OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER has stoked the flames ahead of the Manchester derby by teasing: “At least we play every year now.”
The Citizens then earned back to back promotions under Joe Royle to gain promotion to the Premier League in 2000, where they have since been a mainstay in all but one season.
United boss Solskajer did not play his first Manchester derby until April 2001 and he couldn’t resist a cheeky dig at City’s past after the drastic change in fortunes since their Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008.
He said: “At least we play every year now. It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. It’s changed in a way.
“City are a better team now than when I was playing and football has changed quite a lot.
“It was allowed a few more proper tackles, but now, with every little angle, everything being scrutinised, it’s more of a technical, tactical game than physical and mental.
“But a derby should be played as a derby. We don’t play basketball and we’re ready if that happens.
“Manchester derbies are always special games, but you can’t say it matters more.
“For the fans, of course [it does]. We’re up for it, our fans are up for it, they were fantastic at home on Wednesday and I’m sure we’ll hear them on Saturday.”
At least we play every year now. Manchester derbies are always special games, but you can’t say it matters more
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Solskjaer has been handed a boost with the return of Anthony Martial after he was ruled out of the 2-1 win over Spurs with a muscular problem.
But the clash against neighbours City will come too soon for Paul Pogba, who is still recovering from a foot injury that has plagued him since the 1-1 draw with Arsenal in September.
Solskjaer added: “We hope to have Anthony (Martial )definitely for part of the game, not sure if he’s able to start, Paul (Pogba) won’t be, no.
“Hopefully he’ll be back as soon as possible, he’s out on the grass training. I said in 2019 [he will be back] so hopefully before the New Year.”
With Martial likely to be on the bench, Marcus Rashford will be tasked with leading the line for United again after he proved to be the matchwinner with a brace against Spurs.
The England star, who was among those seen arriving at Carrington, has been challenged to replicate the scoring feats of City rival Sergio Aguero.
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Solskjaer said: “He is doing that at the minute. He’s consistently scoring now
“How he didn’t get the goal against Aston Villa is beyond me but he’s consistently scoring now. It’s not like four in one and two or three without. It’s not just in spurts and that’s encouraging.
“He’s consistently getting chances and getting into better positions. On Wednesday he was unbelievable and we want to see that again.”
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