Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has revealed manager Pep Guardiola cut short tactical preparation for the recent Manchester derby.
The defending Premier League champions ran out comfortable 2-0 winners at Old Trafford earlier this month, pouring more scrutiny on embattled Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Both teams came into the fixture in contrasting form, with Man Utd picking up a much-needed win at Tottenham while Man City sensationally lost at home to Crystal Palace. In the win over Spurs, Solskjaer had debuted a 3-5-2 formation in response to his side’s capitulation against Liverpool and carried that over to the Champions League draw with Atalanta.
This formation change seemingly rejuvenated English football’s most successful top-flight team and, in doing so, also presented Guardiola’s men something to consider. However, it barely impacted Man City’s preparations, as De Bruyne explains.
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“The day before a game we usually train tactically, based on how the opponent plays,” he told MidMid podcast.
“But before United, Pep said: ‘We don’t know how they are going to play. We shall see’. And we stopped training after 10 minutes or so.
“Often Pep knows how the opponent is going to play. This time he didn’t know, so he didn’t know what to do.
“We have done what we always do, but he didn’t know beforehand if they would play with five at the back, or with four, or with a diamond in the middle, or with three up front.”
Kevin De Bruyne created more chances (4) than the entire Man Utd team combined at Old Trafford.
And he wasn't even at his best. 😅 pic.twitter.com/R0LsM3Jino
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 6, 2021
It’s not the first time Guardiola has limited time when it comes to preparing tactically for an opponent. In January 2020, De Bruyne mentioned that Man City had spent 15 minutes planning for their 3-1 win over the same opponent in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.
“We did 15 minutes this morning. That’s about it,” he said at the time.
“But it’s not like we never did it before so we did already a sometimes against teams who prefer to play man against man – Cardiff, United, I think Barcelona the way we did it the first year. So we’ve done it a couple of times.”
The Man City boss is known to analyse opponents methodically in order to determine a weakness.
According to Martí Perarnau’s 2014 book ‘Pep Confidential’, Guardiola once said: “Look Ferran (Adrià, a world-famous chef), all I do is look at the footage of our opponents and then try to work out how to demolish them (in actual fact he used a rather more prosaic and somewhat obscene term). All I do is study my arsenal of weapons and pick the ones I need for each occasion.”
The victory saw Man City open up a six point gap on sixth-placed Man Utd and move within three of early leaders Chelsea, who dropped points prior to the international break. While Man City are happy with Guardiola, the victory also put Solskjaer’s position at Old Trafford in further doubt, though the Red Devils did miss out on the opportunity to appoint Antonio Conte (should they wish to dismiss Solskjaer) with the Italian taking charge of Tottenham.