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'I didn’t even realise' - Gundogan on his Manchester derby wonder-goal

4:00 AM EST 12/7/19
Ilkay Gundogan
The German midfielder is ready for another special cross-town clash, 12 months after his strike finished off an incredible 44-pass move

Pep Guardiola doesn't believe that perfection is possible to find on a football pitch.

But Ilkay Gundogan's final goal in last season's Manchester derby may be as close as he will ever get to reaching it.

For one minute and 55 seconds - or just over two per cent of the match - Man City pulled their bedraggled neighbours all over the Etihad Stadium.

Every outfield player touched the ball at least once in a 44-pass move as City moved the ball around the pitch trying to break through the United defence.

Gundogan was involved five times before he stole in behind the back four, instantly killed Bernardo Silva's cross and slammed the ball past David de Gea.

"I think the guy that will have enjoyed that goal the most will probably have been the manager because that is exactly what he wants," Gundogan told Goal.

"How he sees football, how he wants to have everyone involved - I’m quite sure he loved that goal.

"And for the players it was fun because when you’re on the pitch you want to be involved. It was a great team-goal and it was a great moment in a great game."

Gundogan didn't even realise the brilliance of the goal until he watched it back with his team-mates in the dressing room after the game.

The goal ensured City moved two points clear at the top of the Premier League last November but a victory wasn't certain until Gundogan's finish.

City had dominated the match but United were somehow still in with a chance of snatching a point until Gundogan struck in the 86th minute.

A derby victory and three points was celebrated with passion, Benjamin Mendy banging the walls of the Tunnel Club after the final whistle - and the quality of that win was only appreciated once the adrenaline had stopped pumping.

"I didn’t even recognise it was such a good goal," Gundogan admitted. "After so many passes I didn’t even realise.

"I saw after the game as everyone else did. But it showed that there is so much quality in our squad and the way we play in our build-up.

"I think these kind of goals are good for the team, for the energy and shows that everyone is always involved.

"It’s nothing you can really plan, it’s just something that happens. But it was a great moment."

Jose Mourinho was sacked just over a month after the derby loss and his replacement Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is facing an uncertain future.

United head into this Saturday's derby on the back of a big win against Tottenham but speculation still surrounds the Norwegian's long-term future and a defeat at the Etihad would be a serious blow.

It's now more than two years since United and City went into a derby sharing realistic hopes of claiming the Premier League trophy.

While Guardiola's side have won the last two titles, United have had to settle for battling for a Champions League spot.

But Gundogan says the derby remains a special occasion and that City cannot afford to take their rivals lightly.

"I do feel like it’s an important game because of the two clubs, the rivalry and the history, so I still feel like it’s a great game and it will be a great game to watch," the Germany international added.

"Derbies are always something special and the past showed why the game is always special - anything can happen.

"Obviously our target is to win the game when we are playing at home. It will be a great game to watch."

Another moment of near-perfection would make it a very special derby again.

Ilkay Gundogan wears the adidas Predator Mania 19, available at adidas.co.uk/football-shoes