Manchester derby: Man United 'always a tough opponent', says Pep Guardiola

Treble winners travel to Old Trafford to face their rivals in the Premier League on Sunday

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is expecting a tough challenge from Manchester United in the derby. PA
Powered by automated translation

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City will not be taking Manchester United lightly on Sunday, despite their rivals' struggling start to the season.

United enter the Manchester derby on a three-match winning run in all competitions – having lost six of their first 10 games – but none of the victories over Brentford, Sheffield United and Copenhagen were particularly convincing.

Scoring goals has been a particular problem, with new striker Rasmus Hojlund yet to find the net in the Premier League and Marcus Rashford looking a shadow of the player who scored 30 times last season.

However, City manager Guardiola is still wary of the individual quality United possess.

"United always have been, it doesn't matter the manager, always they are a tough opponent," he said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

"The qualities of the individuals they have, the stadium, the character they have, the momentum. They can score goals, we know the quality they have. Always that has been and always it will be."

City returned to winning ways by beating Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 last weekend after losing consecutive Premier League games for the first time since 2018.

Guardiola's men are looking to become the first side to win four consecutive English top-flight titles and remain well-placed, just two points behind surprise early leaders Tottenham.

The last time the two teams met, in June, City beat United to lift the FA Cup, completing the second leg of a treble.

Guardiola acknowledged there is far less on the line this weekend, but is keen to see how his side respond to the challenge posed by travelling to Old Trafford.

"It is a game not like an FA Cup final or last games of the season that defines winning or not the Premier League. Still we have only played nine fixtures and there are 87 points to play. We have to be focused," he said.

Young Boys v Man City player ratings

"It's too early. All the teams are there and the teams behind can be there. When you play just nine games many things will happen. We have been behind by a few points in February and March and then we were able to win.

"I want to see how is our mentality on Sunday in Old Trafford. We have won a lot. It's not about if we win now what is going to happen (in the future). I want to see the right mentality to play for these points."

United 'going in right direction'

Erik ten Hag, meanwhile is confident United are heading in the right direction and is sure the goals will come.

Despite their recent run of wins, United have lost two of their last three league games at Old Trafford and only beat Brentford thanks to stoppage-time goals from Scott McTominay.

"We are back where we wanted to be. This is a hard team to beat, they find a way to win. So we're going in the right direction," United manager Ten Hag said.

"We have a way to go, I see positives and I also see negatives. We are not consistently in positions at the level we can be where we show in games. We don't take benefit in the attacking transition moments."

United are eighth in the table and one of their biggest issues has been the lack of goals. They have scored only 11 in the league – the fewest by teams in the top half.

"At the moment, (we are) six points back (from City) so we have to catch up. We know we have to progress the team, to make developments. It has to do with the cooperation, the movement around it, we have to work on that," Ten Hag said.

"The cooperation has to click, but we showed this week some examples where there are so many overload positions and we don't net or don't even hit the target.

"We don't have time to train this, we give some coaching and I'm convinced with the quality from our players that they will go and score more goals."

Updated: October 29, 2023, 6:08 AM