Managers feel Derby heat

Jose Mourinho (left) and Pep Guardiola after Manchester City's 2-1 Premier League victory against Manchester United on Sept 10. Today's League Cup clash has led Guardiola to exhort his players to believe in his methods, while United's Juan Mata has c
Jose Mourinho (left) and Pep Guardiola after Manchester City's 2-1 Premier League victory against Manchester United on Sept 10. Today's League Cup clash has led Guardiola to exhort his players to believe in his methods, while United's Juan Mata has called for his team-mates to be "mentally strong".PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho, Guardiola face intense scrutiny in League Cup after recent poor runs

LONDON • Any suggestion that today's League Cup showdown between Manchester United and Manchester City would lack the usual derby intensity has been removed by the gathering pressure on both managers.

While Jose Mourinho seeks a response to the humiliation inflicted on United by Sunday's 4-0 rout at Chelsea, City's Pep Guardiola is looking to end his five-match winless run.

That raises the stakes in a competition often treated with disdain by managers, and this week's fourth-round fixture list of the League Cup also sees West Ham United host Chelsea in a London derby today.

But it is Old Trafford where most interest will be focused on a game that Mourinho has admitted he does not want.

"I would prefer to play in the Premier League," said the Portuguese, who is keen to rectify a run of just one win in six league games.

He has, however, called on his players to "behave like men" in today's clash.

"We are really, really sad but again this is not for kids, this is for men and we have to be men and work for the next one," the 53-year-old said.

STATING HIS PREFERENCE

I would prefer to play in the Premier League. We are really, really sad but again this is not for kids, this is for men and we have to be men and work for the next one.

JOSE MOURINHO, still smarting from the 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Midfielder Juan Mata has also rallied his team to bounce back, believing that they need to remain "mentally strong".

"It sounds like a cliche but it's true. When we win and everybody praises you it's easy to be united and celebrate together, but it is now, after such a defeat, when we must remain mentally strong and keep going," the Spaniard said.

"Together we win and together we lose."

Mourinho will likely make changes against City, who have already won 2-1 at Old Trafford in the Premier league this season, with midfielders Michael Carrick and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and the underused Wayne Rooney, pressing for inclusion.

BIG GAME, HIGH STAKES

A derby is a derby.

It's always special and we're going to play seriously like we always do and try to win the game.

PEP GUARDIOLA, who is hoping to end Manchester City's run of five matches without a win.

In defence, Eric Bailly's knee ligament injury means a likely start for Marcos Rojo. Marouane Fellaini is also ruled out due to a knee injury suffered against Chelsea.

City, too, know the importance of victory after five games without a win.

Guardiola has, in response, told his players not to lose faith in the high-risk, high-reward style of football he has introduced, according to midfielder Kevin de Bruyne.

"He just told us to believe," the Belgian told The Daily Mail.

"He doesn't want us to have doubts in the way that we are playing. He wanted to make sure that we know the way we are playing now is the good way."

De Bruyne, however, will be rested for the game after picking up a calf injury during the 1-1 draw with Southampton over the weekend.

City captain Vincent Kompany is a consideration for Guardiola, as the centre-back has just returned from injury and made his first league start under the Spaniard against Southampton.

The 30-year-old accepts that he must listen more intently to the advice of City's medical staff if he is to avoid another injury.

He was due to play in the 4-0 defeat away to Barcelona last week, but pulled out on the eve of the match because, in the words of Guardiola, his captain did not "feel right".

"I've had to make one commitment to the medical staff, which was that I'd be honest towards them with my feelings, and that I would listen to them when they made a decision," Kompany said.

"Let's put it that way, it's for the best."

Guardiola confirmed at his pre-match conference yesterday that he has yet to decide if Kompany will start. However, if called upon, the captain is more than ready.

"It's just physically impossible for me to play down a derby," said Kompany. "Those games are what you play for. Am I looking forward to it? Come on, always. The bigger the game, the better."

His manager added: "A derby is a derby. It's always special and we're going to play seriously like we always do and try to win the game."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Managers feel Derby heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe