Pellegrini refutes Neville claim on defence strategy

LONDON • Manuel Pellegrini has claimed that he would never play for a draw away from home and denied Manchester City's defensive resolve at Old Trafford provided a template for progress in the Champions League.

Sunday's drab 0-0 Manchester derby showed another side to the Premier League leaders and highest goalscorers, with Pellegrini's decision to field two holding midfielders helping to nullify United and inviting praise from several pundits.

The City manager, however, disputed former Manchester United defender Gary Neville's assertion that the first half at Old Trafford was "probably the best 45 minutes I have seen anywhere in the Premier League this season".

"I don't agree with that comment," he said ahead of City's League Cup fourth-round tie against Crystal Palace yesterday. "I think it was not the best."

And he dismissed suggestions that a more defensive approach would benefit his side away from home in the Champions League.

The Chilean was criticised last season for his insistence on playing with two strikers against Barcelona in Europe's elite club competition - a move that left City overrun in midfield. And City's midfield was further exposed when Yaya Toure rampaged forward and neglected his defensive duties.

But by fielding Fernandinho and Fernando in holding midfield roles, City limited United to just one shot on target on Sunday.

"I like it when we defend well but what I don't like is playing games away and playing for a draw," said Pellegrini, who is hoping to guide City past the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time this season.

"It's not my mentality and, in the first half on Sunday, we didn't do it. But when you are not able to take the chances and win the game, you must make sure you don't lose. I was pleased we got a point.

"In the Champions League, we'll be the same way. We'll have the mentality of a big team.

"We'll always go for the win. We have different ways to play, it depends on the players we pick.

"This team doesn't have a problem changing systems because we don't just have one system.

"I think we showed in a lot of games last season that we didn't play with a striker and, in others, we only had one or even two.

"I don't think it's down to the tactical system you play. It depends on the performance of the players."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'Pellegrini refutes Neville claim on defence strategy'. Print Edition | Subscribe