Ander Herrera insists Manchester United’s trip to Manchester City is a potential make-or-break “game of the season”.
Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola’s sides have failed to mount Premier League title challenges this season and are now competing for a place in the top four and Champions League qualification, and meet at the Etihad on Thursday, live on Sky Sports 1.
United can qualify for the Champions League if they win the Europa League while City have nothing to focus on but league matters after Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal and, with fifth-placed United just a point behind their city rivals in fourth, Herrera is well aware how big this week’s meeting is.
“It is going to be the game of the season,” Herrera said. “We are one point behind them. If we win we have the chance to finish in the top four, if they win it is going to be very difficult. It is the game of the season.
“Make or break? Probably. Both teams are in a good moment so if one of us wins the game we are not going to lose a lot of games, or make mistakes after that. Us or them. It is going to be key.
“We are in a very good moment, a very good run and we respect them but we are doing a lot of good things and we have to show it on Thursday.”
Mourinho made a string of changes for the 2-0 win at Burnley on Sunday in a bid to freshen up his squad with half an eye on Thursday, despite having to cope with a number of key injuries.
Manchester United go into the clash with confidence after also recently outwitting Chelsea, with Antonio Conte’s side failing to muster so much as a shot in the 2-0 defeat, with Herrera scoring one, assisting the other and producing a man-of-the-match display in marking Eden Hazard out of the game.
Asked if the Belgian was still in his pocket, Herrera laughed then said: “Hazard, for me, has been the best player of the season so far. It was not a very easy job for me but I think I did it right.
“Also the team was very compact so that made it more easy for me. But now I know everyone is talking about it, but I want to forget it.
“I want to think about today winning, hopefully Thursday the same and we have [the] Europa League [semi-final]. The Europa League is a competition that makes me very excited because I lost the final three or four years ago and I want to take that knife from my back.
“So hopefully we can fight for that title as well, but I know very good [semi-final opponents] Celta Vigo. They are a very difficult team.”