Pep Guardiola paid a glowing tribute to Marcelo Bielsa after Leeds United secured promotion to the Premier League as Championship winners – hailing the Argentine tactician as "unique" in world football.

Former Chile, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille boss Bielsa has secured hero status in the west Yorkshire city after ending Leeds' 16-year exile from English football's top flight, a season on from suffering play-off heartache against Derby County.

Guardiola has long been a huge admirer of Bielsa's work and sought his counsel before taking the plunge into top-level coaching.

The Manchester City manager is delighted his old friend will join him in the Premier League for the 2020-21 campaign.

"He has done an exceptional job," he told a news conference ahead of City's trip to Watford

"They were exceptional last season and then didn't get promoted. They showed a lot of character to get promoted a year later.

"We know how difficult it is to win the Championship and get to the Premier League, so congratulations."

Although Bielsa's CV is light in terms of major honours – the last of three Primera Division titles won in his homeland came with Velez Sarsfield in 1998 – Guardiola believes the 64-year-old's enduring influence upon a generation of players and coaches counts for much more.

"I was not his player, so it is difficult to talk about him. But I know the reference from a hundred million players who were with him," he said.

"I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk to him. He is unique in world football because of the special way he plays. He is an authentic manager. No other manager in the world plays the way he plays.

"He is an incredible person. He is so special. It is my personal opinion but it will be incredible for English football to have him in the Premier League next season."

Guardiola's spells with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City means he has ample experience when it comes to winning titles.

However, he feels even these considerable heights are dwarfed by what Bielsa has created during his career.

"Winning titles helps to have a job next season but at the end of your life, what you remember is not the titles you have won, what you remember is the memories you have and whether the manager taught you a lot," he said.

"I had a bad night after the Arsenal game but the day after, it is forgotten. If you win a title it is the same. You have the night but the day after, it is forgotten.

"What we remember are the experiences and the memories, the players you have had, the managers you have had. Marcelo is at the top of the list. Absolutely at the top of the list."

One manager unable to keep hold of his job was Nigel Pearson, who will not lead Watford against City after being relieved of his duties on Sunday.

"Before the lockdown, what Nigel had done was incredible," Guardiola added. "The amount of points and the results they got when they were at the bottom. After that, I don't know what happened.

"I respect the decisions of the club, of course. I wish Nigel all the best, he's an experienced manager in England and has done incredibly well in the past and this period at Watford."

Watford parted company with head coach Nigel Pearson on Sunday in a dramatic split ahead of their final push to avoid Premier League relegation.

Sitting three points above the Premier League drop zone, Watford announced the shock change ahead of games against Manchester City and Arsenal, naming Hayden Mullins as interim boss.

Pearson took charge in December, when Watford sat bottom of the table with eight points from 15 games, but his deal only ran until the end of the campaign.

Despite guiding the team out of the bottom three, the former Leicester City boss will not lead them into the critical closing seven days of the campaign.

Watford's turnover of head coaches is unusual for a Premier League club. Javi Gracia began the season in charge of the Hornets, before being replaced by Quique Sanchez Flores, whose second stint at Watford was over inside three months.

Pearson appeared to be the saviour of their faltering 2019-20 effort as Watford's results picked up, but a 3-1 defeat at West Ham on Friday proved to be his final game in charge.

Losing to the Hammers led Pearson to reflect he and his team had "let an opportunity pass us by".

That setback followed valuable back-to-back wins over Norwich City and Newcastle United.

Watford will be visited by second-placed City on Tuesday, before the Hornets travel to FA Cup finalists Arsenal on Sunday, with former West Ham and Crystal Palace midfielder Mullins at the helm.

A statement from the Vicarage Road club said: "Watford FC confirms that Nigel Pearson has left the club with immediate effect.

"Hayden Mullins, with Graham Stack as his assistant, will take up the position of interim head coach for the Hornets’ final two Premier League fixtures of the 2019/20 season."

Craig Dawson's acrobatic stoppage-time goal earned Watford a 1-1 Premier League draw against Leicester City as Ben Chilwell's late stunner was cancelled out. 

Saturday's contest at Vicarage Road was goalless until the final minute when Chilwell thrashed home a superb strike from just inside the box. 

But the Hornets, who beat runaway leaders Liverpool 3-0 in their previous home game, had the final say as Dawson slammed in a sideways scissor-kick from close range for his first Watford goal. 

Nigel Pearson's side now sit a point clear of the bottom three, with Brendan Rodgers' Foxes are six points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea. 

Watford's resurgence under Nigel Pearson continued as they beat Bournemouth 3-0 to move out of the Premier League's bottom three for the first time this season.

Goals from Abdoulaye Doucoure, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra earned the Hornets a third successive top-flight win, with Pearson's side now unbeaten in five matches.

There was a degree of fortune to their opening goal as young Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers chipped straight to Ismaila Sarr, who crossed for Doucoure to finish three minutes before half-time.

Watford dominated after the break and doubled their advantage in the 66th minute when Deeney blasted home following more good work from Sarr, with substitute Pereyra hooking in a third goal in stoppage time.

In a week of deliberation over who might lead the country, English football remains in little doubt over its elect group of players.

But while many feel the current Liverpool side is born to rule, they were asked some tricky questions by a Watford team recently revived by a change of leadership.

There was a high turnout but no landslide victory against Watford at Anfield, where the Reds chalked up their 16th consecutive Premier League home win by a 2-0 scoreline thanks to Mohamed Salah's double.

And while their seat at the top of the table looks safe, canvass for opinion around Merseyside and you will find even the most dyed-in-the-wool Reds reluctant to suggest the balance of power has swung decisively in their favour.

But six more home league wins in a row would see Jurgen Klopp's men eclipse the all-time record streak of 21 set by Bill Shankly's title-winning team of 1972-73, who saw governance of the top flight as their birthright.

For a home crowd watching a team guaranteed to be top of the Premier League table at Christmas, Anfield was strangely subdued during the opening exchanges between Klopp's rotated side and visitors Watford.

New boss Nigel Pearson looked to have assembled a strong opposition during a cagey opening spell that saw the incumbent leaders fail to muster a shot on goal for 22 minutes - the longest wait for a Reds attempt in a home league game since October 2016 against Manchester United.

Pearson could hardly be accused of the kind of negative campaigning Jose Mourinho so often employed during his time at United, with Watford offering a more incisive threat in the opening half-hour thanks to the positive endeavours of Will Hughes and Gerard Deulofeu.

With Andy Robertson on the bench, Liverpool looked momentarily vulnerable at left-back when Etienne Capoue skipped beyond stand-in James Milner before teeing up Abdoulaye Doucoure for a wasteful miss that was punished at the other end just 58 seconds later.

Roberto Firmino's overhead kick launched Sadio Mane down the Liverpool left and he in turn released Mohamed Salah, who fooled Kiko Femenia before nonchalantly curling home with his right foot.

It was not the first time Liverpool's Egyptian king has lorded it over Watford, and a last-minute tap-in means Salah has eight goals and one assist in five Premier League appearances against the Hornets.

But Klopp's cabinet includes many inspirational leaders. Some credit for this win must also go to Mane, so often the player who helps lay the foundations upon which Salah excels.

Mane has set up four goals against Watford in the Premier League, more than he has managed against any other side in the top tier. All four of those assists have been for Salah, too.

Klopp will hope Mane makes a habit of teeing up goals during the busy weeks ahead; the Senegal international has three assists in his past two Premier League games, as many as he managed in his previous 56 appearances.

Clean sheets also help – Klopp will certainly vote for shut-outs to become another long-running trend.

Watford ended a run of three successive Premier League defeats, but Hayden Mullins' brief spell as interim manager concluded without a victory as Crystal Palace held them to a 0-0 draw.

The Hornets confirmed Nigel Pearson as their new manager on Friday, but he watched from the stands as Palace left Vicarage Road with a hard-earned point.

A first half of few chances was only notable for Wilfried Zaha's display, as the Ivory Coast international was involved in a couple of flashpoints, seemingly angering his manager Roy Hodgson.

Watford dominated after the interval, with Gerard Deulofeu going close before substitute Ismaila Sarr enjoyed a lively cameo, failing to convert two decent opportunities.

Palace held on, and Zaha – who continued to get caught up in off-the-ball tussles – somewhat surprisingly managed to avoid earning a second yellow card, as Watford remain bottom and the visitors move above Manchester United into seventh for at least a few hours.

Nigel Pearson will lead Watford's survival mission after returning to the Premier League as head coach of the Hornets.

The former Leicester City manager succeeds Quique Sanchez Flores, whose short-lived second spell at Vicarage Road was brought to an end last weekend after a sore defeat to Southampton.

Pearson has signed a contract initially until the end of the season, Watford said on their official website.

The Hornets sit bottom of the Premier League with eight points from 15 matches. Pearson, 56, becomes their third head coach of the campaign, after Javi Gracia and Flores.

Watford chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury said: "Nigel is an impressive coach and comes with all of the experience and success we believe can have a very positive impact on our season.

"It's been a pleasure spending time listening to the passion with which he talks about the game. His enthusiasm, organisation and motivation will I'm certain prove essential in driving the team forwards and upwards over the coming weeks and months."

Former England Under-21 boss Pearson previously managed Leicester in the top flight, in the second of his two spells with the Foxes, and has also had stints in charge of clubs including Southampton, Derby County and Hull City. His last job was with OH Leuven in Belgium.

Pearson will be presented to Watford's supporters at Saturday's home game against Crystal Palace, but the team will be managed by interim boss Hayden Mullins, Watford said.

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