The Big Match

Managers insist it's not a special clash

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has dismissed suggestions that the 175th Manchester derby could be won or lost in the air.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has dismissed suggestions that the 175th Manchester derby could be won or lost in the air. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho says aerial battle won't be decisive while Pep is sweating over defenders' fitness

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has dismissed suggestions that the 175th Manchester derby could be won or lost in the air.

After Manchester City conceded another goal from a set-piece against West Ham last weekend, Pep Guardiola predicted an aerial bombardment from Manchester United at Old Trafford tomorrow.

The City manager is believed to have already told his players that they cannot afford to give away cheap free kicks in and around their own area because the Spaniard fears that they will not be able to defend high balls into the box.

United could have Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini, all of whom are at least 1.88m, in their starting XI to face City, who are a much shorter team than their neighbours.

When the height issue was put to Mourinho at his pre-match press conference yesterday, the United manager said sarcastically: "I think it will be easy for (1.93m Vincent) Kompany to compete against (1.7m Juan) Mata in the air."

His comments came after Guardiola revealed that Kompany and Fabian Delph are doubts. But the Portuguese could yet be suggesting that Kompany will feature.

After all, Guardiola yesterday confirmed David Silva will be fit, as Mourinho predicted when he suggested the Catalan was playing mind games when he claimed the playmaker was a doubt for the Old Trafford blockbuster.

HEADS, THEY WIN

I think it will be easy for (1.93m Vincent) Kompany to compete against (1.7m Juan) Mata in the air.

JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, responding to suggestions his side hold the height advantage.

Guardiola will be hoping Kompany can start, as John Stones is ruled out with a hamstring problem. Without his captain, he will have Nicolas Otamendi, and Eliaquim Mangala as his only fit, senior centre-backs and both performed poorly in their 2-1 win over West Ham.

Mourinho revealed that Fellaini will have to be assessed today while Michael Carrick and Eric Bailly are out, but confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Matic and Phil Jones are all available.

Both managers tried to play down the top-of-the-table clash.

"For me, it's one more big match against one of the best teams in the country," said Mourinho. "We are a better team than last year - I think City is also better than last season."

Guardiola insisted that he derives the same pleasure from wins over teams like Chelsea and Liverpool as he would United.

DRIVEN FOR TROPHIES

Definitely. In that, we are twins.

PEP GUARDIOLA, Manchester City manager, contriving to find a commonality he shares with his old foe Mourinho.

Tomorrow's clash will be the 20th meeting between former Barcelona manager Guardiola and former Real Madrid boss Mourinho. The duo's rivalry, in Spain and England, has at times been acrimonious but Guardiola believes when it comes to the desire to win trophies, they are identical.

When asked if he was as obsessed with winning as his counterpart, the 46-year-old replied: "Definitely. In that, we are twins."

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2017, with the headline 'Managers insist it's not a special clash'. Print Edition | Subscribe