Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola says Manchester City will face the “best” Manchester United team of the season in Sunday’s derby as they prepare to go head-to-head for the fourth time this season.
The 3-0 win over Derby in the FA Cup on Thursday made it nine matches unbeaten across all competitions and 22 goals scored for United, although City are also in top form after five straight wins.
City boss Guardiola said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was having a positive influence on his team.
“From what I’ve seen in videos of their games, the players follow him (Solskjaer),” he told his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“I saw the commitment they had and it’s getting better. Now it is their best moment of the season.”
United’s upturn has coincided with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes for an initial £47 million ($61 million) from Sporting Lisbon.
The Portugal international has made and scored goals and he has had a galvanising effect at the club.
“Sometimes the big players can make a good influence,” said Guardiola. “He is an exceptional player and that is why Man United bought him.”
– Away wins –
All three derbies so far this season have been won by the away side, with United twice victorious at the Etihad and City winning 3-1 at Old Trafford in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.
But Guardiola has won all three of his league derbies at Old Trafford.
United were described by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp as defensive earlier in the season but that is not a view shared by the City boss.
“It doesn’t look like that from what I have seen,” he said. “I watched their recent games and they were incredibly aggressive and that will happen at Old Trafford.
“In some games they defended but I watched them at Goodison and they played a good game (the 1-1 draw at Everton last Sunday).”
The title has effectively gone for City, with Liverpool needing just four wins to wrap up the Premier League, while United, in fifth place, are embroiled in a battle for a Champions League spot.
Second-placed City are 15 points ahead of their cross-city rivals but Guardiola is not buying the theory that Sunday’s meeting matters more to United.
“When we believe it’s more important for them, we are going to lose,” he said.
“We have to have belief, that is so important. I’ve never played a game thinking about points or whether it is more or less comfortable. Every game we play, we try to win.”
Guardiola is hopeful that Kevin De Bruyne will be available to play at Old Trafford.
The Belgian injured his back in the League Cup final win over Aston Villa last week and did not feature in the FA Cup win at Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $35/mo. for Sling Blue
- Watch Premier League, World Cup & MLS
- Includes USA, NBC, FOX, FS1 + more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Sevilla sign youngster Nianzou from Bayern
- Ronaldo cautioned by police after allegedly slapping phone from fan’s hand
- PSG defender Kehrer joins West Ham
- Dubai airport gears up to handle World Cup supporters
- Ronaldo blasts ‘lies’ over Man Utd future
- Where to find Sheffield United vs. Sunderland on US TV
- Where to find Boca Juniors vs. Rosario Central on US TV
- Where to find Dynamo Kyiv vs. Benfica on US TV
- Muscat shrugs off Iniesta threat as Asian Champions League returns
- USMNT World Cup kits real or fake? Combing through the clues