointing, because we have been frustrated at playing well, control the opponent, dominate the game, but then you see the result at the end and we’ve lost or we win by a small gap.
"We need to work on our finishing to be honest."
That finishing – badly lacking against United – may be improved if manager Pep Guardiola decides to hand a start to Brazilian star Gabriel Jesus who came on as a substitute in the derby.
The 20-year had been out for over two months after surgery on a broken foot although veteran Sergio Aguero had responded with 12 goals in as many games in his absence.
"No, Aguero is doing very well to be honest," said Toure when asked if City had missed the youngster.
"Gabriel is coming. At the moment it is quite difficult because we are missing the goal but if we have a striker who is going to score a goal it is going to make quite a difference for us."
'We have to win'
For City, who will end the season without silverware, it has proved a frustrating campaign after Guardiola opened his English career with 10 successive victories in league and cups.
Toure, who spent the first part of the season in a stand-off with the manager on account of remarks made by his agent, said the level of competition in England meant winning trophies was not a given right.
"As a professional, I've been here for seven years and I understand how the game is," said Toure, who turns 34 next month.
"Sometimes you have to cope with that. Teams are always thinking of counter attacking and that is the difficulty.
"That is why the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. So demanding, so hard, and you always have to fight against yourself to succeed."
Middlesbrough caretaker-manager Steve Agnew meanwhile looks set to keep Gaston Ramirez on the sidelines following his senseless dismissal in Middlesbrough's defeat at Bournemouth last weekend.
The Uruguayan has served his one-match ban, but Agnew is still upset over his red card, which contributed to a 4-0 whipping.
City represent the start of a difficult run-in for Middlesbrough, who also face trips to Chelsea and Liverpool and a home game against Southampton.
"We've got to beat one of the big teams and the first that comes along is Manchester City," said Agnew.
"It’s pretty simple – we play City and have to take on the challenge and we have to win."