Pep Guardiola may say otherwise, but Leon Osman has no doubt he is loving Paul Pogba’s absence from the Manchester derby.
The Manchester City boss was quoted as saying he would have liked to see Pogba play for archrivals Manchester United in Sunday’s blockbuster top-of-the-table clash – but Osman doesn’t believe a word of it.
“I would like it if Paul could play against us because I like to face the teams with the best players possible to see if we are able to beat them,” Guardiola said.
Pogba received a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Hector Bellerin in United’s 3-1 win over Arsenal over the weekend – and that means the midfielder will miss the all-important clash at Old Trafford.
For Osman, that deals a massive blow to United’s chances.
“He [Pogba] is the key to Manchester United’s style of play,” the former Everton man told Sky Sports.
“The size of Manchester United, not many players can take the team on their shoulders and he’s come back and done that. He’s been the driving force behind that team.
“To miss him will be huge. Pep Guardiola will be delighted.”
Osman has noticed a potential chink in City’s armour, however, in the form of a weakness to set-pieces.
“I think Manchester City have shown that set-pieces is a real thorn in their side at the moment,” Osman said.
“West Ham scored one, Huddersfield scored one and Southampton looked dangerous in set-pieces against them.
“That is certainly an area he [Mourinho] will be targeting. Also on the counter-attack, West Ham showed that there were one or two opportunities there for them.”
Osman also reckons a defensive approach will probably pay more dividends for Jose Mourinho than trying to match City’s explosive attack shot for shot.
“If you sit deep against Manchester City and deny the pockets of space for Kevin De Bruyne and for David Silva to operate in, City find it tough,” he added.
“In the last few games, I think Jose Mourinho’s pattern and how he will play this week has been showing.
“Man City are very difficult to get the ball off. Jose Mourinho is a realist, he’ll know that. He’ll realise that Man City will be coming to Old Trafford and having more of the ball.
“So, to try and play them toe to toe, that’s when you tend to come unstuck against Manchester City.
“He’ll be clever. He’ll have his defence defending deep, deny them the space, and then [Anthony] Martial and [Marcus] Rashford, [Jesse] Lingard, [Romelu] Lukaku, they do have pace to hit them on the counter-attack.”