With the long-anticipated match just two days away, the spotlight inevitably fell on the rapport between the clubs' managers who clashed repeatedly during their time in Spain in charge of Barcelona (Guardiola) and Real Madrid (Mourinho).
"Our relationship is friendly, it's correct," Guardiola said Friday. "We haven't bumped into each other here, though, but it's correct." Moments earlier, the City manager had made the soundbite of the derby build-up when asked if he was as obsessed with winning as Mourinho.
"Definitely," Guardiola added. "In that, we are twins." On the other side of Manchester, speaking in a news conference at the same time as Guardiola, Mourinho was in a less chatty mood, restricting his praise toward City — the unbeaten leader by eight points from second-place United — to two words.
"Very good," Mourinho said, when asked his opinion of City The United manager wasn't getting too excited about a derby that will be the talk of the soccer world this weekend. "I live a little bit isolated from society. I don't feel it so much," he said. "It's about training ground, hotel. My day off after (the game against) CSKA (Moscow on Tuesday), I went home. I don't really have that communication."
Mourinho wasn't prepared to give his views on how he thought the match would pan out, simply saying that "football is unpredictable, you don't know what can happen." As for Guardiola, he intimated that Mourinho would set up his team to play on the counterattack — like the Portuguese coach usually does in big games — even though United was at home.
"I want the ball. That's my main principle," Guardiola said. "After that, we have to be well-organized and recover as much as possible knowing the opponents want to punish you when you lose the ball with the magnificent counter attack.
"The teams from Jose Mourinho — Chelsea, Real Madrid and here — they are the masters of that. So good running in behind and when you lose the ball. You know if you are not well-organized, they punish you in one action and win the game."
City has the chance to open up an 11-point lead after 16 games by winning at United for the second straight season under Guardiola. Most pundits say that would virtually end the title race. Not so Guardiola.
"Winning, drawing or losing on Sunday, we are not going to win or lose the Premier League. It's December," Guardiola said. "I am not going into the game thinking, 'OK, we have an eight-point lead. What do I have to do because we have an eight-point lead?' If it was the semifinal in the Champions League, or the quarterfinal or the final, you have one result in the first leg and you have to think about the second one a little bit in terms of what you have done in the previous game. But the Premier League is a marathon. We haven't even arrived at the halfway stage yet."
In the only pre-derby barb thrown by either coach, Mourinho questioned in midweek whether Guardiola was telling the truth in making David Silva an injury doubt for Sunday's game. As Mourinho predicted, Silva was declared fit.
"He is going to play," Guardiola said. "At the beginning of the week, after the game against West Ham, there was a big doubt about his playing. That's why I said what I said. But today he arrived and said he is really good, so he is going to play."
Already missing key defenders Benjamin Mendy and John Stones, City has doubts over center back Vincent Kompany (unspecified injury) and left back Fabian Delph, who Guardiola said has had a fever. United has no fresh injury problems.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80