Pep Guardiola previews Manchester derby
In a clear jab at Manchester United, Pep Guardiola insists it is Liverpool – and nobody else – who have been Manchester City’s rivals during his tenure. And the Spaniard has warned Erik ten Hag just how high the level of competition is at the top as the United boss looks for a derby day win to truly kickstart their season.
The Red Devils have suffered a stuttering start and despite winning their last three matches, the circumstances of those victories have been questioned. United were reliant on a stoppage-time turnaround against Brentford, a late Diogo Dalot winner at Sheffield United and a 97th-minute Andre Onana penalty save to beat Copenhagen.
Ten Hag heads into the derby knowing the ignominy of a heavy defeat, like the 6-3 reverse he suffered at the Etihad last season, would see pressure mount. And just to rub it in, the treble-winning Guardiola has reminded United that they have been nowhere near their neighbour’s standards in recent seasons.
Told of Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments that City will never be serious rivals to United, with the Scot calling them “a small club with a small mentality” in 2009, five-time Premier League winner Guardiola said: “When I finish my tenure here, Liverpool will have been my rivals and our rivals.
“They have made us a challenge and helped make us a better team in all departments. They have challenged us like no other team has done in my period here. There was one year with Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) that was quite close – but overall it has been Liverpool.
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“Sir Alex was right, City were not challengers. Without the presence of (City owner) Sheikh Mansour and (chairman) Khaldoon, who took over and made an investment, it was United and Arsenal who were the richest ones and that’s why they were there.
“In that moment, Sir Alex Ferguson could not expect what has happened – even myself when I was in Barcelona thought the same. But now is the reality – and we want to stay here for as long as possible.
“We were not in the elite. But now we are in the elite and maybe it is uncomfortable for them (United). We are there now and we want to be there in the future.”
The City manager then warned his counterpart Ten Hag, who is looking to become the first United manager since Fergie to finish above the Citizens, of the huge competition at the top of the Premier League. Guardiola added when asked if United will ever be a powerhouse again: “Maybe not in the way that Sir Alex Ferguson controlled in those days because in that moment I think there were only two or three teams.
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“Now there are more clubs with a lot of incredible managers – so maybe not in that way. If they make good decisions, with the hierarchy and the sports director and manager, and get players with the same ideas, come on!
“When something happens at Man United it’s on the highlights all day, so the reputation and prestige they had they will always have. But they need it to click by making the right decisions. If it happens and when it happens, they will be there.
“It’s only nine games so I don’t know who will challenge this season. Ask me nine games from the end and I will tell you. Of course, Arsenal are back and Newcastle have arrived – and Chelsea are in the process of restructuring a few things.
“Look at Spurs and how good they are playing. They will be fresh all season because they are out of the Carabao Cup, so they will be there, for sure with the manager they have. But our rivals in the past have been Liverpool.”
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