London – Manchester United star Ryan Giggs has warned Manchester City that his side's derby triumph will provide the perfect springboard to wrestle the title away from Eastlands.
United moved six points clear of second placed City after an explosive 3-2 win over their bitter rivals in the Manchester derby last Sunday and Alex Ferguson's team have a golden opportunity to extend their lead this weekend.
While spluttering champions City have a tricky assignment at Newcastle, United host lowly Sunderland on the back of four successive league victories and with confidence sky-high following Robin van Persie's stoppage-time winner at Eastlands.
Giggs has seen 12 previous title-winning teams take shape during his career at United and the veteran Welsh midfielder is beginning to sense another dominant team forming at Old Trafford.
Asked if the win over City would provide a major boost, Giggs said: “It should do, purely because of the way we performed.
“We have got everything in place for the busy Christmas period and the confidence of such a great result.
“We accept that we are letting too many goals in and we've had to come from behind too often, but the signs are there that this could be a very good season for us.
“The wins against Chelsea, Newcastle and City away have been our three best performances and you probably can't get three bigger challenges.”
While Giggs and his United team-mates can contemplate a successful second half of the season, City are facing a fight to salvage their campaign.
Roberto Mancini's side have already crashed out of the Champions League and another setback at Newcastle this weekend would deal a hammer blow to their hopes of retaining the title.
Last weekend's loss to United exposed City's flaws in defence and attack as they were beaten at home for the first time in the league since December 2010.
United defender Patrice Evra rubbed salt into the wounds by claiming they now have the mental edge, but defiant City captain Vincent Kompany remains convinced the title race isn't over yet.
“I don't know anything about psychological blows,” he said. “Losing on Sunday changes nothing. We lost and we move on to the next game.
“The beauty of football is that you are always challenged, whether you have lost or won, and the next game is always the most important.
“We all know the importance of the (Newcastle) game but I don't do very well thinking about bad scenarios.
“For me there are so many positives that can happen if we win that game. I can't think of the other side of that coin.”
Elsewhere, the spotlight will be firmly on Arsene Wenger on Monday when Arsenal travel to Reading hoping to erase the painful memory of Tuesday's humiliating League Cup quarter-final defeat at Bradford.
Wenger suffered the most embarrassing loss of his 16-year reign as League Two minnows Bradford won 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw and he has come under heavy fire from critics in the media and among his club's fanbase this week.
Former Arsenal midfielder Stewart Robson described Wenger as a “dictator”, while many reports claimed the Gunners boss has fallen out with his assistant Steve Bould.
Wenger, whose side are currently seventh, can ill-afford to see Arsenal beaten by second bottom Reading, who have won just one of their first 16 matches, and the Frenchman admits he is feeling under pressure to turn the tide.
“I always feel under pressure to deliver, always,” Wenger said.
“You can only be successful if you question yourself, because the game has become bigger and better.
“With teams like Chelsea and Man City coming in, I think we have to do what we do even better.
“You can only be good in life if you do what you believe is right.
“We may have a lack of experience in winning trophies recently, but we are always at the top and very close to winning the championship or winning the Champions League.”
Saturday: Liverpool v Aston Villa, Man Utd v Sunderland, Newcastle v Man City (2.45pm), Norwich v Wigan, QPR v Fulham, Stoke v Everton
Sunday: Tottenham v Swansea (3.30pm), West Brom v West Ham (6pm)
Monday: Reading v Arsenal (10pm) – Sapa-AFP