MANCHESTER: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho played down the focus on his rivalry with Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola on Friday and said Saturday's derby would be decided by the players.
This weekend's encounter has been billed as a grudge match between Mourinho and Guardiola, who had several stormy encounters during their time in charge of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
It is three years since they last faced off in a match, but Mourinho said the on-pitch action at Old Trafford will be more important than what happens on the touchline.
Asked whether the presence of Guardiola in the opposition dug-out presented a particular problem, Mourinho told journalists at United's Aon Training Complex: "Just the players."
Mourinho emphasised the need for "emotional control" in the match, which will see United and City attempt to end each other's perfect starts to the Premier League season.
When he was told the match was being cast as a rematch between himself and Guardiola, he replied: "That's no problem."
"They are a very good team," he added.
"They were a very good team last season, two, three, four seasons ago. Maybe since the new owners arrived at Man City, it's a very good squad, it's a very good team.
"They had very good managers. They have now a very good manager. They had always very good players. They bought some more very good players.
"So they are what they are since I return to England in 2013. They're a title contender and we have to respect them that way, that's for sure."
United's hopes of winning the derby have been aided by the absence of City striker Sergio Aguero, who is serving a three-game ban for elbowing West Ham United's Winston Reid.
Mourinho, however, claimed the uncertainty about who Guardiola will select to replace the Argentina striker actually makes life harder for him.
"It changed the approach because it's more difficult," Mourinho said.
"When Aguero is available, we know Aguero plays. We know the formation, we know their dynamic. Nobody has doubts: when a player like him is ready, he plays.
"In this moment, he doesn't play. They are an amazing, rich squad in options. On the other hand, he can have many decisions, different decisions.
"One thing if he decides to play with (Kelechi) Iheanacho, another thing if he decides to play with (Raheem) Sterling.
"Another one is if he decides to play with (David) Silva as a fake number nine between the lines.
"They have so many options that for us, in preparation of the game, we have to go step by step, situation after situation.
"We try to reduce the unpredictability of the game. We know they have so many options. To do that for the players is more difficult.
"It feels a bit of a contradiction, but without Aguero it's more difficult."
Mourinho reported a clean bill of health ahead of the game, but he expressed reservations about the time it had taken United's two Argentina players to return after international duty.
City's Argentine players Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi were able to return to Manchester directly after Argentina's 2-2 draw away to Venezuela in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.
But United pair Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo were obliged to make more complicated journeys.
"Sergio and Marcos, they went around the globe," said the United manager.
"They played in Venezuela and then they go to Argentina and then from Argentina they go back to Europe.
"Man City spent the money to bring them on direct flights from Venezuela or maybe they sent one of the planes from the owner.
"But our boys went to Argentina and from Argentina they come and arrive this morning in time to train."