Big Match

United will attack 'Powerful' city: Jose

Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho watches the Uefa Champions League group H football match Juventus vs Manchester United, on Nov 7, 2018.
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho watches the Uefa Champions League group H football match Juventus vs Manchester United, on Nov 7, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Team's recent upturn in form and defensive frailties mean going for goals is best option

LONDON • Parking the bus may be a Jose Mourinho hallmark but buoyed by a three-game winning streak - their best run of form this season - the Manchester United manager intends to release the handbrake at the Etihad tomorrow.

The Red Devils are nine points behind English Premier League leaders Manchester City after 11 matches, but the Portuguese is sensing an upturn in his side's fortunes - they are unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions - in stark contrast to the relentless calls for his head early last month.

Although unbeaten City can boast of a 100 per cent home record in the league with an average of four goals, Pep Guardiola's men have yet to be tested in front of their supporters, with none of their previous opponents in the league's top 10.

And United's new-found confidence has led to Mourinho casting off United's defensive shackles in a bid to go toe-to-toe with City. At his pre-match press conference yesterday, the Portuguese revealed he planned to beat City at their own game, saying: "We are going to try (to go on the offensive).

"I cannot say we are going to be successful in our motivations, in our desire, but we played two different matches away against two very good teams - Chelsea and Juventus - and we managed to get good results.

"And even if the good results were not in our pockets, the performances were there, the positive attitude was there, so we are going to try but City are very powerful.

"If we draw, the gap is still nine points. If we lose, it's 12 so I don't think that is the way to look at the match. A difficult match against a difficult team, but they will also think it's a difficult match for them."

A 3-2 shock away victory over City last season will also give Mourinho cause for optimism and with Anthony Martial on fire - the France forward has five goals in his last six appearances - Guardiola will be wary of the threat "United's Eden Hazard" poses.

Former United midfielder Paul Ince told the Mirror that on current form, Martial was "as good if not better" than the Chelsea forward.

UPBEAT ASSESSMENT

In the whole history of City, it was never easy to beat United and United beat City more times. We are on a good run, United as well... So we are going to try especially to have a good game.

PEP GUARDIOLA, City boss, who is confident despite their weaker record against United.

HOT STRIKER

No team will want to face Martial right now. He's playing like the player we all knew he was. And it's interesting to see that now Mourinho seems to have found a team and formula that works, the results are coming in.

PAUL INCE, ex-United midfielder, who is impressed with Anthony Martial's resurgence.

"No team will want to face Martial right now. He's playing like the player we all knew he was. And it's interesting to see that now Mourinho seems to have found a team and formula that works, the results are coming in," he said.

United midfielder Nemanja Matic was equally bullish about their chances of upsetting City on their own patch again as Mourinho had their number. He said: "We believe more that we are a good team, we have also improved and mentally, we are stronger."

While Romelu Lukaku, who has not scored since Sept 19, is fit again, having trained this week after recovering from a hamstring injury, Mourinho will likely keep faith with Chile forward Alexis Sanchez, who has impressed up front in United's two previous games.

Taking the game to City - as risky as it sounds - might very well be United's best approach with only one clean sheet in the league this season and Guardiola admitted his side have a task on their hands given their improvement.

"A team that was able to win in Turin when in the last nine years, it was not able to lose one game, they had 10-15 minutes of problems after Cristiano's (Ronaldo) goal - apart from that, they were so stable," the Spaniard told Sky Sports.

"Now is a good moment (for them) so of course, it is always complicated. In the whole history of City, it was never easy to beat United and United beat City more times. We are on a good run, United as well... so we are going to try especially to have a good game."

But City midfielder David Silva believes that his teammates can puncture the good feeling around Old Trafford at the moment by claiming bragging rights in the derby.

He told the Daily Mail: "It means a huge amount. It's a chance, if you've won, to wind up the red half a little bit."

THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'United will attack 'powerful' city: Jose'. Print Edition | Subscribe