Hello and welcome to today’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
Pep Guardiola has already stoked the fires before kick-off. He believes Manchester City gatecrashing the established elite is “uncomfortable” for their Premier League rivals.
Famously labelled Manchester United’s ‘noisy neighbours’ by Sir Alex Ferguson, City’s takeover by their Abu Dhabi owners in 2008 and then the appointment of Guardiola as manager in 2016 have led to gradual progress from insignificant upstarts to the dominant force in English football.
City have lifted the Premier League trophy in five of the last six campaigns, including three in a row, while their crowning moment came last season as they emulated Ferguson’s 1998-99 treble-winning side.
Guardiola marvelled at how the fortunes of the clubs have switched ahead of today’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford, where City could extend their lead between the teams to nine points with a victory.
“Sir Alex was right (at the time), City were not challenging, they were in the middle to bottom,” Guardiola said. “United and Arsenal at the time were the richest ones, that’s why City were there.
“But after that, Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon (Al Mubarak), who took over and made an investment. After that Sir Alex could not expect to know that and not even myself who was in Barcelona.
“We were not in the elite and now we are in the elite, maybe it’s uncomfortable for many things. That is a reality and we want to stay as long as possible.”
United have not won the league since Ferguson’s departure at the end of the 2012-13 season, coming closest under Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, both of whom presided over runners-up finishes.
While Guardiola was adamant United will always be regarded as one of the top English clubs, the Spaniard suspects any chance of bringing back the glory days the red half of Manchester enjoyed under Ferguson is gone because of the number of sides now challenging for honours.
Such has been the trajectories of both clubs over the last decade, Guardiola admitted he does not consider United their biggest rivals – insisting that honour belongs to Liverpool.
This could be tasty!