Pep Guardiola has lost some battles against Manchester United with defeats at home to teams managed by Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but Manchester City still appear to be winning the war.
The reigning champions are expected to dominate tonight’s Manchester derby and cement their hunt for a third consecutive Premier League title.
Guardiola has not ended up under United since arriving in 2016 and the gap between the clubs widened to a whopping 35 points last season, leading to the appointment of Erik ten Hag to Old Trafford.
Pep Guardiola has insisted there will be ‘zero problems’ if he leaves Manchester City
The big question is whether City’s success can continue beyond Guardiola, whose contract expires at the end of this season, with no clear indication of his longer-term future one way or the other.
United collapsed after Series Trophy winner Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but Guardiola isn’t worried City will suffer a replay if he leaves.
While United executives who succeeded Ferguson have had to contend with a new and inexperienced CEO Ed Woodward and a debt-based ownership model, City appears to have a well-oiled machinery behind the scenes.
Money is clearly not an issue at the top since the Abu Dhabi group took control of the club in 2008 and underneath, the top managers, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, always have an eye on the long term.
The Spain manager is confident City board “knows the strategy” he has been developing at the club
They are credited with luring the summer transfer window’s hottest asset, goal-a-game striker Erling Haaland, to The Etihad when every club in Europe wanted him.
When asked about his vision for a post-pep Manchester City, the 51-year-old could not have been more positive.
“There will be zero problems. I am 100 percent convinced of that. The club knows exactly what the goal and the next step is,” said Guardiola.
“You know the strategy. They know what to do now, after the World Cup, next season and then in the following seasons.
“When a club depends on one person, they have problems because the club isn’t solid. It’s unstable. The foundation of the club is why the team is solid.
“If the club only depends on Pep then the club is not really doing well at this time. If the club relies on just one player – like the striker to score the goals – then it won’t be a good team.”
The 51-year-old manager has guided Man City to four Premier League titles since arriving in 2016
Guardiola’s views will bring tears to the eyes of United fans who have seen their club’s deterioration since 2013, although ten Hag has made a promising start after nine years of injury when he hit the reset button.
While Ferguson dominated every part of Old Trafford during his 26-year reign and left a huge vacuum on his departure, Guardiola insists things are different at his club.
“I never buy the players. I never sell the players. it’s not my money It’s the club,” he argues.
“The club is the most important word and every decision we make is because we think about the club and the day after tomorrow and the next few years and the future.
“The club knows that very well. They know the kind of players and the way we want to play. In football, as in all sports such as tennis or golf, you lose more than you win.
“What’s important is that you believe that the way you do things is going to get you the trophies and titles. The club knows exactly what to do.”
The reigning Premier League champions are training ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby
Without stability at the top, the United managers who succeeded Ferguson have struggled; David Moyes, van Gaal, Mourinho, Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick. They haven’t won a trophy in more than five years – their longest barren ride since the 1970s.
In a way, Guardiola feels ten Hag – who once worked as part of his staff at Bayern Munich – has come to the club at the right time with reduced expectations.
“Imagine taking over United after they have won three Champions Leagues or three Premier Leagues in a row. That would be more difficult, the bridge is probably lower now because they didn’t qualify for the Champions League last season,” the Catalan added.
“In the end it is the hierarchy in the clubs that is so important. How much do you believe in the manager and how much time do you give him?
“The results are important but clubs also have to look at how he trains, how he behaves, how he solves problems, how he deals with the media.
“The club have to have faith in what they are doing and give it time. Football, like many things in life, takes time to solidify. When you change a lot of coaches and players, it becomes more difficult.
Manchester United collapsed after legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013
“Look at all the managers who have been at United since Sir Alex. Come on, are you saying they’re not all good managers? No way. If Erik works now – good for them.”
“I admire Eric a lot. We know a little bit about each other because we were in Munich together for a year.
“I do not know more. We don’t have a close relationship, but what he did in Holland is absolutely incredible.
“If United trust him and let him build a team by giving him years and years, that will be welcome. If you don’t win, you’re in trouble.’
Ten Hag showed courage to make changes, dropping Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Cristiano Ronaldo and Fred after humiliating losses to Brighton and Brentford. United have improved immeasurably since then, beating Liverpool and Arsenal but this will be their biggest test.
The Man City boss said: “There will be zero problems. I am 100 percent convinced of that.
Likewise, they will be a step up for City, who have had a relatively easy fixture list so far, so Haaland has already managed to score 14 goals for his new club.
Players from all over the world will be featured at the Etihad but the game still holds a special meaning for the fans and the players who grew up locally like Phil Foden who has supported City all his life.
“It’s nice that he’s a City supporter and important to the club, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play well or badly in the derby,” said Guardiola. “He needs to focus on what he has to do on the pitch.”
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