Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has insisted that rivals Manchester United “are always dangerous” and a “tough opponent” to play against ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
The Citizens are preparing to lock horns with the Red Devils for the first time since they triumphed by a 2-1 scoreline in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium in June.
Guardiola’s side have got the better of Man United in the majority of their recent meetings, winning five of their last seven in all competitions since 2021, although they suffered defeat in their last visit to Old Trafford – losing 2-1 in the Premier League in January.
Ahead of the 191st Manchester derby, Guardiola has admitted that he has always enjoyed his “special” visits to Old Trafford, but he has warned his Citizens players to expect another tricky contest this weekend.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Guardiola said: “When I was at Barcelona and Bayern Munich 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 at the end it is just a football game, not like an FA Cup final or one of the 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.”
“[United] are always dangerous,” Guardiola added. “It doesn’t matter the managers – and I have seen a few – they are always a tough opponent with the quality of the individual, 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.”
Discussing the rivalry between the two clubs, Guardiola said: “It’s OK. It’s a good rivalry. Each club respects the other. No big issues have happened in my eight seasons here.
“We’ve won games, we’ve lost games, the FA Cup final was special because we win and go to the treble. It was so important to go to Istanbul with the challenge to do what we have done.”
Man United have experienced a difficult start to the new campaign on the whole and find themselves sitting eighth in the Premier League table, six points behind Man City in second and eight adrift of league leaders Tottenham Hotspur.
However, Guardiola still believes Erik ten Hag’s side are “a contender” for the title, although he has admitted that it is too early to discuss who the title frontrunners are at this early stage in the campaign.
“It’s too early. All the teams are there and the teams behind can be there,” said the Catalan boss. “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. It’s not about that. I want to see in the right mentality to play for these points.
“All the time when you get the fixtures, [Man] United are a contender. Ask me a question with nine games left and I will ask if they are contenders but late October, it is not going to happen.”
Both Man City and Man United enter Sunday’s contest after winning in the Champions League in midweek, with the Citizens beating Young Boys 3-1 in Bern on Wednesday and the Red Devils claiming a narrow 1-0 home victory over Copenhagen a day earlier.