Jose Mourinho says it is too early to say the Premier League title will end up at one of the Manchester clubs as he played down the hype ahead of Sunday’s showdown.
Pep Guardiola takes his table-topping Manchester City side to Old Trafford with a hefty eight-point lead over their rivals and United cannot afford to lose further ground.
But asked whether the Premier League champions will be on show on the pitch, Mourinho said it was too early to rule out other contenders away from Manchester.
Last season Mourinho and Guardiola both made their derby debut at Old Trafford just a few matches into the new season and it was a painful experience for the Portuguese as his side were outplayed by Guardiola’s City, slipping to a 2-1 defeat.
“We are a better team than last year no doubts about it,” said Mourinho. “But City are also a better team.”
Guardiola has said City are at a disadvantage because of the height Mourinho has introduced to United’s squad in his time at Old Trafford.
He has brought in giants such as Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba — even though he will be banned for the derby — and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and has often used Marouane Fellaini as a nuisance in midfield.
But asked if that will be a problem for City, Mourinho, who was downbeat during Friday’s press conference, quipped: “I think it will be easy for (Vincent) Kompany to compete against (Juan) Mata in the air.”
Mourinho, living in a Manchester city centre hotel since his appointment in the summer of 2016, has been dodging the hype and is trying to keep things calm in the camp.
“If it is taken in the right way, derbies are a beautiful thing,” he said. “Same city, different colours. Friends support different colours, even under the same roof some families disagree on the passion of the colours. If taken in the right thing is a beautiful thing.
Mourinho admits he has been cut off from the tension to the build-up.
“I’m a little bit isolated from society so I don’t feel it so much,” he added. “Training ground, hotel and my day off after the game versus CSKA Moscow I went home (to London).
“But I don’t need that to know a derby is something special for the people. For us it is three points. For the people born in the city and feeling the colours and good positive rivalry it is a special match.”