Speaking exclusively to Genting, the former midfield general believes this iconic fixture is now more important than ever.
He said: “I know about the rivalry and I know what it means to both sets of fans, it’s more or less like a derby game now.
“It’s probably more important than the Manchester derby, because of the rivalry that goes back to the ‘80s when Liverpool were winning everything, then you had that period in the ’90s when United were winning everything.”
United Closing The Gap
In recent years, the Red Devils have been bypassed in the trophy-winning stakes by both Liverpool and Manchester City, their two biggest adversaries.
However, Ince believes that United have started closing the gap in terms of signing quality players – and that it shouldn’t be too long before they are back challenging again.
“When I look at the building process that Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer]’s had, this is his third season now, and I think there can be no excuse.
“Two years ago the gap between United, compared to Liverpool and Manchester City, was
enormous – and I mean enormous, and no one was kidding themselves about that.
“In the last two years, Manchester United have added players and this year we’ve got the big dogs in.
“[Jadon] Sancho, a lot of money, and obviously [Cristiano] Ronaldo, to go alongside
[Bruno] Fernandes and [Paul] Pogba, so we’re now talking about a team that should be nailing the gap.”
Closed Doors May Have Helped United
But Ince is keen not to overstate United’s progress, highlighting how the Red Devils may have benefitted from playing behind closed doors last season.
He said: “I think last year was different when United finished second, I think it was just
a strange year with the pandemic, no fans in the stadium, no pressure.
“What people don’t really understand is that when you play for Manchester United, the expectation is a lot higher than anywhere else.
“The pressure to perform at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 fans can either make you or break you.
“Last year, not having the fans in benefited Manchester United, just like it didn’t benefit Sheffield United.
“Maybe we got a little bit too ahead of ourselves thinking that United had closed the gap, but I don’t really think United have closed the gap.
“What I do know is that with the players that United have got now, who are world-class players, we and the fans will demand to see that gap to Liverpool and Manchester City close.”