Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has explained that Pep Guardiola stopped a training session before their recent win over Manchester United as he was unsure over how the Red Devils would approach the match. City went on to register a comfortable 2-0 win over their cross-city rivals, who currently find themselves outside of the Premier League’s top five after a lacklustre start to the campaign.
United have only managed to claim five wins from 11 league matches, leaving them nine points adrift of early leaders Chelsea.
They have been subjected to a number of humiliating defeats in recent months, including a humbling at the hands of Young Boys in the Champions League group stages back in September.
The Red Devils were also thrashed at Old Trafford last month by Liverpool, who registered five goals to inflict a painful loss on their bitter rivals.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position as United manager has come under serious threat as a result of the club’s dire form, although he is not expected to leave the club before the end of the international break.
The Norwegian boss has responded by experimenting with a back-three formation, deploying the system to great effect against Tottenham at the next available opportunity.
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United strolled to a three-goal win in north London before snatching a draw at Atalanta using the same tactic three days later.
De Bruyne, who played the whole 90 minutes for City at Old Trafford in their most recent outing, has since revealed that Guardiola was at a loss to predict how United were going to set up against them before kick-off earlier this month.
The Belgian playmaker told The MidMid Podcast that City’s manager called a halt to their final training session just hours before the match because he did not know what to prepare for.
“The day before a game we usually train tactically, based on how the opponent play,” said De Bruyne.
“Before United, Pep said: ‘We don’t know how they are going to play. We shall see’. And we stopped training after 10 minutes or so.
“Often Pep knows how the opponent is going to play. This time he didn’t know, so he didn’t know what to do.
“We have done what we always do, but he didn’t know beforehand if they would play with five at the back, with four, a diamond in the middle [or] with three upfront.”
City were comfortably the better team over the course of the match, with the defending Premier League champions dominating proceedings at the expense of a hapless United side.
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Guardiola is not the only one who has been left confused by United’s approach to games this season, with club legend Roy Keane admitting he ‘doesn’t know what to expect’ from Solskjaer’s side.
Speaking after their defeat against City, Keane said: “I think Solskjaer will be under more pressure tonight than even the Liverpool game.
“When you are the manager, and he’s come into this game this morning, speaking about the players being in a good mood, but I’ve been a manager and if you are going to a match and you are looking over your shoulder on the bus and you see Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Fred, and your job depends on these guys, then you are in trouble.
“They are international players. Shaw, Maguire, Bailly, the midfield and Fred. Fred is playing for Manchester United. Anyone who tells me Fred is good enough for United is living in cuckoo land, and that is an important part of the football pitch.
“You are looking at these players and you don’t know what you are going to get. You don’t know what you are going to get with Manchester United.”