Pep Guardiola says he wishes Manchester City could face Paul Pogba when the Premier League leaders bid to re-write the history books in their huge derby with Manchester United.
Guardiola watched his side equal a Premier League record by winning their 13th straight match on Sunday when David Silva’s late volley snatched a 2-1 win for City over West Ham on Sunday.
They can break that record — set by Arsenal in 2001-02 and equalled by Chelsea last season — and deal their local rivals a huge title blow when they visit Old Trafford next weekend.
Pogba fanned the derby flames in a weekend interview in which he quipped that he hoped City suffer injuries this season only to then rule himself out of Sunday’s game by being sent off for a stamp on Hector Bellerin in United’s 3-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday.
“He said that?” said Guardiola when asked about Pogba’s comments.
“Hopefully we have no injuries and I wish that Paul could play against us. I like to face a team with their best players possible to see who we are able to beat.
“In the end I think it was just an expression. I’m pretty sure he didn’t want our players to get injuries.”
City have now earned nine league points this season by scoring in the last eight minutes of games, a sign not only of their persistence but also of how defensively teams are playing against them.
“I would prefer to win (games) earlier but the Premier League is the Premier League,” Guardiola said.
“They (West Ham) didn’t want to play, they had 10 players inside the box, they take 20 seconds to the goalkeeper and that has happened the last few games.
“Today I learned to attack a little bit differently, that is good news for me for the future.
“We don’t normally play with two strikers and two wingers but we did so it is a lesson. We can play the same way.”
City’s last four games have all ended in dramatic, late victories, drawing comparisons with successful Manchester United teams of old and their habit of scoring in so-called ‘Fergie time’ — named after then-manager Alex Ferguson.
“I heard about the Fergie time,” said Guardiola. “I was not here in that period but of course you have to have that.
“At the end what we show in the last games is we never give up. I think what happened, the opponent doesn’t want to play.
“They just want to defend, waiting for a moment. I understand. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not judging but it is difficult.
“Hopefully in the future opponents can try to play and maybe it will be easier. Even in that situation we have to learn to attack that position.
“That is why I’m happy because we were able to do it in the second half. If we can take something about the Fergie time, it is welcome, a pleasure.”
West Ham actually took the lead on the stroke of half-time through defender Angelo Ogbonna, before Nicolas Otamendi equalised early in the second half and Silva sealed a 20th straight win for City in all competitions.
“I really want the football to be attacking but we are playing against a team that we can hardly get the ball from so what are you going to do?” said West Ham manager David Moyes, who is still waiting for his first win in charge.
“But I don’t think we will be in trouble. I think we have a good team, good players and today’s performance gave us hope it can be done.”