Pep Guardiola has ‘ridiculous’ tactical plans swirling in his head before Saturday’s derby against Manchester United.
Manchester City can go within two points of Premier League leaders Arsenal with victory at Old Trafford, where Guardiola has won six times in nine visits.
Man City boss operated with two midfielders as false nines during a dominant Carabao Cup win at United three years ago, which Kevin De Bruyne claimed to have taken the players only 15 minutes to perfect in training.
Guardiola on Tuesday declared Kalvin Phillips’ readiness to start, and said, “I am pretty sure he would be frustrated, when you come and cannot play. But the shoulder was the main thing, after surgery he came back perfectly, and now he feels fine, so it’s just now a question of time, minutes and with the number of games we have, we are going to use him.
“We saw the attributes he has (before signing him) and we decide to do it, with the fact that Fernandinho announced he was going back to Brazil and we need one player to help Rodri in this position.
“In duels especially he understands where the ball is coming, he’s strong in the air, when there’s tempo he has the quality to break lines. He has to improve the reception from central defenders, but this is going to be a question of time because at Leeds he moved, always had the quality to do it.
“He’s a national team player and when England reached the (Euros) final (in 2021), with Declan Rice, they both played amazingly. He has the mentality to have been training with Marcelo (Bielsa, the former Leeds manager), the resilience and fight.
“So many attributes (to make me) believe he could settle perfectly with us, and I’m convinced it’s going to happen.”
Guardiola is not averse to switching things up, with Joao Cancelo starting as a right winger during away games at Liverpool and Chelsea this season – and he may have another surprise up his sleeve.
“I would like to arrive against United with the average of minutes in the legs of the players being quite similar because I have a few ideas, some thoughts, ridiculous ones against United,’ Guardiola said.
“But still, I didn’t watch their last games. I have to see the way they play at home and if they change something. I still have to review it. That is why I don’t have a clear line-up against United.’
Guardiola has confirmed that Kalvin Phillips is in line for his full debut against Southampton in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, and challenged the 27-year-old to depose Rodri as the club’s preferred central midfielder.
“It depends on him if he can fight with Rodri – the big clubs have to have this,” he added. “He has to fight with Rodri for the benefit of all of us. Rodri cannot slip for the feeling he has someone close to him.
“With the duels especially, Kalvin understands when the ball is coming and is strong in the air. He has the quality to break lines, wide and inside. He has to improve the reception of the ball from our central defenders and this is a question of time.
“He’s a national team player. He played amazingly at the Euros. He has mentality, resilience, fight – many attributes that meant he could settle with us and I’m convinced it’s going to happen.’
Guardiola suggested that neither Erling Haaland nor De Bruyne will start at St Mary’s, after the pair also sat out the FA Cup win over Chelsea. He has teased a ‘ridiculous’ tactic he could unleash against Manchester United on Saturday.
The defending Premier League champions welcome their city rivals to the Eithad this weekend having handed out a 6-3 thrashing in the season’s first derby instalment in October. United come into this fixture in superb form, however, on a run of eight consecutive wins having eased past Charlton in a 3-0 win in their Carabao Cup quarter-final on Tuesday.
City take on Southampton in their last eight tie on Wednesday and will have just 48 hours to prepare for the visit of Erik ten Hag’s side. And Guardiola has hinted he has something special in store for when United come to town.
“I would like to arrive against United with the average of minutes in the legs of the players quite similar because I have a few ideas, thoughts, ridiculous ones against United,” said Guardiola.
“I didn’t watch the last [United] games. I have to see the way they play at home [against Charlton on Tuesday] and if they change something. I have to still review it. That is why I don’t have a clear line-up against United.”
City won the Carabao Cup four seasons on the bounce before Liverpool’s triumph last season with Guardiola eager to take the trophy back to spark another silverware hunt. His side secured a domestic treble back in 2019 but the City boss concedes an elusive quadruple remains ‘almost impossible.’
“Every season we fight to go as far as possible in all four competitions, otherwise we will not win four Carabao Cups in five years,” said Guardiola.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to win it. It just means the next game after United, after Tottenham, whatever comes. When everyone is fit, now we have almost everyone fit, it is easier to do it. When you have less players fighting for four is almost impossible. No-one in the whole history has done it.”
Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland were rested for Sunday’s FA Cup victory over Chelsea but Kalvin Philipps could start for the champions with Jack Grealish also back in contention after illness.
- A Tell / Football365 / Metro report