Manchester United’s improvement this season is no surprise to Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, who says its local rival is back fighting for the Premier League title.
Since and including its win over Liverpool on August 22, no team has won more points in the Premier League than United, which has won 11 of its 15 games in this time, although Arsenal has matched them in one fewer game. It has also won its last eight games in a row in all competitions.
Victory over City at Old Trafford on Saturday would see United move to within a point of the champion, which is looking to complete a league double over its rivals for the sixth time.
“The improvement is clear, not just results,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday. “I have the feeling every time at Old Trafford or the Etihad it’s been a difficult game.
“It is always an attractive game, both teams want to try to play. A lot of quality players in both sides. Top class managers. Will be a good game.
It’s Man United. With Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer, previous coach) they were close. What happens in the previous seasons, I don’t know. It’s normal United are there. Nobody said they would be, they are there because they have to be. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s why this competition is so difficult.”
With City still trailing league leader Arsenal by five points, Guardiola is fully aware of the enormity of Saturday’s encounter for his side.
“Many games to play, of course, but it’s a big week we cannot deny it,” he added. “After the Southampton defeat (in midweek) I’m not worried about the titles, it’s how we recover who we are, game by game.
“This is what we have to do, important games in the season we were there.”
Guardiola also added England defender John Stones will not be fit enough to start at Old Trafford.
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