Not too long ago, Manchester United, despite having the experienced Louis Van Gaal at the helm, were staring down the barrel, unable to string even a couple of good games together.
However, even if the results have not changed drastically to convince everyone that this Manchester United side will banish the ghosts of Premier League 2013-14, there have been signs of considerable improvement, shown amply by the display against Chelsea, the runaway league leaders, last weekend.
Van Gaal is slowly but surely moulding his team together, and if he can sort that defence of his out, then Manchester United will be right up there in the top four.
While signs have pointed towards the positive for Manchester United with every passing week, it has not been quite the same for Manchester City, who are struggling in the Champions League, lost to West Ham in the Premier League last weekend, and then saw their defence of the League Cup end in a whimper against Newcastle.
Manchester United might have been criticised for their leaky defence, which Van Gaal has struggled to plug due to injuries and a lack of cohesion. However, Manuel Pellegrini has not had too many problems in terms of injuries to his back-four, yet the Premier League champs have been unable to cope defensively this season.
With Wayne Rooney, someone with a terrific record in the Manchedter Derby, returning to the Manchester United lineup, the away team will be an even stronger attacking force at the Etihad on Sunday, and City skipper Vincent Kompany will have to marshal his defence to perfection if they are to keep their Manchester rivals from scoring.
"It's a special game," Kompany told the club's official website when asked about the significance of the Manchester Derby. "I've been here for a while now and it's starting to run more and more through the family as well.
"I understand the importance of it. For me, it's still the biggest game of the season and one you want to win every single time.
"There are so many games sometimes, you're not always busy with the derby but in the week leading up to it, all of a sudden, everyone wants to be involved and everyone in Manchester has something to say about it."
Van Gaal is one of the most tactically astute managers that you can find in the game, with the contest against Chelsea at Old Trafford being a case in point, and while the Dutchman admitted that tactics will be key, he also acknowledged that emotions, something that invariably runs high in these games, will also play its part.
"You know that this is more of an emotional game and we don't want a red card because when it is 11 against 10 it shall be difficult to win this game, so that is also a part of our preparation," he said.
"I have to look and analyse what the atmosphere is like. Then I shall say things that are adequate for that moment in my opinion. But the tactical way is always the most important way. We have to play like a team and when we do that we have a bigger chance to win."
The Manchester United manager is also aware the kind of fillip that a win against big rivals Manchester City will give to his side.
"We are waiting on that boost because that can give you more than only the result," he added. "We have played very well against West Brom and we played a draw against Chelsea, nobody expected that result but for me it was not enough. Maybe the result against Manchester City shall give us that boost."
Manchester City, though, if they turn on their attacking style, can be unstoppable, as Manchester United themselves have found in the recent past. But then, with United themselves having an enviable attack, we could just be in for an attacking cracker of a Manchester Derby.
Where to Watch Live
Get the Match Report and Video Highlights HERE
The English Premier League Derby is set for a 1.30 pm BST (7 pm IST, 9.30 am ET) start with live coverage in India on Star Sports 4. The match can also be watched via live streaming online in India on Star Sports.com. Live TV coverage in the UK will be on Sky Sports 1, with the option to live stream the match also available via Sky Sports Online or Sky Go. Viewers can also listen to the action via radio on Talksport or on the website. Watch the game in the US on NBC Sports, while the action can also be Live Streamed online on NBC Sports Extra.
Australia viewers catch the Manchester United vs Chelsea match via live streaming on Fox Sports On Demand, while viewers in Canada can do the same TSN Go. Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can watch the match via Live Streaming online courtesy Bein Sports Connect, while South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa viewers can do so via SuperSport online. Latin America and South America viewers can catch the match on DirecTV or DirectTV Play.
Team news: Manchester City: Pellegrini has been dealt a massive blow with key playmaker David Silva ruled out for three weeks after picking up a knee injury in the 2-0 loss to Newcastle in the Capital One Cup. Frank Lampard is also another absentee, but Yaya Toure should be available despite a groin complaint, while Samir Nasri will also be in contention.
Manchester United: Wayne Rooney returns from a three-match ban, with Van Gaal adamant that his skipper is not carrying an injury and will start the game. Radamel Falcao, though, will miss the game again, after failing to recover from a knock picked up in training. Antonio Valencia could return, but the likes of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans are still out.
Confirmed lineups: Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Toure, Fernando; Navas, Jovetic, Milner; Aguero.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Shaw; Di Maria, Blind, Fellaini, Januzaj; Rooney, Van Persie.