Jose Mourinho has no doubt his Manchester United side will bounce back if they fail to spoil the party and prevent Manchester City from clinching the Premier League title.
Victory at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening would see Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling side clinch the title with more games to spare than any other side in English top-flight history.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for City to seal the title on home turf against their near neighbours, but Mourinho claims the chance to delay them wrapping up the Premier League title offers no extra motivation.
The Portuguese insists boosting United’s chances of finishing second is the motivation at the Etihad Stadium, where defeat may be galling but would not stick in the craw at United for too long.
“Look, I won the title (with Chelsea) against Manchester United,” Mourinho said, pointing to his first spell as manager at Stamford Bridge.
“We beat Manchester United 3-0 and we won the title at Stamford Bridge in 2005-06, precisely.
“It was not the end of the world, Manchester United didn’t finish. It’s just football.
“The only thing I can say is that we want to win, we don’t want to offer them the game.
“We want to go there, and we want to compete, and win the match if possible. That’s the only thing I can say.
“It’s normal that you want to delay the champions to (become) champions.
“We would like to beat them, we would like Spurs to beat them next week, we would like them to be champions as late as possible.
“I think Chelsea would like the same because they are still the champions, so I think they would like to be the champions until late April or the beginning of May.
“It’s normal in football but in this case obviously they are going to be champions because it’s is a very significant difference.”
Mourinho was reticent to speak about City during a terse pre-match press conference, becoming more curt and brusque as it wore on.
It is easy to imagine the Portuguese speaking in a similar manner when asked about Guardiola’s pre-match comments about Paul Pogba – a hand grenade that increases the anticipation for Saturday’s game.
Ahead of the match Mourinho said “City will be champions because they deserve to be champions” and that their quality has made it “impossible” for the likes of United to win.
The 16-point gap to the second-place Red Devils highlights the gulf and Mourinho believes City will beat the record Premier League points haul of 95 set when he was at the Chelsea helm in 2004-05.
“I think they are going to beat the Chelsea record and that doesn’t make life easy for the teams coming behind,” said the United boss, who is only without back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero for the derby.
“And it makes it very difficult even for teams with positive seasons and a positive number of points and with significant improvement from the previous season.
“In our case, I think we have eight or 10 points more than last season, more goals scored, less goals conceded – (but) even improving, Manchester City made it impossible for the others.
“So, what do you want me to say? Congratulations for the great Premier League they are doing?
“And the moment they become champions – which will be sooner or later – I will react the same way that other people reacted when I won three titles in this country.”