Many have all but written off any hopes of City catching United in the Premier League title race and if Ferguson's side do go on to win at the canter most expect them to, it could end up coming down to the way they've started matches this season, or perhaps more fittingly the way that City haven't.
Here we take a look at the respective goal times in terms of both scoring and conceding for each team in the English top-flight and the Red Devils' main edge over their competitors has been an ability to get to the half hour mark in front.
At the other end of the table it's a familiar story, and while most teams tend to both score and concede more goals after the break - indeed only four sides have struck more first half goals than in the second half - Villa (36), Newcastle (32), Wigan (31) and Reading (30) have conceded the most goals after half time.
We start with the leaders, however, and how a strong start to games could clearly settle a season in United's favour.
Ferguson's side have scored 11 goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches this season, with no other team netting more than 7 in that timeframe, and also netted a high of 14 goals between the 16th and 30th minute - again 4 ahead of their closest competitor in those minutes (Chelsea - 10). Indeed their total of 25 goals in the first half an hour of league matches this season is 8 clear of the Blues, who are second on 17.
When you consider that United's nearest and only remaining title rivals have scored just 8 times in the opening 30 minutes of matches it is clear that they are being left in the blocks in this respect. Only QPR (5) and West Brom (6) have struck fewer times in the opening half hour of games this season, with second from bottom Reading scoring two more than the Citizens in that period despite being renowned for their late goals.
While United haven't exactly been solid defensively in the opening exchanges - as many as 9 teams, including City, have conceded fewer than their 11 in the first 30 minutes - the leaders’ goal difference in that time is +14. While Chelsea are again the place behind them here (+10), City's goal difference in the same period is shockingly -1.
In turn Mancini's side have had to try and produce late heroics all too often this season and though they have scored more goals than any other team in the final half an hour of matches this season (27), that's only 4 more than United have managed and they've simply left themselves with too much to do at times.
The fact that City are capable of late shows will be a real worry for their upcoming opponents, with struggling Villa next to host a Mancini side on a mission, which United fans hope proves impossible, to bridge the gap at the top.
Lambert's side's defensive record in the first half of matches this season is respectable, conceding fewer goals (16) than the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool in the opening period. Considering City's modest tally in terms of first half goals (18), the hosts will be hopeful of keeping the game in the balance but may well be delaying the inevitable if they manage to do so. As mentioned earlier, no side have conceded more goals after the break than the Villans' 36, so expect late goals from City, who went from 1-0 to 5-0 up in the second half when the two teams met earlier in the season.
In terms of the mid-section of matches this season (between the 30th and 60th minute) Arsenal have been very strong this season. The Gunners have scored the most goals in that timeframe (21) and conceded just 9 in the same period. Wenger's side are also one of only three Premier League teams to have conceded fewer goals after half time (12) than they have before the break (18), so the manager must be saying something right.
That tally of goals conceded in the second half of matches is unsurprisingly the lowest in the division, though Spurs fans will still be confident of success late on ahead of the North London derby this weekend. Tottenham have scored the most goals in the second half of matches (34) - and indeed the highest percentage of second half goals of any team in the league (73.3%). Something's got to give when the two come to blows on Sunday.