Guardiola admits he is lucky to be at Man City after failed first year

Pep Guardiola could win first of three trophies for Manchester City this season in the Carabao Cup final… but he admits ‘he is lucky’ to be at the club after failed first year and admits he sought board permission before criticising Super League plans

  • Manchester City face Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday
  • The trophy is the first City could lift this season as they chase a treble
  • But Pep Guardiola is grateful he has a supportive board after tough first year 
  • Question marks were raised over Guardiola after trophyless 2016-17 season
  • Backing led to him seeking assurances before criticising European Super League

When Manchester City reached the Carabao Cup Final, Pep Guardiola thought he’d be facing his old foe Jose Mourinho once again.

It hasn’t worked out like that with Tottenham sacking their manager last week and giving 29-year-old interim Ryan Mason the thankless task of denying Guardiola his eighth major trophy at City in under five years.

Instead of heaping more misery on Mourinho – the pair were proper enemies during their time at s Barcelona and Real Madrid – Guardiola has been reflecting on City’s loyalty to him when he failed to win silverware in his first year at The Etihad.

Pep Guardiola could win Manchester City’s first trophy this year in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final

It’s largely forgotten, though not by Guardiola himself, that his inaugural season in 2016-17 wasn’t an unqualified success. After a heavy defeat at Leicester, he was unkindly dubbed ‘Fraudiola’ and he remarked chippily: ‘I’m not a coach for the tackles.’

Those critics look foolish now given Guardiola could win a fourth consecutive League Cup, with a third Premier League title almost in the bag and a big Champions League semi-final against PSG coming on Wednesday night.

‘I am lucky being at a club where in the first season we didn’t win anything and they supported me more than ever and the success came later,’ says the 50-year-old Catalan.

‘I had incredible support in bad moments. (Chairman) Khaldoon al Mubarak is always behind me, close to me when we are defeated, harder and stronger than when we have success.

City face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley looking to win the cup for a fourth straight season

‘That was the secret to build something sustainable for many, many years. That is the key. We’ve seen we are in a world with a lot of feelings, a lot of love and at the same time, a lot of business.’

Having had the backing from his Abu Dhabi owners and Spanish pals Ferran Soriano (chief executive) and Txiki Begiristain (director of football), Guardiola is now in the position of helping them climb out of the hole dug by the European Super League.

Guardiola has voiced strong opposition to the concept but in a way that means City’s fans aren’t calling for a regime change, as is happening at other clubs.

He even sought his bosses permission before making his public pronouncement that sport should be about competition rather than being a closed shop.

The City manager was dabbed ‘Fraudiola’ when his side were beaten 4-2 by Leicester during his first season in 2016-17 (Pictured: Jamie Vardy scoring for the Foxes during the game)

‘It wasn’t difficult because I know all of them, they are friends. Before I made a statement we spoke about it, they completely agreed. Sometimes you don’t help if you don’t say something you believe.

‘I love this club, I love Ferran, Txiki, Khaldoon, the people who work here, we work together.

‘Everyone makes mistakes. The guys who take decisions make mistakes, the guys who are judging others make mistakes.

‘Sometimes you are wrong. What’s the problem? We react and we apologise and move forward and see what will be the next Champions League.’

Guardiola has been thankful for the support given to him by chief executive Ferran Soriano (left) as well as chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, and sought their approval before criticising City’s previous plans to enter a breakaway European Super League

Guardiola’s handling of City on the pitch this season has been close to genius. Wembley will be their 53rd match of a season that only begun on September 21, and they have won 41 of them. Many of his international players have also played eight times for their country during that period.

He admits it’s been gruelling but doesn’t want to whinge given the enormous problems people have faced generally during Covid.

‘I am not fresh, believe me,’ he sighed. ‘But I am so excited because we arrive here after this amount of games. If I don’t want it, I would resign. It’s part of the job.

‘Of course I’d love a different calendar and more time but at the same time I am not complaining. It is what it is…go, go, go. A lot of people, a lot of managers, are struggling to have a job.

Guardiola’s City are now flying and are on course for a treble including the Premier League which they lead comfortably and the Champions League where they are in the semi-finals

‘It demands a lot of us to win and win, especially of the players. It’s so difficult and we’d love to enjoy more time with our families. But it’s a pleasure to be in the final on Sunday, to go to Paris in the semi-final of the Champions League.

‘But fresh and relaxed? Absolutely not! I have never lived a year like this.’

When the dust settles, the relentless of City’s achievements will make their achievements even greater. Guardiola would rather be getting worked up from the sidelines at Wembley than watching on the box, like Mourinho.

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