Pep Guardiola sympathises with Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the difficult period he is going through and insists he supports the Norwegian ahead of their first derby meeting.
Solskjaer was brought in initially as an interim replacement for Jose Mourinho in December and enjoyed a stunning impact as they lost just one of his first 17 matches at the helm and reached the Champions League quarter-finals against the odds.
Back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Wolves did not put United off from hiring him full-time at the end of March, but a subsequent run of two wins and four defeats has prompted many to question the club’s decision to hand Solskjaer a contract through to 2022.
Their most recent defeat was undoubtedly the nadir, as United were humiliated 4-0 away to Everton on Sunday, severely denting their top-four hopes.
Up next on Wednesday is the derby against champions Manchester City in a game which could have major consequences in the title race, and Guardiola showed empathy towards his opposite number.
When asked in his pre-match news conference if he felt it was right for Solskjaer to be questioned, Guardiola said: “I don’t know. We [managers] don’t have time.
“I understand his position perfectly. We are alone, I am alone and that’s why I understand completely his position.
“It happened to me, it happened to all the managers around the world. We can sustain it if we win, if we don’t we are in danger.
“That is the reality, we have to accept it. It is what it is. I understand perfectly and I am with him, I support him, honestly.”
At the time of Solskjaer’s interim appointment and subsequent full-time hiring, much was made of his close connection to the club, having spent the majority of his playing career at Old Trafford as well as his early coaching days.
Guardiola – who managed Barcelona after playing for them – agrees that such a background can be beneficial.
“To know the club is better,” he said. “I know this club now more in my third season than I did in my first season.
“He came back here after being a formidable player. He knows everything [about the club], so it’s an advantage, of course.”
Despite United’s recent woes, Guardiola is expecting them to be at their very best in the derby, and while he believes pride to be at stake for Solskjaer’s men, he downplayed the influence of their Everton loss on the game.
Asked if United will be eager for a response, Guardiola said: “A little bit more, maybe, but if they won [against Everton] the confidence would be a little bit more, and it is a derby.
“All the derbies here or in Germany or Spain are always special games and the players do their best for the fans and the team.
“I expect the best United, for sure. They have pride, their pride to do their best. We are going to do what we do and try to win the game.”