Guardiola praises ‘exceptional’ Man Utd star as Man City prepare for ‘special’ derby clash

Harry Watkinson
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has been speaking in his pre-match press conference as Manchester City prepare to face Manchester United on Sunday.

Guardiola will be hoping that his team can pick up an important three points against their local rivals but admitted that Old Trafford is always a tough place to travel to.

“When I was at Barcelona and Bayern and I travelled to England to play at Old Trafford it was always special.

“It’s a special place and here it is special for our fans. But in the end, it is just a football game, not like an FA Cup final or one of the last fixtures of the season where winning or losing can define winning the PL or not.

“There are still 87 points to play for so it is another game and we have to be focused on what we have to do to beat them.”

Guardiola also said that playing Man Utd is always a challenge, despite their inconsistent form of late.

“They are always dangerous. It doesn’t matter who their manager is – and I have seen a few – they are always a tough opponent with the quality of the individuals, the character, the momentum.

“They have the ability not to be on top and then just score goals. We know their quality, no doubts about that.”

“It’s a good rivalry. Each club respects the other. It’s my eighth season here and no issues happened.

“We won games, we lost games. The FA Cup final [last season] was special because we wanted to win because our side it was so important to arrive in Istanbul to do what we have done.”

Man Utd goalkeeper Andre Onana made a last-gasp penalty save against Copenhagen in the Champions League this week to earn his team an important three points.

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Guardiola heaped praise on Onana, describing him as an ‘exceptional player.’

“I remember we have a common friend who spoke very highly of him but personally I met Onana in Amsterdam. He’s an exceptional player and is now at United.

“Everyone needs time [to adapt to PL], not just the managers but players, keepers. Everyone. Sometimes people are quicker but I have a high opinion of him as a keeper.

[Are you worried he will play like he did in CL final?] “Hopefully not, hopefully, we can beat him, but before the game, I always expect the best of the players we are going to face.

“I prefer to see the strengths than the weaknesses they have. He saved a pen in the last minute which helped them to stay in contention to qualify for the last 16. Mentally it’s a good boost for them.”

Guardiola then switched his attention to his own players, specifically Jack Grealish, who the manager said had a great game against Swiss club Young Boys on Wednesday.

“If Jack plays like he played in Switzerland, I said before we trust a lot in him and his ability. He has to fight to play as best as possible in every single action and game. We need him, we need everyone and I’m very pleased for the game he played.”

Next, Guardiola gave his thoughts on the Premier League title race. Tottenham are currently top of the table, with Arsenal joint-second with Man City.

The City boss said the race was too early to call at this stage, however. “It’s too early. All the teams are there because the teams are a little bit behind, can be there.

“When you play just nine games, many things can happen from my experience. We have been behind with a few points in February and March and have been able to win at the end.

“We just have to improve our football game and mentality. I want to see how our mentality on Sunday is at Old Trafford. We won a lot and it’s not about winning now what is going to happen. It’s not about that, I want to see my team in big scenarios like it is. The right mentality, the right way.

“All the time when you get the fixtures, United are a contender. Ask me a question with nine games left and I will tell you if they are contenders but in late October it is not going to happen.”

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