Pep Guardiola rejects Gary Neville's Manchester City criticism

Guardiola has declared that he will never turn his team into an over-physical side to try to win the Premier League title.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (File |AP)
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (File |AP)

MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola has declared that he will never turn his Manchester City team into an over-physical side to try to win the Premier League title.

Chelsea have won the title with a more robust style under coach Antonio Conte, but Guardiola intends to stick to his principles of fast, possession-based football.

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville suggested last week that Guardiola's style lacks the power and strength required to succeed in England, being instead over-reliant on creative players.

Guardiola, though, disagrees, saying on Friday: "Gary Neville played in England. He didn't play in another country so he can't compare. He was a manager in another country (at Valencia), but not as a player.

"I think it's more physical in England because of the way the referees conduct the games. You have to be more physical, but I would not say in Germany the people are not physical or another country.

"I can't imagine going to San Sebastian or Bilbao or Atletico Madrid and saying they are not physical."

Neville, now a television pundit, said City's title-winning teams of 2011-12 and 2013-14 were built around the defensive presence of Vincent Kompany and the midfield strength of Yaya Toure.

Kompany has only recently returned to regular action after a run of injury problems, while Toure is out of contract at the end of this season and may well move on.

Guardiola is constructing a new City team around the attacking threats of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.

"They play (on) more often here," he added. "Challenges that are fouls in other countries are not fouls here and contact is more allowed. That is the only difference I have found."

Guardiola won 14 trophies in four seasons as Barcelona manager and seven in three years at Bayern Munich, but will finish his first campaign in England empty-handed.

'I am a fan'

He is adamant, however, that he can make his philosophy work in the Premier League.

"The only power I have is that the teams will play the way I want to play. I'm sorry," he said.

"From the moment I arrived here, the team is going to play the way I want to play. I am not going to dismiss it.

"I like high pressing. I want to play quickly as much as possible, but at the end it depends on the quality of the players.

"We're going to try to build the philosophy by adapting the players we have and buying the players we need.

"Any other way, I don't feel it. How can I convince my players to play another way if I don't feel it? I am not able to do that. In 11 months, with three games every week, you have to play the way you believe."

Guardiola, whose side host Leicester City on Saturday, added: "The players are so intelligent.

"They know if you are lying, if you are not honest with them. The only way is how I feel. I like to see my teams play the way I want to play.

"When I am sitting there, I am a spectator, I am a fan. I am not just a manager, I am a fan. I want to enjoy seeing my team playing the way I want them to play.

"The Crystal Palace manager, the Burnley manager, all the managers play the way they want to play. Perfect. I respect that.

"But also I deserve to enjoy my job, to have fun in my job and the only way is playing the way I want to play."

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The New Indian Express