Ilkay Gundogan has claimed Manchester United look ‘stronger’ than they have done for several years, ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby.
Manchester City head to Old Trafford for a 12:30pm kick-off and are unlikely to find things as easy in the second league meeting of the campaign as they did when the sides last met in October. Pep Guardiola’s men comfortably brushed the Red Devils aside that afternoon, winning 6-3 at the Etihad, with the scoreline flattering a meek United outfit.
In their 18 matches since that derby demolition, United have lost just once and they’re currently on an eight-game winning streak in all competitions. In contrast, City have been underwhelming since returning from the World Cup, and suffered a shock 2-0 Carabao Cup loss against Southampton on Wednesday.
Speaking after the game, Gundogan admitted it was far from the ideal preparation for such an important fixture. “Well, obviously it is never easy for the confidence to lose a game before such a big derby,” he told Sky Sports.
“But we go to Old Trafford, we know we have done quite well in recent years over there, but it also feels like this United side is probably stronger than ever, at least in the recent past. They are full of confidence, they will play great football and we need a much better performance than today.”
Asked about City’s display at St Mary’s, Gundogan admitted Southampton were worthy winners at the quarter-final stage. “Very disappointing, obviously the result but also the performance; it was definitely not what we wanted,” the German said.
“We had hopes and a good chance to get to the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, but unfortunately with that performance we didn’t have any chance. Credit to Southampton, they did well but it was not enough [from us].”
First-half goals from Sekou Mara and Moussa Djenepo ensured Southampton won 2-0 on Wednesday on a night where City failed to have a shot on target over 90 minutes.