Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has insisted that he is paying no attention to Pep Guardiola’s mind games ahead of Saturday’s derby meeting with Manchester City. The Red Devils were thrashed by their neighbours away from home earlier in the campaign but will be quietly confident of snatching a result when the two clubs do battle at Old Trafford after winning their last eight matches in all competitions.
Guardiola is no stranger to engaging in psychological warfare before high-profile fixtures and got plenty of people talking earlier this week when he suggested that he was considering a ‘ridiculous’ tactical approach to this weekend’s Manchester derby. However, Ten Hag was in no mood to entertain the Spaniard’s attempts to unsettle him and his players when quizzed on the matter in Friday’s press conference.
“I don’t care about that, about what he’s thinking,” said the United boss. “But he did it more often and we’re prepared for that, if he does different things. We have our principles, our rules for football.”
City taught United a lesson when the Red Devils were hit for six in a nine-goal thriller at the Etihad Stadium back in October, with Ten Hag going on to insist that he wants to see bravery from his squad when they are given the opportunity to claim revenge over their local rivals on Saturday.
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“Yes, that’s the message, but more importantly is how?” he added. “What does it mean to be brave? Always it’s a way of playing, in possession, giving each other options, taking the right decisions, going forward when it’s possible, defending and being on the front foot, being aggressive.
“That’s what it means to be brave. As a team, act with togetherness, to have the same ideas in every situation. That means bravery. Top football is about results, but you want to do it in a certain way. Be proactive, adventurous and also entertain.”
This weekend’s fixture will see the Premier League’s two in-form strikers go head-to-head, with Marcus Rashford and Erling Haaland set to be tasked with providing the goals for their respective teams on Saturday. United confirmed the loan capture of Dutch forward Wout Weghorst from Burnley on Friday but he will not feature in the derby as he was not signed in time to be registered for the next round of Premier League matches.
There is still a belief that United can put up a hard fight against City, though, as they look to make the most of their home advantage by claiming the local bragging rights in front of their own fans. Their form in recent weeks has been nothing short of imperious, while City are still reeling from their surprise two-goal defeat at the hands of Southampton in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
When asked if his side are ready to challenge their cross-city rivals on merit once again, Ten Hag replied: “We’ll see tomorrow. Of course, if you want to win trophies, you have to compete with the best and City are the best, so we look forward to challenging them.”
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