Pep Guardiola does not believe the Manchester derby can be viewed as his side’s most important game, at least at this stage of the season.
Manchester City, on the back of a frustrating 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace in their last Premier League outing, make the short trip to Old Trafford to take on their rivals on Saturday.
Guardiola has struggled to get the better of Manchester United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since the Norwegian took over from Jose Mourinho at the end of 2018, with the Red Devils winning three of the five league meetings between the sides in that time.
United have scored six goals in those matches, conceding just three in return. In total, Solskjaer has won four of his eight meetings with Guardiola in all competitions, the best win rate of any manager to face the Catalan coach at least five times.
Indeed, United are unbeaten in their past four league games against City (W3 D1), their longest such run against them since a sequence of six between 2008 and 2011. They have won as many league games against their neighbours in this spell as they had across their previous 16 meetings.
However, City have won seven Premier League away games against United, the joint-most of any visiting team at Old Trafford in Premier League history (also Liverpool).
With 10 league games played in 2021-22, just two places and three points separate the sides, with third-placed City five adrift of leaders Chelsea.
But Guardiola suggested this game does not carry any extra significance for himself or his squad.
“I don’t think so. Maybe for some people, maybe, but we try to make every game important,” Guardiola told a news conference when asked if the derby was City’s biggest game.
“Of course this is a derby, it is special for the city, for many sentimental issues, but in the end it is not a final or a semi-final.
“I don’t feel [the atmosphere in the city]. I wake up in the morning, come to this bubble in the training centre, 10, 12, 14 hours here, then go home. So I’m not going to the restaurants, the pubs, I don’t know the atmosphere.
“I can imagine how important it is for both sides, it’s normal, that’s why it’s nice, football, this emotion to try to win the derby, to do it well, but I have to be cold in my mind, in my head, to do exactly what we want to do, to do our best. No more than that.”
Enjoy our top goals at Old Trafford!
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 5, 2021
Asked about United’s recent success against City, Guardiola said: “Congratulations for United, for winning these games against us, or some of them.
“Incredible physicality, a lot of talent, people up front with the ability to win games by themselves, a lot of runners in the channels, in behind. United, should I say, for the last century is always a good team. We have to prepare well.
“We did good games against them, maybe not good results apart from one game last season where we draw against them, it was not a good game, maybe a little bit boring, both teams a little scared. We were not in a good moment.
“They are so good up front, with Cristiano [Ronaldo] now they are even better, generally it makes a good game. We were ourselves every time we played against them, sometimes we win, sometimes lose.”
Guardiola will be boosted by the news that Raphael Varane will not be fit for United, while fellow defender Victor Lindelof is also a doubt, with the Red Devils’ defence having looked particularly vulnerable even with their regular starters fit. They have conceded at least once in each of their past 13 home games in all competitions.
United have lost seven home matches in all competitions in 2021, their most since 2001 when they also lost seven – they have not lost more than seven times at Old Trafford in a single year since they did so on eight occasions in 1989.
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