Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City will cope fine without Aguero, says Jose Mourinho

By Mark Odgen

Jose Mourinho has claimed Manchester City will be a more difficult opponent without the suspended Sergio Aguero after insisting today's 172nd Manchester derby is about the two sets of players rather than his rivalry with Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho, who has won just three of his 16 encounters with Guardiola as a manager, goes up against the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach for the first time in the Premier League when Manchester United face City at Old Trafford.

But despite the sub-plot of their history, Mourinho insists that the decisive factors will be the personnel on the pitch.

And Aguero's absence after being hit with a three-match ban for violent conduct will, according to Mourinho, make United's task all the more difficult.

"When Aguero is available, we know he plays," Mourinho said. "We know their formation and their dynamics. They have an amazingly rich squad in options.

"One thing he (Guardiola) could decide is to play with (Kelechi) Iheanacho, Raheem Sterling or David Silva as a fake nine, between the lines. He has so many options

"We know they have so many options that to try to work out City's formation for the players is difficult. With Aguero it's a difficult situation to face them. But without, it's more difficult."

With Mourinho facing Guardiola for the first time since the pair managed Real Madrid and Barcelona in 2012, the United manager dismissed suggestions that the game will be about them.

"It's a problem?" Mourinho said. "You don't need my answer. It's about the players. They are a very good team. They were a very good team last season, two and three seasons ago, four seasons ago.

"Maybe since the new owners arrived at Man City, it's a very good squad and team. They have had very good managers. They now also have very good manager and they have bought some very good players.

"They are what they are since I returned to England in 2013. They are title contenders and we have to respect them that way."

United go into the game with a fully fit squad after the international break, with Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all overcoming injury concerns this week.

Antonio Valencia is also available after making a swift return from international duty with Ecuador, but Mourinho claimed that Argentine due Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo were forced to make a lengthy journey back from Venezuela - unlike City's Argentina pair Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi.

"Sergio and Marcos went around the globe," he said. "They played in Venezuela, went back to Argentina and then to Europe.

"Man City spent the money to bring their players on a flight from Venezuela or maybe they spent the money from the owner.

"But our boys went via Argentina and came here on time."

Belfast Telegraph


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