Pep Guardiola laughed during a press conference when asked about Manchester United potentially mounting a title challenge this season.
United enjoyed a much improved 2022/23 season under new manager Erik ten Hag, accumulating 17 more points than they did the campaign before to finish three places higher in the Premier League. They also ended a six-year wait for silverware by lifting the Carabao Cup, and also got to the final of the FA Cup.
Incremental improvements were once again expected this season, especially after the Red Devils forked out around £175m on the signings of likes of Rasmus Hojlund, Mason Mount and Andre Onana during the summer, but Ten Hag’s charges are yet to find form in the early weeks of the season.
Instead, United have started the season in disappointing form, with their thumping 3-1 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend their third reverse of the season already.
United’s form is in stark contract to how inner-city rivals Manchester City have kickstarted their season. The Cityzens have won all five of their Premier League games to date as they hope to become the first team to ever win the division on four consecutive occasions.
Speaking to the press ahead of City’s first Champions League game of the season against Crvena zvezda, Guardiola said of his potential title rivals: “You know how strong Arsenal are. Yesterday [Sunday] I saw the game at Goodison Park. They are exceptional.
“And Liverpool again, the mentalities have continued there.”
A reporter then shouted out “Manchester United” in order to prompt Guardiola to give his thoughts on their potential title challenge – a prompt he first laughed out at before saying: “Well they didn’t start in the way I think they expect like Chelsea, but always they are Man Utd and always they are Chelsea.
“Sooner of later they will take their rhythm, but that is important for us after winning the treble that five to five is really, really good.”
United remain the Premier League’s most successful club having lifted the title on 13 occasions under Sir Alex Ferguson. But the Scot’s departure in 2013, after a fifth title in seven years, has led to a decade of woe at Old Trafford – United have finished inside the top three just four times in the ten seasons that have followed.