Pep Guardiola is expecting an “aggressive” Manchester United to attack Manchester City ahead of Sunday’s derby day meeting at Old Trafford.
The Premier League champions make the short journey to face their cross-city rivals this weekend, in a hugely anticipated meeting between the two Manchester sides.
United emerged victorious from their previous league meeting at the Etihad in December, though it was City who prevailed on aggregate following a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final in February.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been criticised – most notably by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp – for being overly defensive in big games this season, however, Guardiola believes the Red Devils will attacking with aggression during Sunday’s showdown.
“For me it doesn’t look like that. When I saw the last games, they’re incredibly aggressive,” said Guardiola at Friday’s pre-match press conference.
“I think in Old Trafford, that’s going to happen. They are going to defend and we are going to control a lot.
“In some games they defend, but what I saw in the last games is a team that is aggressive.”
City head into the clash in fine form having registered five successive wins in all competitions, including last weekend’s League Cup final victory over Aston Villa to lift the trophy for a third consecutive season.
Guardiola admits he has been pleased with his side’s progress in recent weeks, and is hopeful his side can continue their momentum this weekend.
“It was a good month for us after the little [winter] break that we had,” he said.
“We had West Ham at home, Leicester away, Real and then the final of the Carabao Cup. We know how difficult these games are. I think we did well.
“There are a lot of games still to play.”
Guardiola’s side will also be boosted by having one day more recovery time than their rivals following the scheduling of the mid-week FA Cup fixtures, though the Catalan has played down the significance despite criticism of the fixture list from United counterpart Solskjaer.
“I said before the Carabao Cup Final that we have one extra day to prepare (for Sunday). I was asked my opinion. It is what it is,” he said “Sometimes you have one more day, sometimes you have one less. It is what it is.
“I’ve always believed United are a strong team. The game at home that we lost they played a good 30-34 minutes. Always, I have a big respect for United. Winning games and titles is good for our mood and confidence.”
The City boss added that he was eagerly anticipating the latest meeting between the rivals, their Manchester hostilities renewed or the fourth time this season.
Who should win PLAYER OF THE MONTH for February? 2/2:
— Football Faithful (@FootyFaithful_) March 6, 2020
Despite falling adrift of the league leaders Liverpool, Guardiola insists the occasion is still of utmost importance given United’s pursuit of a top four finish and Champions League qualification.
“I love it – both teams, I think so. Always they are special,” added Guardiola.
“Of course the situation this season is different for the fact that we play to improve. To finish second but not to win the title.
“For them it’s so important, to qualify for next season to the Champions League.”
Kevin De Bruyne is a doubt for City after suffering a back injury late on in the Carabao Cup final and missed the midweek win at Sheffield Wednesday, whilst Leroy Sane remains an absentee as he steps up his rehabilitation from an ACL injury.