ALEX Ferguson has highlighted big game experience as the key to unlock the door to Wembley in the most eagerly anticipated Carling Cup semi-final clash of the modern era.
After a build-up normally reserved for the final, Fergie is adamant that his players have all they need to cope with the ferocious pressure now focused on Old Trafford and reassert Manchester United's superiority over bitter rivals City.
"We have enough experience in big games to know how to handle it. It's always a key factor. We've had some feisty games in terms of the competitive level of United-Liverpool or United-Leeds games since I've been here. The players' behaviour has always been good," said Ferguson.
"It's going to be a fantastic game, I know that. Maybe even better than last week's. We're ready for it and we hope that our experience helps.
"Getting our centre-backs back is key to our progress," he said. "We're trying to get some continuity in the team selection. We've had a topsy-turvy spell with defenders out injured. Getting those players back and having continuity is important."
Opposite number Roberto Mancini will send his players out with a message about calmness and concentration fresh in their minds.
"I have spoken to my players," explained Mancini. "This is normal because we must stay calm. If we don't we can have a problem. It is so important to think about the game, about our tactics. We must concentrate. That way we can play better."
But while he will urge restraint and common sense on his men, he understands exactly what is at stake in this game and how important it would be to City fans to make it to Wembley via the most satisfying route imaginable -- victory over United.
"We must change the history of this club. The players are passionate about it. But we must start somewhere. It is important to get to that first final. After that we want to win it.
"We don't want to go to Old Trafford only to defend," he said. "We want to win."