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MANCHESTER, England — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told Manchester City that Manchester United are still the biggest club in the city as they prepare to face off in the first derby of the season.
Pep Guardiola has led City to back-to-back titles and a domestic Treble, while United have not mounted a serious challenge Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
The pair go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday separated by 14 points but Solskjaer insists his club are still Manchester’s powerhouse.
Asked whether United are still a bigger club than City, Solskjaer replied: “Yeah. You can’t argue, we’re too far behind [in the table] but it’s a chance for us now to challenge them and bridge that gap a little bit, so we’re going there to win, we’re going there to get a result, even though we know it’s going to be difficult.”
With both managers holding news conferences on Friday, the same question was put to Pep Guardiola later in the day and while he conceded City cannot match United’s trophy cabinet, he was quick to point out that the scales have tipped in the other direction since he arrived in Manchester in 2016.
“In the time we’ve been here, we’ve been better than United,” said Guardiola. “At the end of the season, our points show that, so the consistency was incredible.
“Listen, for United’s fans, they’ll always be the biggest club. For the City fans, they’ll always be the biggest club. We love our clubs. Each fan loves their clubs and that’s why they support them.
“If you’re looking at the trophy cabinet, they [United] are better, no doubts about that. Numbers are numbers and in that situation they’ve lifted more titles than us. But we’re trying to be there for as long as possible and for City fans, Manchester City will always be better. Like United fans believe they are better.”
United lost 3-1 and 2-0 in the two derbies last season and City are looking to become the first team to beat United by two clear goals in three consecutive top-flight games since Liverpool achieved the feat between 1978 and 1979.
The immediate challenge for Solskjaer is to build on a positive result against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Wednesday, but his long-term task remains bridging the gap with City.
“Our aim is to go past the teams above us,” said Solskjaer. “We do have the resources to do it, we do have the people to do it, so why not. As long as we’re going in the right direction and we get there, that day when we do it is gonna be a very good day.”
On Saturday, Solskjaer will have a player in his team that City tried to sign in the summer in £85 million defender Harry Maguire, but the Norwegian insists United’s plan to overhaul City is built on promoting young players from the academy.
“Do I look like I’m gonna spend hundreds of millions of pounds on players we’re not sure of?” he said. “As I said, we need to rebuild, we need to change the culture, you want the culture with that hunger and selflessness that most of these players are showing. You’ve got the [Scott] McTominays and [Marcus] Rashfords and [Jesse] Lingards, the players that know what Man United is.”