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Pep Guardiola believes Andre Onana’s penalty heroics in the Champions League will give the under-fire goalkeeper a confidence boost ahead of the Manchester derby on Sunday.
Guardiola is a long-term admirer of the Cameroonian, singling him out as Inter Milan’s most dangerous player ahead of last season’s Champions League final which Manchester City won 1-0 to claim a historic treble.
Since moving to Manchester United in the summer, Onana has made a number of errors but he preserved an important 1-0 Champions League win over Copenhagen in midweek with a penalty save in added-on time.
Onana was mobbed by his team-mates in the aftermath and will now head into this weekend with his spirits raised, according to Guardiola, who has been well aware of the ex-Ajax shot-stopper for several years.
The Manchester City boss said: “I remember we have a common friend who spoke very highly of him but personally I met him in Amsterdam. He’s an exceptional player and now at United.
“Before the game I always expect the best of the players we are going to face. I prefer to see the strengths than the weakness they have.
“He saved a penalty in the last minute which helped Manchester United to stay in contention to qualify for the last 16. Mentally it’s a good boost for them and for him.
“Everyone needs time (to adapt to the Premier League), not just the managers but players, keepers. Everyone. Sometimes people are quicker but I have a high opinion of him as a keeper.”
When you play just nine games, many things can happen from my experience. We have been behind with few points in February and March and have been able to win at the end
Jack Grealish was restored to City’s starting XI for their 3-1 Champions League victory at Swiss outfit Young Boys on Wednesday and he stood out on the left wing before his influence waned after half-time.
The England midfielder has recently been a bit-part figure following a month on the sidelines with a dead leg and he has been on the bench for City’s four most recent Premier League matches.
But Guardiola, who will be without suspended defender Manuel Akanji for the visit to Old Trafford after his dismissal in the win over Brighton last weekend, says Grealish is still integral to his thinking.
“The plan is for him to play like he did in Switzerland,” Guardiola said. “We need him, we need everyone. I am very pleased for the game he played.
“We trust a lot in him. We know his ability and he has to fight with his mates to play a lot and play as best as possible in every single action, every single minute, every single game.”
Second-placed City are already six points ahead of their rivals after just nine fixtures but Guardiola insisted it is too soon to be making definitive judgements on the campaign.
“It’s too early,” Guardiola added. “All the teams are there and the teams behind can be there.
“When you play just nine games, many things can happen from my experience. We have been behind with few points in February and March and have been able to win at the end.”
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