Pep Guardiola talks up Erik ten Hag "respect", expects "the best" from Manchester United

1 month ago 18

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola acknowledges that he has "enormous respect" for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United ahead of Sunday's Premier League derby showdown at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has acknowledged that he has "enormous respect" for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United, and he is expecting the Red Devils to perform at their best in Sunday's Premier League derby at the Etihad Stadium.

After securing a top-four finish and winning the EFL Cup last season, Ten Hag and co have since experienced a challenging 2023-24 campaign and are at risk of ending the campaign both trophyless and without Champions League qualification.

The Red Devils were condemned to their 10th Premier League defeat of the season last weekend as Fulham came away from Old Trafford with a 2-1 victory courtesy of a dramatic 97th-minute winner from Alex Iwobi.

Man United currently sit sixth in the table, but they have slipped eight points behind Aston Villa in fourth spot with 12 games remaining.

On a positive note, Ten Hag's side have put together a six-game winning streak away from home in all competitions, most recently beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 at the City Ground on Wednesday to secure their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Although Man United have lost six of the last eight Manchester derbies against their Sky Blue counterparts, including a 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season, Guardiola is expecting the "best performance" from the Red Devils on Sunday.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on June 3, 2023© Reuters

During his pre-match press conference on Friday, Guardiola refused to comment on the criticism Ten Hag has received for his inability to communicate his philosophy to his players, and instead talked up his respect for both the Dutchman and the Red Devils.

"Always I expect the best from our opponents. Always," Guardiola told reporters. "The best performance from [Man United] is always what I expect. I expect the best, but I don't talk one word about what they do because I respect them too much.

"When I say comments, people say 'Pep say this..' Not my intention. I have enormous respect for the institution, Erik and the players. When I know what my players have to do, they will know it today and tomorrow."

Discussing the rivalry he has had with Man United over the years since joining Man City in 2016, Guardiola added: "[United] have [had] good seasons with Jose [Mourinho] and Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer]. They have been second fighting, but they were there.

"What I learn with my experience in these games, more calm, relax. Don't talk about many things, just focus on tactical issues. The emotion will be there.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts on January 13, 2024© Reuters

"Prepare the game knowing their quality. They were able to go to Wolves – how difficult it is, there - Luton and Aston Villa with the quality they have, to go there and win. It was a few weeks ago. They have the incredible quality. One action, they create something special in set-pieces, transitions, open play.

"Always has been that way for United. When they play well, they win games. In 2024, they lost just one game, it was last week at home. The consistency is there. So we will prepare the game tactically for what we have to do to get three points."

Guardiola has acknowledged City's dominance in recent Manchester derbies and he is keen for his side to "extend" their success and at the summit of English football, replicating the impressive feats of their rivals in previous decades.

"The 1980s was Liverpool, 1990s was United. Now we are winning seven Premier League titles in last decade, 11, 12 years," the Catalan boss added. "It happens. In 50, 60 years there have never been one club to control everything.

"We want to extend [our success] for many years – that is what we are trying to do. The consistency is proved against Luton. What Rob Edwards is doing there proves exactly what we have done in many years. That made me so proud."

Man City, who sit second in the Premier League table, could find themselves four points behind leaders Liverpool if the Reds beat Nottingham Forest on Saturday, but Guardiola's men can reduce the gap to just one point with victory over Man United on Sunday.

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