Manchester City expect to face the “best version” of a wounded Manchester United side reeling from their Champions League exit when the teams meet this weekend in the Premier League derby, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
United crashed out of Europe’s elite club competition after a 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig on Tuesday, the day before City cruised past Marseille 3-0 to cement their place atop Group C as they look forward to the round of 16 draw on Monday.
“Thinking we’re going to face the best version of them, especially talk a lot about what we have to do,” Guardiola said at a news conference when asked by reporters how City would prepare for Saturday’s meeting with their inconsistent local rivals at Old Trafford.
“It’s not a knockout game, it’s three more points. Important of course, because of the quality of the opponent but there are a lot of fixtures to come and we try to win our games.”
City are seventh with 18 points from 10 games, a point and a place below United who are five points off the pace. Both teams have a game in hand over the top five.
Guardiola said he empathised with United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is facing increased scrutiny as a result of their latest defeat and poor home form. United have lost three of their five Premier League games at Old Trafford this term.
“It’s important to know the value of Solskjaer, there’s no doubt about this. I don’t have to give him support because he’s strong enough and knows how this job works… when we win we’re a genius, when we lose we have to be sacked,” Guardiola added.
“It happens at United and all around the world, it’s a reality.”
Guardiola also said City’s Spain defender Eric Garcia could be out for up to three weeks with a knock, while Argentina striker Sergio Aguero will not start on Saturday as he manages a knee injury after playing and scoring against Marseille.