Cardiff head into Sunday's 106th meeting with their south Wales rivals, the first in the Premier League, with many having emphatically different perceptions of how the two clubs are run.
Swansea's recovery from the brink of going out of business a decade ago has been based around a prudent financial approach, with the club's supporters' trust having an input into the running of the club thanks to a 20 per cent stake and a director on the board.
They have been held up by many as an ideal for other clubs to aspire to match.
Cardiff are owned by Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, a man who, while investing some £125million into the Bluebirds, has overseen a controversial switch from the club's traditional blue colours to a current red strip.
He recently removed manager Mackay's trusted head of recruitment Iain Moody and replaced him on an acting basis with previously unknown Kazakh Alisher Apsalyamov, who cannot currently work for the club in an official capacity while the Home Office investigates his visa situation.
Tan also reportedly signed Slovenian striker Etien Velikonja without Mackay's approval, and has suggested tactical alterations and substitutions from the stands.
At face value, there is a considerable gulf.
But Mackay pointed to Swansea's falling-out with manager Michael Laudrup's agent during the summer, and the problems which saw them taken to the brink a decade ago, as evidence the grass is not necessarily greener some 40 miles down the M4.
When it was put to Mackay that Swansea have not been involved in the sort of unrest that has recently engulfed Cardiff, he replied: "There seemed to be some at the start of the season - every club has its issues."
He added: "Football clubs go through different spells. It is only 10 years ago that, because of mismanagement, at some point they were close to going out of business.
"There have been ups and downs for Cardiff over the years, but in the last four or so there has been a sense of the club being on the up as far as we are concerned.
"I can only speak about my time here and we've been building something here for two-and-a-half years. I've put structures in place, with my team and squad, and in the main we have managed to take the next step upwards. I just want to do my best for Cardiff.
"There are things you have to deal with. I was sorry for the fans that we were in the spotlight, but I have a great team of people backing me at the club."
This will be Mackay's first south Wales derby, but his playing career included experience of the Old Firm and East Anglian meetings.
During the 1996-97 season, Mackay, then at Celtic, experienced the full range of derby emotions inside 10 days.
His early goal helped Celtic to a 2-0 win over Rangers in the Scottish Cup, but the defender soon suffered the heartache of being sent off in a 1-0 defeat, with Swansea manager Laudrup's brother Brian grabbing the winner.
But Mackay will not be sharing those examples with the Cardiff dressing room.
"I played two derbies in the space of a week. I scored in the first one and got sent off in the second. It was the usual clumsy self - two yellow cards. Typical me, a normal game," he said.
"The one I scored in, we won. The one I was sent off in, we lost. Any day you get beaten, lose a big derby and get sent off is not good. You are very disappointed for the team.
"But if you get too low you don't come back from that. I only got four red cards in my career. If it happens regularly at the top level then you don't get picked as (you are considered) someone who loses it!
"But the players here don't care about my career. I'm not going to bore anyone with that. I just know the whole group know the importance with what is at stake locally, with the bragging rights, and everything that comes attached to a derby. The heightened expectation around the place shows that.
"For us it's like the League Cup final two years ago, or those last two weeks of last season when there was a huge sense of occasion then in that we could get promoted. This game rivals that for importance in the way the fans take to it."