Man United boss Solskjaer aims dig at City ahead of Manchester derby

MANCHESTER -- Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has aimed a dig at Manchester City ahead of the derby saying "at least we play every year now."

City's slip down the English football pyramid meant there was no Manchester derby between April 1996 and November 2000.

Solskjaer, who moved to Old Trafford in 1996, did not play in his first derby until April 2001 and on the eve of the latest meeting between the Manchester rivals, the Norwegian took the chance to reference City's less illustrious past.

"At least we play every year now," Solskjaer said.

"It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. It's changed in a way. Man City are a better team now than when I was playing.

"Manchester derbies are always special games but you can't say it matters more. For the fans, of course. We're up for it."

He added: "Football has changed quite a lot. In these games there used to be allowed a few more proper tackles.

"But with every little angle and everything being scrutinised now it's more of a technical, tactical game than physical and mental. A derby should be played as a derby, we don't play basketball and we're ready if that happens."

Solskjaer also said he has been in contact with Manchester United loanee Chris Smalling and former striker Romelu Lukaku in the aftermath of a controversial newspaper front page.

Italian newspaper Il Corriere dello Sport previewed Inter's Friday night clash against Roma with a photo of both Lukaku and Smalling above the headline "Black Friday."

"First of all, when you see that paper you say wow really is that possible?," Solskjaer added. "It's the worst front page I've ever seen and we've been in touch with Chris just so he knows we'll back him, and Romelu as well.

"I don't work in your line of business but wow, it's incredible and at least we don't see that here, that has to be stamped out. Chris has been fantastic but we know sometimes if you change the environment it can go both ways but Chris is the type to relish these challenges.

"He's cultured, enjoys life down there, it's new experience for him. He's a boy who couldn't be here without being a regular and so happy for him because we can see the top player he is."

Solskjaer hopes Anthony Martial will be fit enough to play some part at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday but Paul Pogba has been ruled out.