By James Agberebi:
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes Kelechi Iheanacho or Raheem Sterling could be Manchester City’s surprise packages in Saturday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
Nigeria forward Iheanacho has been brilliant since breaking through to the City senior squad last season, wheb he scored 14 goals despite mostly playing as a substitute. He was on target on Saturday as Nigeria defeated Tanzania in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Manchester City will be without Sergio Aguero who is currently serving a three-match suspension.
But Mourinho stated in his press conference on Friday that the thought of who replaces the Argentine has made United’s preparation towards the game even more difficult.
“He (City manager Pep Guardiola) could decide to play with Iheanacho or Sterling. He could decide to play with Silva as a fake No.9 between the lines. It is clear that they have many options,” Mourinho said
“That for us, in the preparation of the game, makes us have to go step-by-step with every situation because we are trying to reduce the unpredictability of the game. To try to do this now is more difficult.”
Mourinho played down the importance of the derby, reiterating that United’s focus is on the EPL title.
The former Chelsea boss went on to praise Pep Guardiola and also City for their achievement while tipping them as title contenders this season.
“I am normal. For us, it is a game and for me especially. We are playing to try and win the title. When you do this there is no match more important than another one when it comes to this stage of the season.”
“I know what a derby means for everyone; I’ve played derbies everywhere, in every country, in so many cities.
“I always want to be in the position of emotional control because for me it is just a game against a very good opponent. If you want to be successful and you want to win the game then we have to be at the top of our qualities.
“Since the new owners have arrived, Manchester City have been a very good team.
“They have had very good managers and have another very good manager now. They’ve always had very good players and, again, have very good players now, so they are what they are since I returned to England in 2013. They are a title contender and you have to respect them that way.”
On the unity in the United squad, Mourinho said: “We have a good family group; we’re together and enjoy the responsibility to work for a club with a history like this. When you arrive at a club like Manchester United, you cannot have defensive words. You have to go direct to the target and say that we want to win the title.”
The Portuguese tactician went on to praise Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s commitment and passion for football.
“Zlatan is a phenomenal player who arrives at 34 and still wants more for his career.
“He didn’t want the Chinese money or the American US dollars; he wanted the most difficult place to play and win.
“Zlatan is more about him than us. Our contribution to him, in motivational terms, is zero. This is just his nature.”