Pep Guardiola ready to hand youngsters chance to shine against Jose Mourinho's men
Pep Guardiola is ready to hand Manchester City’s youngsters the chance to deepen Jose Mourinho’s misery at Manchester United by resting his senior players in tonight’s (Weds) EFL Cup tie at Old Trafford.
City manager Guardiola goes into the fourth round encounter against United aiming to avoid recording the worst sequence of his managerial career by extending his winless run to six games.
But despite the prospect of another failure to win – City last tasted victory away at Swansea on September 24 – Guardiola is wary of exposing his first-team players to excessive physical demands, with next Tuesday’s Champions League clash at home to Barcelona set to be the sixth competitive fixture in 18 days.
City’s blossoming youth set-up has seen the club reach the FA Youth Cup Final in each of the last two seasons and Guardiola admits he has no qualms about selecting the likes of Pablo Maffeo, Alexi Garcia and Angelino at Old Trafford.
“We are going to rotate,” Guardiola said. “Some of them (youngsters and squad members) will play, first because they deserve and second because it was tough in last games.
“We played 35 minutes with ten men against Barcelona and it was a tough game against Southampton. People are tired. I need to see the players in the training session and after I am going to decide.
“They (Maffeo and Garcia) are with us and I am so happy about what they did when they played.
“Even when they went to play in the second team, it is not easy when you train with the first team and play with the second team, they were really good.
“Young players have to be involved in a good environment. To put 3, 4, 5 young guys in is not good because we have to protect them, but I am pretty sure we have the level to play and be good.”
Guardiola’s hand has been forced with injuries forcing Kevin De Bruyne and Pablo Zabaleta out of the game, while goalkeeper Claudio Bravo will miss out due to the City manager choosing to hand Willy Caballero ninety minutes ahead of the Barcelona clash – Bravo is ruled out of that fixture due to suspension.
Yaya Toure, meanwhile, continues to miss out, despite Guardiola admitting he wants the Ivorian ‘with us,’ in the wake of comments by the player’s agent which has prompted Guardiola to demand an apology.
Vincent Kompany, who played seventy minutes against Southampton on Sunday, is set to keep his place in the team and start back-to-back games for the first time since March following a series of muscular injuries.
The trip to United comes at a testing time for both clubs and managers, with Mourinho struggling to impose his methods at Old Trafford and Guardiola overseeing a run of five games without a win a City.
But Guardiola insists that, despite the fixture demands on his players, any game against United must be taken seriously.
“A derby is a derby, so it is always special and we are going to play a game like any other game,” Guardiola said. “It is special, we are going to try, we are going to play seriously and try to win the game.
“And I always expect the best from United. They lost the last weekend, but with the quality and experience of Jose and it is Man Utd – that means a lot.
“In my experience, always it is a team. It doesn’t matter how you play at Old Trafford, it is always difficult. It is a physical team, really good on the counter-attack with (Marcus) Rashford and (Anthony) Martial and strength and quality in the middle.
“They are a top team. They are six points behind, but six points is two games.”
But does the EFL Cup really matter to City, with Guardiola hired to deliver Premier League and Champions League titles?
"I think everyone can believe this competition is not the big one,” he said. “Before that you've got the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Champions League.
“But I grew up in one way, so I never consider one game more important. The most important game is the next one.
“But our last games were tough. When you win the game 3-0 in the last 15 or 20 minutes you can have more control, but we played 10 against 11, it's physical and tough in the Champions League. After that there was the game against Southampton.
"But I am going to prepare to win the game - the players who play, we'll be depending on them to make the best performance possible.
“We play a final - you are in or out. It is the most important, but at the same time I have to consider how the condition of the players is.
“Three days after , it is West Brom, then Barcelona and they are so important as well."
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Herrera; Young, Pogba, Martial; Rashford.
Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Caballero; Maffeo, Kompany, Adarabioyo, Angelino; Fernando; Sane, Alexi Garcia, Gundogan, Nolito; Iheanacho.
Independent News Service