Pep Guardiola on Manchester United: ‘I’m pretty sure they will be stronger’

With his Manchester City side set to meet rivals Manchester United in China, Pep Guardiola admits the Jose Mourinho-managed city counterparts won't be easy to best this season.
Pep Guardiola. Greg Baker / AFP / July 24, 2016
Pep Guardiola. Greg Baker / AFP / July 24, 2016

Pep Guardiola pushed aside any suggestion he would not shake hands with arch-rival Jose Mourinho and insisted all would be friendly when Manchester City play Manchester United on Monday.

“We are polite guys, why not?” Guardiola said Sunday when asked if the pair would extend hands, despite an acrimonious rivalry which stretches back to 2010 when the Catalan had stewardship of Barcelona and Mourinho held the reins at Real Madrid.

“Why should we not shake hands? No reason why. He will want to win and so will I, that’s all,” the City manager told a news conference after training at Beijing’s Olympic Sports Centre ahead of the International Champions Cup pre-season tour match.

“It’s a friendly game, a really friendly game.”

Since taking on their respective Manchester football giants, each manager has insisted they will not concentrate on each other too much.

But Guardiola acknowledged that United would mount a serious challenge in the Premier League after a period in the doldrums since the retirement of Alex Ferguson in 2013.

“I’m pretty sure they will be stronger than in previous years,” said Guardiola.

“With this manager I’m sure they will buy new players. They will be a strong team.”

Sunday’s training session was switched hastily to the smaller Olympic Sports Centre to preserve the famous Bird’s Nest stadium’s pitch following days of storms in the Chinese capital that have left the ground saturated.

The first Manchester derby outside the UK will be played at the centrepiece of the 2008 Beijing Olympics on Monday night, weather permitting. More than 200 people have died in flooding in northern provinces surrounding Beijing.

Guardiola acknowledged that conditions would not be ideal and his first priority at this stage of pre-season was to avoid any injuries.

“We didn’t see the pitch but there is a lot of water in the last days so we understand it’s not in a good condition,” said Guardiola.

“But OK we’re going to adapt and adjust. The most important thing is that the players are not going to be injured.

“We know the humidity for the training is not ideal, but we also know that it’s so important to come here to know the people and to play a good two games against amazing teams like United and Dortmund.”

Captain Vincent Kompany is in Beijing with the squad after recovering from an injury-blighted campaign in 2015-16, but did not train with the rest of the players as he is undergoing his own intensive programme to regain full fitness.

Guardiola said there was a possibility he could be ready for the first game of the new season against Sunderland on August 13, but he would not rush the Belgian central defender back and risk further injury.

“The physio says he is ready but he needs to show that he can play one week, then one week more, to play regularly,” said Guardiola.

“The most important thing is for Vincent to get fit - if it’s for Sunderland, perfect. If not, September.”

United lost 4-1 to Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday and City will play the German side in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Thursday to conclude their China tour.

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Published: July 24, 2016 04:00 AM

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