Pep Guardiola has no doubts about rival manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s quality – but knows results will ultimately determine the Norwegian’s future at Manchester United.
United boss Solskjaer is under heavy scrutiny heading into this weekend’s derby against Manchester City after his side were eliminated from the Champions League in midweek.
It is not the first time Solskjaer has been under pressure after a poor result during his two years at Old Trafford, but each time he has bounced back.
Remarkably the latest questions are being asked just days after United, by coming from behind to beat West Ham last weekend, temporarily moved within two points of the Premier League summit with a game in hand.
City manager Guardiola, whose side head to Old Trafford on Saturday, expects Solskjaer is well used to the fickle nature of the job now.
“We know it,” he said. “That’s why we get a lot of salary, for these situations.
“It’s important to know the value of Solskjaer is there. There is no doubt about this.
“I don’t have to give him support because he’s strong enough, he knows how it works in this job. When we win we are a genius and when we lose we have to be sacked.
“It happens in United and all the clubs around the world. It is the reality.”
United finished third in their Champions League group behind Paris St Germain and RB Leipzig even though they beat both impressively earlier in the competition. Their performances in the Premier League have also been mixed but they could again be in the top four by Saturday night.
Despite all the criticism, they head into the derby a point ahead of City in the table.
Asked how he prepares to face such an unpredictable side, Guardiola said: “By thinking we are going to face the best version of them and, especially, talk a lot about what we are going to do.
Every game you are able to win is so complicated, so difficult. Every time we are able to do it it is a big complimentPep Guardiola
“It’s not a knock-out game. It’s three more points, important ones of course for the quality of the opponent, but there are a lot of fixtures to come.”
Guardiola feels United’s Champions League frustrations actually highlight the strength of his own side’s achievement in qualifying for the last 16.
City finished top of a group that included Porto, Olympiacos and Marseille with a club record 16 points.
Guardiola said: “The margin in this level is so high and when it is so high big teams can be out.
“That is why, every time we win one game in the group stages, I say to the players, ‘Well done guys, it’s so difficult, you made an incredible job’.
“In the Premier League it is the same. Every game you are able to win is so complicated, so difficult. Every time we are able to do it it is a big compliment.”
Guardiola, speaking at his pre-match press conference, reaffirmed the club’s position that Sergio Aguero was not ready to start the derby.
The striker made a goalscoring return from a knee injury as a substitute against Marseille in midweek but, after the game, Guardiola said he would not be risked in the starting line-up at Old Trafford.
Asked if that was still the case, Guardiola said: “Yes.”