The Manchester City manager praised the mental strength of his side, and said the Premier League leaders’ game wasn’t on his mind
The Premier League champions are 14 points behind Liverpool with Guardiola conceding that it is “unrealistic” for City to consider catching their title rivals.
United are the only side to have taken points from the league league leaders this season but the City boss says his focus on Sunday will be on getting ready for the trip to Sheffield United on Tuesday night.
“The reality is we are far away,” Guardiola said ahead of Saturday’s clash with Crystal Palace. “We accept the reality – they’ve won 20 games and they’d be leading all the leagues around the world, not just our league.
“It would be nice to be focused on Zaha, Ayew and Crystal Palace. And then Tuesday we have Sheffield United.
“Being so far away means it’s not interesting to look at what Liverpool do.
“It’s better to focus on what we can improve for the rest of the season in the Premier League and other competitions.”
The City boss praised his players for their response on the pitch – winning nine of their last 10 fixtures in all competitions despite being so far behind Liverpool.
Guardiola said his side could have folded, pointing out that recent Premier League winners Leicester and Chelsea, twice, finished outside the top four after landing the title.
“What happens to champions, the year after when they didn’t have the challenge to be champions? They give up,” he said. “They finish 12th or 10th or fifth and don’t qualify for the Champions League.
“But still we are fighting – far away because the opponent is exceptional.
“That is an incredible compliment for my players and I’m incredibly proud of them for this detail. Now we are second and we must win the next one and the next one to secure qualification for the Champions League next season.”
Meanwhile, Aymeric Laporte could be back in action for City before the end of the month after stepping up his recovery from the serious knee injury, which has ruled him out for the last five months.
The French defender has been out since sustaining knee ligament damage at the end of August but has been training with the first team since the New Year.
City’s games against Crystal Palace and Sheffield United will come too early but the 25-year-old could potentially get some minutes in the FA Cup fifth round clash with Fulham next weekend or in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United in 10 days.
“I expected the doctor to tell me he’s ready. But still I don’t have the permission or whatever,” Guardiola said.
“When the doctor says he can play I will take a look for which game he can start to play.”