Manchester United have gained a lot of self-confidence for the derby in the Premier League on Saturday (1.30 p.m.) against defending champions City. The “Red Devils” have been unbeaten for eight competitive games, and the series is to be continued at home in Old Trafford against their city rivals.
United coach Erik ten Hag does not shed any tears after the superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who went into conflict: “Nobody is bigger than the team, everyone has to get involved.” In any case, the recipe seems to be working now. After the house row with Ronaldo, ten Hag even set a record this week. The 3-0 win over Charlton Athletic in the League Cup was the Dutchman’s 20th win in 27 games since taking office.
No United manager has done it so quickly before him, not even club legend Sir Alex Ferguson. “It’s because we set ourselves high standards every day,” explained the 52-year-old. Since leaving Ronaldo for Saudi Arabia, Manchester United have had three wins in the league and successes in the FA Cup and League Cup.
Recently no sense of achievement against City
The team is now going into the home game against City with confidence. “I think we can keep up with any team,” said ten Hag. “But it’s clear that when Manchester City are in top form, they’re tough opponents for anyone.” The team coached by Josep Guardiola won the last three direct encounters with a total of 12:4 goals, in September United lost 3:6.
But this time the signs are different. While United is swimming on the wave of success, the Guardiola team is a bit stuck. In the League Cup there was a surprising 2-0 defeat against Southampton, bottom of the league. City captain Ilkay Gündogan was extremely annoyed about this. With a view to the derby, the German warned of his opponent: “It seems that they are slowly starting to click. So it’s going to be a very tough game, probably the toughest Manchester derby we’ve had in a number of years.”
A win against local rivals would bring United within a point of City. The gap to leaders Arsenal, who are contesting a derby at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, could shrink to six points. With 20 Premier League games remaining and three competitions in which Manchester United are still involved, there still seems to be a lot possible for ten Hag and his team.