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Man Utd vs Man City - Joleon Lescott: Pep's overthinking is what makes him great and Grealish set to prove critics wrong in derby
BTSport.com spoke to ex City and England defender Joleon Lescott ahead of Saturday's Manchester derby.
Manchester City travel to Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime in a highly-anticipated Manchester derby.
The Premier League champions are looking to chase down current leaders Arsenal, but their neighbours are not too far behind after a remarkable resurgence under Erik ten Hag.
Manchester United have won 14 games and lost just once since they were thrashed 6-3 at the Etihad in early October.
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Ahead of what promises to be a memorable derby, which you can watch live on BT Sport, we spoke to former City defender Joleon Lescott.
Much of the discusson leading into the game has surrounded the tactical battle between Pep Guardiola and Ten Hag, with the latter beginning to build a team in his image after a difficult start.
Guardiola, in the buildup to the match, suggested he had “ridiculous” ideas, but Lescott insists the City boss will not overthink his tactical plan.
“He’s just having fun and rightly so,” Lescott said. “He’s probably frustrated with the questions and the similarities with all of them. And the criticism as well - it’s still crazy that he’s criticised for overthinking when that’s what he does.
“He overthinks every game, that’s what makes him great. If he didn’t overthink we’d all be able to do it. The thought process he takes is unique to him and the outcome of the games isn’t always in the manager’s hand.”
On Guardiola’s recent tactical tweaks, Lescott added: “It changes with the personnel, so if you look at the Chelsea game, Rodri in possession was a midfielder and out of possession was a centre-back. And the second half Rico Lewis came in and did the same things.
“He left three at the back at all times and two in midfield, so rather than the centre-back stepping out the full-back was doing that. It varies due to the personnel he sees as being able to impact the game.”
With Lewis emerging as an exciting prospect and impressing in the recent victory at Chelsea, Lescott still backs Kyle Walker to play a big part against United.
“I don’t think it’s about giving Kyle Walker a kick up the backside - if the Champions League final is tomorrow against PSG, then Walker plays.
“Pep’s preparing Rico Lewis by giving him exposure and experiences and atmospheres. We know he’s a good player but can he do it when it matters the most in the biggest games. To come on at half-time in a big league game against Chelsea is a big accolade for him.
“But you have to look at it and think ‘who are City facing?’. It’s not solely about what City do.
“The right-back on Saturday is going to face Marcus Rashford in the best form he’s shown, so would you want to play someone who hasn’t faced that? Walker has and Lewis hasn’t. It would give more encouragement to Rashford if Lewis plays and Walker doesn’t.”
Lescott also believes Jack Grealish is starting to make his mark in a City shirt after some criticism following his £100m move from Aston Villa.
“It’s a hard one for Jack with the price tag,” he said. “It’s forever going to be associated with him and rightly so because he deserved to be bought for that money.
“It’s always unfair that it’s been justified that’s he’s not worth that to Man City. He was worth that to Aston Villa, and more, due to keeping them in the league. If he wasn’t at Villa I don’t believe they would’ve stayed in the league, and it generates £150m to stay in the league.
“He gets criticism unfairly but his contribution for City has been there. He scored a massive goal at West Ham last season.
“There’s probably not been as many moments as he’d hoped, but when you’re playing with higher calibre players other people are going to contribute.
“Grealish doesn’t need to be man of the match every week, just like Kevin De Bruyne doesn’t need to be man of the match every week.”
Competition is intense in the City squad and Phil Foden has not featured as often since the World Cup. But Lescott is not worried for the England international.
“I don’t think it’s a case of his form, he’s just not being picked. He’s consistently impacted games since he’s been in the team.
“For the first 10 or 15 games when he came in, you were thinking ‘what a great run of form’. But that’s just how he plays and what he does.
“It’s probably frustrating for Phil not playing as many games as he did last season but I don’t think anyone can question his form.”
And asked which player he would take from Manchester United to play for Man City, Lescott’s answer is instant: “Marcus Rashford.”
Everyone of a City persuasion will hope United’s in-form forward is not at his best on Saturday.