Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini took much encouragement from last season’s derby dominance – and intends to send his team out seeking exactly the same this weekend.
City head into Sunday’s much-hyped clash with Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium short of form but with Pellegrini vowing to stick to his default, attack-based philosophy.
Questions are being asked of the champions’ durability after a run of three games without a win but Pellegrini brushed off similar doubts a year ago, with a 4-1 thrashing of United at home sending out clear signals.
Pellegrini, whose side also beat United 3-0 on their way to winning the Barclays Premier League, said: “I always say I am not the kind of manager that thinks when you win (it is) because you did (one) single thing.
“I think it is very important to play in one way and have absolute trust your players, and I think always the players make the difference.
“The (derby) game we played here was in a moment when I was new here, when maybe there were a lot of doubts about the results that we were taking, especially away.
“But I didn’t change in my mind the way we had to play against every team. I talked with my players and told them to play in the way we did every game, working in training sessions.
“I think that was an important moment and we really played very well.”
The passions evoked by the derby could be what City need to help rediscover their spark after a difficult past 10 days.
City surrendered a two-goal lead to draw at CSKA Moscow in their faltering Champions League campaign and then lost at West Ham last week. To compound matters, they were then dumped out of the Capital One Cup by under-strength Newcastle on Wednesday.
But Pellegrini, who faces a critical few days with CSKA Moscow visiting Eastlands next Wednesday, does not want to place too much emphasis on this particular fixture.
The Chilean said: “It doesn’t depend on what we do the game before the derby. It is important for us to play against Manchester United or QPR next week, or CSKA Moscow, in the same way we normally do. That is the most important thing.”
While Pellegrini may hope the outcome might be the same as last year, the United side they are facing has changed.
Louis van Gaal has replaced David Moyes as manager and upwards of £150million has been spent on new players to reinvigorate the team.
Pellegrini, just a week after being nominated for coach of the year, could find himself coming under scrutiny if his team’s poor sequence continues.
But the 61-year-old wants the attention in the derby to be on the action, not the managers.
He said: “I think on Sunday we play Manchester City against Manchester United and last year was exactly the same.
“It was not me against David Moyes and Sunday will not be me against Louis van Gaal. It is a game for both teams and that is the important thing.”
City are without in-form playmaker David Silva, who has been ruled out for three weeks with a knee injury.
But one on-song player still available is Sergio Aguero, who struck four against Tottenham in City’s last home win.
Pellegrini said: “I think Sergio will always be a very important player for us.
“He only played some minutes (20) against Newcastle because he played three games in a row of 90 minutes – but I think he is improving every game and he will always make the difference.”