Jose Mourinho has been looking ahead to Sunday’s Manchester derby, labelling the encounter with Pep Guardiola’s side as a “special match”.
Manchester United, following four successive wins in the Premier League, have a chance to close the gap with their neighbours to five points.
And the 54-year-old, speaking at a press conference ahead of the game, was typically coy about how he would approach the clash.
“I live a little bit isolated from society, I don’t feel it so much, it’s about training ground, hotel, my day off after CSKA I went home so I really don’t have that communication but I don’t need that to know a derby is something special for the people,” he said.
“For us it is three points but for the people born in the city and feeling the colours in that good positive rivalry is a special match.”
“Football is unpredictable, you can try you can try, me as a manager I can try to define a gameplan, to work in a direction but football is unpredictable, we don’t know what can happen, there are so many things that are out of control that can totally transform the direction of the game.
“I wouldn’t risk saying what game we are going to have.”
Enough has been written about this upcoming game to fill several books. I think all of the material I’ve done for this game would be enough for by dissertation.
Key battles all over the pitch, Jose vs Pep, City’s passing game pitched against United’s mettle, the haunting prospect of defeat spelling an end to a 40 home game unbeaten run and – let’s face it – any hopes of winning the league. The supervening narratives go on.
But when it comes to the game itself and the talk stops, it really is just 11 against 11 – two sides in superb form going hell for leather in the biggest game of the season so far, most likely in the pouring rain.
No pontification, however sophisticated, could ever capture just how a meeting of such endowed ferociousness will pan out (hopefully as a 93rd minute Lukaku winner off his arm having managed just 20 per cent possession).