Rival managers insist: It's not me against him - it's about the players
Pep Guardiola's calm exterior belies the visceral competitor beneath.
It was put to him yesterday that his father, Valenti, had told a journalist that his son has a deep hatred of losing.
"My father is a nice person but sometimes he don't tell the truth," smiled Guardiola, who went on to suggest that losing was part of the territory, too.
"I love to win but I don't hate to lose. It is part of my job. It can happen. Tomorrow is not a final. The world never stops tomorrow…"
Guardiola made no attempt to disguise the philosophical divide between himself and Jose Mourinho when he was asked what winning today's derby would mean to him.
"It depends on the way we play," he said. "I believed in the past and I believe now and until the last day of my career, I believe you have to play good to win.
"I want the ball, I want to attack as much as possible, I want to control the game and I want to concede few counter-attacks. To try to play good…"
It is the characterisation of Guardiola's own brand of football as 'good' and his own as something less than that which drills a hole into Mourinho's head, where the Catalan is concerned.
When it was put to him that his rivalry with Mourinho was akin to that of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, or Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, Guardiola was willing to take it on.
"Come on! Both of us are really good like these kind of people? Come on! Jose and I don't play, so I'm sorry. When you play Lendl and McEnroe, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, or Federer and Nadal or Djokovic, that is important. We don't play. We have to come here (to talk to the media) but this game belongs to the players. It doesn't belong to me or to Jose, Arsene or all the big managers.
"Believe me, it's on the pitch, with the players. The people go to Old Trafford, not to see me and Jose on the side, but to see all the big fantastic players on the field.
"He was my assistant coach with Bobby Robson (at Barcelona). The last meeting in Madrid with Barcelona was not easy but we met each other two or three weeks ago in the Premier League managers' (meeting) and we spoke fluently with Ronald Koeman, with Tony Pulis so it was OK.
"I have said many times, I have a lot of respect for him. I always try to learn from all my colleagues and I learn from him as well. The rivalry is more media."
Down the road, Mourinho turned up in a pristine white training top for his pre-match press conference, determined to shift the narrative away from the collision of good versus bad or however else today's derby has been portrayed.
"What do you want me to say?" Mourinho replied, when asked about Guardiola. "You want me to give you headlines and I want to go for lunch. You want a fight, but the fight is (Kell) Brook against the Russian guy (Gennady Golovkin). It's not us. It's not me against him - it's Man United against Man City. It's about the players - just the players."
For all of the history lessons, Mourinho insists that previous meetings between the pair will count for nothing today.
"It cannot help that I have played against him before," Mourinho said. "Barcelona is Barcelona, Real Madrid is Real Madrid, Inter is Inter, the Premier League is the Premier League, Man City is Man City, Man United is Man United, the players are different, the stadiums are different, the competition is different, so it is difficult to make comparison.
So how will the day play out? Touchline spats and post-match wine in the managers' office? One, the other, neither? "On the touchline probably nothing," Mourinho said. "But inside, in the dressing rooms, fine."
The post-match wine, then? All managers share a glass of red, don't they? "That's important? I don't think it's important," Mourinho said. "If we do, we don't have to tell you. If we don't, it is because we have other things to do. It's not because of that that we have a problem because we don't have a problem.
"Football changes in the past years. In this moment, you finish the game and we managers, we have more work to do than the 90 minutes of the game.
"I prefer the 90 minutes of the game than the 90 minutes with you - I have to go to every television, I have to go here and there."
Win or lose, Mourinho insisted that a game so early in the season cannot prove decisive.
"There are many ways to win titles," he said. "Man United last season had very good results against the top teams and finished fifth.
"For us, it's a game. For me especially, it's a game. I don't feel any match more important than another one. So for me it's one more match."
Just a game, then. Ask again at 2.30. (© Independent News Service)