EPL

Guardiola confident Man City won't suffer United's post-Ferguson blues

By Sports Desk March 06, 2021

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City are primed to continue their success after he leaves the Etihad Stadium.

City host United in the Manchester derby on Sunday, aiming to extend both a 14-point lead over their rivals at the top of the table and a record-breaking run of 21 consecutive wins in all competitions.

Should the runaway leaders win their third Premier League crown in four seasons, Guardiola will become the first manager in England's top flight to regain the title during the same tenure since Alex Ferguson and only the third to do so in the competition's history.

Both United since Ferguson and Arsenal in the aftermath of Arsene Wenger's two-decade reign have struggled to keep pace with the standards of old.

Guardiola renewed his City contract until 2023 earlier this season, which will take him to seven years in charge in east Manchester if he sees out those terms – at which point his club might face a similarly testing new era.

"The club must not start saying 'Pep is not here anymore'. There is no time to wait… a new one has to do it. It's the same for the players," he said, even though City's outstanding run has come during a season many earmarked as one of transition.

Ruben Dias, Rodri and Joao Cancelo are on course to win their first Premier League titles having established themselves as key pillars of Guardiola's side, while John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan have assumed new levels of prominence within the City squad.

As Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho approach the end of their contracts in June, the last remaining trace of pre-Guardiola City could be no more when the senior squad reconvenes for next season.

Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and David Silva bade emotional farewells over the past four years and Guardiola believes there is a pattern of smooth succession already established at City.

"We've replaced David, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, even Joe Hart. I know their influence in the locker room and the spirit for Manchester City," he said, before suggesting the step change from mid-table club to Abu Dhabi-financed heavyweight a decade ago was more challenging than anything yet to come.

"These players are special, they started to create the club that we are," Guardiola continued.

"To be a team from the middle of the table [who then] fight for the titles, you need some special players. Incredible respect, I admire them, all of them. They create this situation that we have right now.

"For people who came later, it's time to follow the legacy that they started. We would love to have Vincent Kompany eternally, but the age is the age. Unfortunately, you have to replace them."

Champions League success remains the final frontier for Guardiola, with City poised to address the quarter-final hurdle that has felled them in the past three seasons as they hold a 2-0 advantage over Borussia Monchengladbach midway through their last-16 tie.

But Guardiola feels consistently reaching Europe's top competition, even in fallow years in terms of trophies, is a key marker of City's progress when set against the struggles experienced by Leicester City, Chelsea and now Liverpool in the immediate aftermath of lifting the Premier League.

"The nicest thing of this club in the last decade is every year we won the title, the next season we were there. The lowest position after winning was second," he said.

"The last years it was always champion, champion, second, fighting after winning, every year in the Champions League. That is when you become a club that is respected.

"You see other champions, how they fight to qualify for the top four.

"People say it just about the reason everybody knows [money], but it's okay. There is a lot of work behind it."

That work has changed for Guardiola this season, with the particular demands of a life in lockdown persuading him to temper his famously intense approach – perhaps a template to apply when a measure of normality returns to what is already his longest stint at a single club.

"We have fewer meetings [with the players]. Maybe this is the reason why we are winning, because I don’t bother them much," he added

"[I demand] not much and then the energy the moment of the game. I cannot demand, with this situation around the world, energy for 10 hours.

"The players are like you and me. It is weird the world we are living. You cannot go out, you cannot see other people.

"That is why – energy, the moment of the game. We did it and we are going to continue doing it this way."

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