Manchester City have recovered from a sluggish start to the season to go on a 21-match winning run that has taken them 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League; watch Man City vs Man Utd live on Super Sunday from 4pm on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 4.30pm
Pep Guardiola says he had lost pride in his “unrecognisable” Manchester City team earlier this season before a return to his coaching principles helped kickstart their 21-match winning run.
Following a mid-December round of Premier League fixtures that saw City draw 1-1 at home with strugglers West Brom, Guardiola’s side had taken just 20 points from their opening 12 fixtures, were ninth in the table and eight points adrift of then-leaders Liverpool.
However, it wasn’t the results that were irking the Spaniard, but a failure to deliver the entertaining football his teams at the Etihad – and previously at Barcelona and Bayern Munich – had become known for.
Guardiola says a discussion with his coaching staff prompted a return to their basic footballing principles, and they haven’t looked back, winning 21 successive games since to move 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League while also remaining in all three cup competitions.
“It was not just that specific West Brom game. It was the last games before West Brom,” Guardiola told Sky Sports News ahead of his side’s Super Sunday clash with Manchester United.
“Always I am a spectator – I am a manager but a spectator. I want to enjoy, I want to see my team playing the way the team must play, and I didn’t watch it for a long, long time.
“I lost in Barcelona, I lost in Munich, but always I recognise my team, and in that period, I could not recognise it, I didn’t like it.
“Sometimes we have one or two days to reflect, I talked with my backroom staff, we discussed many things and talked about the process of what to do.
“I said ‘guys, we did it here in England, we did it in Germany and Spain as well, so we just come back to our principles, do what we have to do and try to do it again’.
“There’s no guarantee to win games but at least we’ll be proud, we’ll recognise what we want to be, the way we want to live, and after, it’s one game, another win, the confidence rises, the trust rises and that helps us to be in the position we are.”
Foden will become ‘incredible legend’ at City
One of several players to excel during City’s record-breaking run has been England youngster Phil Foden.
The 20-year-old has scored 11 goals in 33 appearances in his most prolific season to date, playing himself into contention for a place in England’s squad at this summer’s European Championships.
Despite being pleased with Foden’s progress, Guardiola reiterated the importance of the City academy product maintaining his focus.
“(I am) more (delighted) than you can imagine,” Guardiola said of Foden’s form. “I’m delighted for him. He deserves all the credit. He was the reason why. So good, so far.
“But still, I talk many times to them, so keep working, don’t listen much, don’t read much, don’t listen to pundits, the nice words they tell you. This is a tough, tough job. Your focus is maintained for 15 years, every three days – this is the most difficult thing, that’s why you have to stay calm.
“But he loves to play football, he lives for that and that’s why he’s so nice to coach. And I’m pretty sure he will become an incredible legend of this club. We’re going to take care of him and the rest he will do it.”
Manchester City’s assault on the Premier League title marks the dawn of a second coming of Guardiola’s reign at the club, says Gary Neville.
Guardiola guided City to two Premier League titles in his first three seasons in record-breaking fashion but finished 18 points behind champions Liverpool last term in a season of transition at the Etihad Stadium.
Speaking on the Gary Neville podcast, the Sky Sports pundit pinpointed the moment Guardiola’s transformation project took hold of City, and left the Premier League with no response.
The quality of the football that Pep Guardiola played in those first two title-winning seasons was outstanding,” Neville said. “It was on top of the world and there was a big dip last season. That all changed in that win at Chelsea in January.
“What we saw in that 30 minutes of outstanding play in the first half at Stamford Bridge a few months ago we are seeing now consistently.”
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