Manchester City v Manchester United: Our greater mental strength can earn derby spoils, says Manuel Pellegrini

City manager claims United game ‘is not the first difficult match’ of his tenure at the Etihad

The Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, has declared ahead of his first derby with David Moyes on Sunday that his players have the stronger mentality to triumph in a game from which both men need a win to establish their credentials.

“I know that our mentality in the moment is very strong. So strong but more strong than Manchester United,” the Chilean said. He did not qualify his statement but insisted he had seen enough in his players to know they had mental strength, even though tomorrow’s match is the first serious test of the reconstructed squad’s credentials.

“I don’t agree it is the first [difficult] match,” Pellegrini said. “I think that every match in the Premier League is not easy. A derby has a lot of different things but it is not the first important match we have played. The players have prepared every day to try to think as a big team and play as a big team.”

From a manager who sets much store by imbuing his squad with more confidence and mental strength than did Roberto Mancini, whom many of the City players came to dislike, this was a far more confident assertion than many that have emanated from the club in recent years. Mancini always maintained that United’s consistent title successes put them “five yards” ahead of City.

Pellegrini’s strategy was not even to enter into a discussion of United. “It’s not my duty to analyse how they start. We will [face] a very difficult team next Sunday but I don’t want to analyse Manchester United,” he said. He acknowledged that Moyes was under pressure in his own first derby. “It is impossible not to be under a lot of pressure, not [just] replacing Alex Ferguson but managing Manchester United, or big teams, you are always under big pressure. That is a good way to work because you know what you have to do.”

Pellegrini acknowledged that his own start at City had not been “as good as we wanted” but said it was “very difficult to start in a better way. It is very difficult to change styles and to have new ideas to the way you play.”

Moyes is buoyed by Wayne Rooney’s return to form but when asked if a contract extension was a possibility for the striker, the United manager said: “I think we just go step by step.

“He’s played really well and we want him to maintain that. If anything, I’m asking him to step up again. I want him to keep getting better. If he could score another two goals [on Sunday], that would be the next step forward, wouldn’t it?” It has always been United’s intention to see how Rooney’s season evolves before rushing into an extension of the £250,0000-a-week contact which expires in 2015.

Pellegrini has the greater injury concerns of the rival managers, with David Silva and Gaël Clichy only starting to train today and doubtful for Sunday. Danny Welbeck’s swollen knee, which has restricted his training this week, may rule him out for United.

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