Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Manchester United's determination to avenge last season's narrow failure has underpinned their drive towards this season's Premier League title.
Alex Ferguson's side need just three points from their remaining five games to clinch the championship following City's 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
And they are expected to complete the job when they face struggling Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday, 24 hours after City left White Hart Lane empty-handed.
Mancini conceded that City's fierce rivals were likely to finish top several weeks ago.
Now that the outcome is all but confirmed, he claims the roots of United's success took hold on the final day of last season, when City were crowned champions thanks to Sergio Aguero's injury-time goal.
"United are not a better team but they deserve to win this title because we lost a lot of points in games we probably didn't deserve to lose," he said.
"But United won a lot of games in a row with goals and deserve to win the title. I think the 13- or 15-point gap is not reality for this championship.
"I think when you win, you deserve to win it. You always need a bit of luck in football. It is like life. But they did not win by luck.
"They had a better attitude because they lost last year. They bought some new team (players) in the summer and they scored a lot of goals. They conceded a lot of goals but they scored more. It is important."
City can still win a third trophy in three years by beating Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final on May 11, but Mancini said his primary target had been the title.
"I'm not happy because I like to win the championship, because this was our target when we started the season," he said. "I'm not happy with the season because I want always the maximum.
"But we have another chance to win the FA Cup and I think the FA Cup is important. And we can be in second position."
City looked on course for victory at Spurs when Samir Nasri scored in the fifth minute, but Tottenham recovered, scoring three goals in seven minutes to claim a victory that moves them to within two points of third-place Arsenal with a game in hand.
Clint Dempsey levelled in the 75th minute before Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale secured the win and manager Andre Villas-Boas believes his side are now in control of the battle for a top-four spot.
The Tottenham manager said: "We are in control because we have the game in hand, but the game in hand we have is against Chelsea (on May 8).
"It's a difficult game in Stamford Bridge and this is considering that we score all the points possible before that fixture. I think it's going to be impossible for all the squads to get maximum points.
"Arsenal have the momentum at the moment. It's very, very difficult. They finished strong most of the season so far. It depends. But I think anything can happen between these teams."
And he added: "We now play Wigan away, which will be difficult because Wigan are fighting for survival. We just have to gather the most amount of points possible.
"Arsenal have a difficult fixture (next weekend) against Man United, who can be champions tomorrow (Monday).
"So I think gathering the most amount of points as possible is our objective and probably that game against Chelsea could be the decider in the end."