Much more than local pride is at stake with City knowing it can go top of the standings with a win and United fighting to get into the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League, Reuters reported.
United’s initial upturn in form after Solskjaer took charge has quickly faded with the team suffering six defeats in its last eight games in all competitions.
Solskjaer had slammed his players and apologized to the club’s fans after the meek surrender at Goodison Park but he said the derby is the perfect occasion for a quick bounce back.
“That’s the best game we could ask for with players hurt as they definitely were. We had a meeting after the game and all the players were definitely disappointed but really, really hurt by that performance and the City game is the perfect one,” he told a news conference.
“There’s no hiding place on the pitch and the fans will back you if you give that effort against a City side that’s been very, very good, we have got to turn up.”
“The response has to be there, you have to try and provoke or inspire a reaction and we haven’t had time to work on the pitch because you need recovery at this stage of the season so it’s about changing mindsets and making sure heads are ready,” he added.
The Norwegian, who replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho initially on an interim basis in December and was then handed a three year contract last month, has been clear that he intends to make changes to his squad in the close-season. However, he said he did see promise in some of his current crop.
“Of course, you learn about players and now is not the time to talk about making wholesale changes in the squad that’s been doing so great. (Only) City and Liverpool have taken more points than us in the last 18 games and that’s it,” Solskjaer said.
“You can see loads of Manchester United standards, the DNA in these players, you have to get players in and some players will go out.”
The 46-year-old said he was well capable of making the tough choices that will be needed at the end of the season.
“I would like to think so, I like all these boys I love them but I’ve got to manage for the club and I’m managing the club and the players and I’ve got to put all my effort into making sure we do what is right for the club,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said Manchester United’s home ground Old Trafford is no longer the fortress it used to be as City look to win all three points and take the lead in the Premier League title race.
United has lost only one league game at home this season but Guardiola, whose side has won on its last two visits to Old Trafford, was confident albeit wary of Solskjaer’s team that is hurting after a loss at Everton.
“Four games left and we have to win our four games to retain the title,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s not an easy place to go but at the same time, it’s a nice place to go.
“It is not as scary to go there and play when before it was maybe more difficult. We know exactly what we have to do. It’s true we did better than United in the past three seasons.
“The fact they lost at Everton maybe means they are extra motivated. It’s a different game when we play them, it’s a derby.”
City will be without influential midfielder Kevin De Bruyne after he suffered a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur over the weekend. The Belgian has already missed many games this season with knee and thigh injuries.
When asked if De Bruyne would be available for the derby, Guardiola said, “I don’t think so. It is a muscular problem.
“We will see the next days, how he is getting better. But for tomorrow he is not available.
“We will see if he can play one or two more games and next season take care of him. We are going to speak with him, with the doctors and physios to make sure he is safe and fit.”
Guardiola also addressed speculation around Riyad Mahrez who was reported by British media to be unhappy with his playing time at the club. The Algerian winger has started only 13 of City’s 34 league games this season.
“Riyad Mahrez will be with us next season and the next one and the next one,” Guardiola said. “I don’t need to speak with him, we’re delighted with his behavior and the way he has played.
“He knows, and everybody knows, there is competition in the squad but Riyad is not going to move, he is going to stay here. He’s happy and we’re happy.”