Pep praises United ahead of derby day

Pep Guardiola’s press conference at the Etihad Campus’ CFA Media Theatre presented an opportunity for journalists to gain an invaluable insight into City’s potential tactics ahead of what is expected to be a tough clash at Old Trafford.

Instead, there was one topic on everyone’s tongues before the Spaniard arrived – the news that Benjamin Mendy had been found not guilty of 7 out of 9 charges against him. The club issued a statement ahead of the conference, which Pep asked to be taken ‘as his words’.

Manchester City FC notes the verdict from Chester Crown Court today, where a jury has found Benjamin Mendy not guilty of seven charges. The jury is hung on two charges and the trial is now over.

Given there are open matters related to this case, the Club is not in a position to comment further at this time.

Manchester City’s official club statement following Benjamin Mendy’s court verdict

Guardiola was keen to emphasise that while games are always crucial, fixtures against United are ‘always important, it doesn’t matter the competition’. However, when the City boss was asked to expand on his ‘ridiculous ideas’ that he had hinted at deploying, Pep quickly responded that ‘it was a joke’.

City’s head coach also added that Saturday’s opponents have improved ‘a lot – it’s normal [with a] new manager’. He went on to further compliment the developments United have made under Erik Ten Hag – saying that ‘the improvement in the team is clear, not just in terms of results’. When asked again about his thoughts on United’s rapid improvements, the City boss said it was ‘absolutely not’ a surprise to see such a stark contrast to the side that suffered an embarrassing 6-3 defeat at the Etihad earlier this season. Guardiola also added that ‘Erik [Ten Hag] represents our job as managers in the best way’.

When asked about Ilkay Gundogan’s comments earlier this week, in which the German hinted last a lack of ‘desire’, City’s boss was rather defensive, insisting that ‘City fans cannot complain about what this team is able to do, has done, do or will do – we cannot talk on behalf of the City fans as there are millions’. With the follow-up question asking Pep if he was concerned about a lack of hunger and desire, his answer was simple – ‘no, I’m not concerned’.

Moving forwards, Guardiola added that the midweek defeat to Southampton that saw City crash out of the Carabao Cup is the ‘last thing [he’s] worried about’. Guardiola added that while he has the starting eleven for the Manchester Derby in mind, the shock result on the South Coast wasn’t a factor.

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When questioned about his opinions on City’s poor form tying in with the resumption of football after the World Cup break, Pep was dismissive of any correlation – ‘I don’t put excuses on the World Cup; all teams played the World Cup’.

One of the final questions put to Pep was his thoughts on Wout Weghorst, who United look set to sign – though it looks increasingly unlikely that the Dutch forward will be eligible to play in the derby fixture. When asked about the signing representing the difficulty clubs face in acquiring top-class number nines, and whether he felt City were lucky to have secured Erling Haaland’s signature, Pep said ‘definitely. In winter time it’s not easy to sign players, but I have a feeling that if United want to sign any striker with a [high value], they can do it – not just Manchester City’.

With Pep seeming to be piling on the praise for his opponents, it will be interesting to see if mentality plays a big role in tomorrow’s fixture – with City likely to be quite a way off their best after that defeat on Wednesday evening. As for United, they come off the back of a win against Charlton on Tuesday and will look to carry that momentum forwards and hope that City can conjure up another of their infrequent poor performances.

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