(Reuters) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola does not think Sunday’s derby against Manchester United will define his team’s campaign, but is still keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s defeat by the same opponents.
City were in control against United in the corresponding fixture at the Etihad Stadium last term, leading by two first-half goals, only for United to stage a second-half rally and win 3-2.
“We have to play good,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday. “If we play good, we have a chance to win. You cannot imagine we are going to play amazingly for 90 minutes against top teams.
“I would like to play the same game as last season when we were on top for 75 minutes but United showed us that they just need 10 or 15 minutes to create chances.
“When they have the ball, they can create something because they have incredible talent.”
Both teams are in good form, with seventh-placed United on a three-game winning streak and league leaders City having gone 11 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Guardiola is looking forward to the battle but believes the fixture has come too soon to have significant bearing on the title race.
“We are in November so maybe the game at Old Trafford (in March) will be more decisive,” the Spaniard said. “Of course we are on a good run, United as well. It’s a good derby. All of them are special.”
The manager also reiterated his faith in the club in the wake of allegations that they had circumvented financial fair play rules.
“If people want to undermine what we have done, no problem,” he said. “We live our lives. Opinions are opinions. I have said I trust the club a lot.
“If there is something wrong, we will be punished. FIFA or UEFA have to say if we were wrong. If we were wrong, we will accept it but I hear what my club said to me and I trust them.”
The allegations against City stem from the release of the “Football Leaks” documents, which include emails, contracts and presentations.
The documents were obtained by German publication Der Spiegel and reviewed by Reuters in partnership with international media consortium European Investigative Collaborations.
The City manager’s news conference ended in uproarious laughter after he responded to his former player, Brazilian Dani Alves’s comment that being coached by Guardiola at Barcelona was “better than sex”.
Alves made the comment in a documentary about Guardiola’s all-conquering spell at Barcelona, where they won three La Liga titles and the Champions League twice.
“I prefer the sex,” a grinning Guardiola said in response to a question on Alves’s comment. “By far!”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)