Sir Alex Ferguson has blasted back at Roberto Mancini's claims Manchester United have it easy and accused the Italian of looking for "self-sympathy".
Despite Manchester City's victory at Old Trafford on Monday, the Blues still trail their rivals by 12 points in the Premier League title race. The likelihood is that gap will get even wider this weekend, when United head to Stoke as City are engaged in FA Cup combat.
Last week, City boss Mancini claimed one of the reasons why United have such a formidable advantage is that their opponents play with fear against them and believes they cannot win, but Ferguson said: "That's absolute nonsense. He was maybe looking for a bit of self-sympathy or something like that."
He added: "We all recognise the English game is the most honest in the world and has been for many years. At Norwich this season the energy their two wide players expended was phenomenal. They ran 100 miles. That's an example of the Premier League.
"And the Reading game, when it went to 3-2, I thought we were going to lose 30. There are a lot of games I've watched this season, when I've said to myself 'are they trying?' - of course they're trying.
"These teams have 3,000 fans following them away from home. There is no way they could come to Old Trafford and not do their best. That also applies itself to the Etihad, Stamford Bridge, the Emirates or Anfield. That is the nature of the English game."
Stoke are one of the sides who got their noses in front against United earlier in the season, only to eventually lose 4-2. That was at a better time for Tony Pulis' men though as now they find themselves slithering dangerously close to the drop zone, having collected just six points from their last 13 matches.
Stoke are now only three points in front of third-bottom Wigan, having played a game more, and last weekend were beaten on home soil by Aston Villa.
The normally rock-solid home support has started to turn against Pulis, whose style of play has started to attract more intense criticism from those who pay to watch it. Still Ferguson anticipates a thorough examination.
"It's always a difficult place to go to," he said. "Ask any manager or player, you know you have to perform to get a result there. You have to stand up to the mark because they do present a challenge."