Gabriel Jesus expects Manchester United to be made of sterner stuff than recent opponents as Manchester City head into Sunday’s derby showdown in rampant form.
Brazil forward Jesus has struggled for his best level this season but got back on the goal trail with a maiden career hat-trick against a hopelessly outgunned Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
He dispatched a penalty in each half before deceiving goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov with a delicate lob to round off his treble and complete a 6-0 victory.
It was also the Premier League champions’ 50th goal of the campaign in all competitions and they welcome neighbours United having won their past two home league games 5-0 and 6-1 against Burnley and Southampton respectively.
Nevertheless, with memories of last season’s 3-2 defeat against Jose Mourinho’s side still fresh – a result that put a planned title party on hold – Jesus knows their next opponents will not be fearful of City’s recent exploits.
“No, [beating Shakhtar] is not warning. Our team has just been playing like this, regardless of the rotation that exists,” he told reporters, while clutching a matchball signed by his team-mates.
“Everyone who enters comes in to help the team and win. I think it will be a very difficult game, as does everyone.
“And Manchester United will come with a desire to win, just like last year. It’s up to us to play our way because we’re at home and we have to win.”
— Gabriel Jesus (@gabrieljesus33) November 8, 2018
Sergio Aguero is nominally City’s number one penalty taker but was on the bench against Shakhtar, leaving Jesus to resume duties despite missing his past two.
The 21-year-old was keen to take responsibility from 12 yards during the closing stages of last month’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool, only for Riyad Mahrez to blaze over.
Practice on the training ground appears to have put him up the pecking order, while some shrewd homework on Pyatov – who dived the wrong way on both occasions – paid dividends.
“I train penalty shooting a lot,” Jesus explained. “Before the match, we know who’s in charge and I was the chosen one. When Sergio is on the pitch, he’s the one.
“During our training sessions we have always access to some iPads to study opposition players and I used it to take a look at their goalkeeper on penalties. I studied him and was able to score.”
‘13 DAVID SILVA
‘24 GABRIEL JESUS (PEN)
‘48 RAHEEM STERLING
‘72 GABRIEL JESUS (PEN)
‘84 RIYAD MAHREZ
‘92 GABRIEL JESUS
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 7, 2018
Jesus is likely to revert to the bench for United’s visit, with Aguero now established as Pep Guardiola’s first choice – something that has not always been the case since his fellow striker arrived at City from Palmeiras.
A scoreless World Cup leading Brazil’s attack appeared to leave Jesus short of confidence at the start of this season and he feels a medial knee ligament injury sustained at Crystal Palace last December took an extended toll.
“It has been difficult since my injury. Obviously, I won’t complain or give up,” he added.
“I always say what I feel and I can’t say I’m happy with the past months, but all things must pass.
“I have a strong mind and a huge support of family and friends. It counts a lot to stand up again. I just want to work hard, keep my chin up and run after my dreams.”
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