Nick Cushing believes the suggestion Manchester United are heading into Saturday’s first professional Manchester Derby as 'underdogs' marks 'a sign of the times.'

City host the Super League newcomers at the Etihad Stadium in the first meeting between the two sides in the professional era in a 3pm kick-off.

READ: Houghton | 'Be part of history'

WATCH: Walsh to set Derby example

GALLERY: All lit up for the Derby

TICKETS: City v United | Kids go free!

With the Reds promoted from the Championship in their first season, United manager Casey Stoney sought to turn up the heat on Cushing and co., claiming the pressure lies with the blue half of the city.

City boss Cushing admits his Cup double winners will be expected to triumph on home soil but insists his side only recognise the expectation they put on themselves.

“It’s a sign of the times,” he declared. “If United feel like underdogs going into a Manchester Derby, it proves we’re doing something right.

“We prepare the same way we do for any game. We will prepare to play a very good team, who we respect.

WATCH: Houghton: It's all about making history

“We want to win every game we are playing. It’s about getting the processes and operations and strategy in place. To be competitive, your strategies have to be really robust.

“We make sure we don’t overtrain or undertrain. We need to stick to what works. We’ve got United, then the Champions League and Reading but we have the players. 

“It’s been a long off-season with the World Cup. I went to France but it’s been a long off-season.

“We had a really successful trip to America and I’m really excited for the season now.”

Cushing also discussed the importance of introducing rivalries into the women’s game and the impact they hold for its progression.

“For football in general, we love the game because of the big games,” he added. “The competitive games that are enjoyable to watch and closely-matched.

“For the women’s game to keep improving, these games are so important to bring in fans. Our job is to make sure the product is enjoyable to watch – that’s why we play our style.

WATCH: Walsh to set derby example

“We want to improve our style on the game so that 20,000 fans enjoy it and then come back. Our next objective is to fill the Academy Stadium.”

The City boss also spoke of the significance of retaining lifelong Blue Keira Walsh, after the midfielder withdrew a transfer request over the summer.

The 22-year-old opted to remain at her childhood Club, having progressed through the youth ranks to become a regular starter in Cushing and England’s side.

“It was imperative to keep Keira here if we want to be successful,” he asserted. “She plays a very important role.

“She’s in the England team because she’s a very good footballer. She has a unique ability to control games. We’ve got more chance of winning and continuing to win with Keira in the team.”

Discussing her decision, Walsh explained the situation but expressed her delight to be staying and spoke of her excitement to face rivals United.

“This is the Club I want to be at,” she stated. “As Nick said, we are all looking forward to getting the game started but for us, it’s another game and hopefully, we can win.

“There was a lot of talk at the World Cup and there were times I got a bit of stick and that got to me too much.

“There were times I didn’t want to even kick a ball but I spoke to Nick and he’s a great coach. He’s always trusted me to play and it’s time I repaid that faith.

“It’s a credit to the Club that we are playing at the Etihad. We want to fill Academy Stadium and get more kids watching.”

Light-heartedly asked whether he would be donning a tracksuit or suit on Saturday, Cushing joked he may model his style on Pep Guardiola – both on and off the pitch.

“I am thinking about reinventing myself this year!” he replied. “I won’t wear a suit but maybe a middle ground.

“Some other managers are making me look a bit silly and I’m getting older! 

“Listen, the more I can move towards Pep in style and football, the better I’m doing!”

City kick-off the 2019/20 Super League campaign with a mouth-watering Manchester Derby, hosting Manchester United on Saturday 7 September at 3pm at the Etihad Stadium in the first encounter between the sides since the league was formed. Tickets are available and kids go FREE – witness history!