Mane almost took my head off but didn't mean it.. just like Pickford on Van Dijk, claims Ederson

EDERSON does not believe Jordan Pickford meant to injure Virgil van Dijk in last month’s Merseyside derby.

And the Manchester City goalkeeper knows better than most that these things can happen in the heat of battle.

After all, it was only three years ago that he was on the wrong end of something equally reckless – ironically in a game against Liverpool.

At the Etihad in September 2017, a wild and high challenge from Sadio Mane connected with the  Brazilian’s head.

The Senegalese was given a straight red card and Ederson needed oxygen as he was taken off on a stretcher after eight minutes of treatment on the pitch.

Back in the dressing room, he required eight stitches, with one of the wounds perilously close to his eye.

Yet he does not believe there was any intention to injure him on Mane’s part — and views Pickford’s challenge on Van Dijk the same way.

And that is why he feels the  condemnation of the England No 1 since has been unjust.

Ederson, 27, said: “I don’t think any player steps on the pitch with the  willingness to injure an opponent.

“Sometimes you have a fraction of a second to make a decision.

“Unfortunately, Jordan Pickford had that clash with Van Dijk and it ended up resulting in a serious injury. That’s part of football, sometimes it happens. It could happen to any of us.

“I don’t think it was Pickford’s intention to injure Van Dijk, the same way I don’t think it was Mane’s intention to do that when he clashed with me.

“You have such a short time to make a decision.”

That challenge from Mane was just one part of a rivalry between the two most recent champions which has been building for several years.

They meet again at the Etihad tomorrow with City needing the points to keep the Reds in their sights.

And Ederson has noticed that despite the outcry over the loss of Van Dijk with a cruciate knee injury, Liverpool have not been blown off course by it — having followed up the 2-2 Goodison draw with five straight wins.

He said: “Their best centre-back, Van Dijk, is out. Fabinho has been playing really well this season and he’s out, too.

“But we mustn’t forget that  Liverpool still have great players.

“Their absences aren’t going to be a big disadvantage for them and a big advantage for us.

“We don’t focus on the players that aren’t going to play, or a specific absence, we focus on Liverpool as a whole team.

“They are some points ahead of us but we have one game in hand and the direct confrontation on Sunday. I hope we can get a good result.”

City too have struggled with injuries and illness in the early part of the campaign, while a short pre-season has also affected them.

In recent weeks there have been signs they are starting to look more like their old selves, even if goals have been in short supply.

Ederson reckons this final game of a hectic three-week period will be a good test of where City currently are.

He said: “It wasn’t one of those good starts to the season in terms of results we usually have had.

“But I think the team is recovering very well.

“It was a difficult start because we had a few players testing positive for Covid-19 and a few injuries.

“Now, they are all returning to the team little by little, so we have seen the team more compact and playing good football lately. We couldn’t have that at the start.

“I think the team has got back to its level, we are focused and on Sunday we have a good chance to prove it.”

Our styles are very similar,perhaps I play more with my feet, but so does he

Tomorrow gives Ederson the chance to go head-to-head with his fellow Brazilian Alisson, who will be in goal for the Reds.

The pair are rivals for the No 1 spot with their national team and have been vying for silverware with their clubs.

But they remain good pals off the pitch, with the City man adding: “I have a good friendship with Alisson. He’s an incredible guy and an incredible keeper.

“Our rivalry is only on the pitch, off the pitch it doesn’t exist as we are good friends. I hope we can both have a good game on Sunday.

“Our styles are very similar,  perhaps I play more with my feet, but so does he.

“Liverpool and us have more or less the same style of play.”

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