Old Trafford holds no fears for Pep Guardiola and title-chasing Manchester City

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola during the match in the Premier League against Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium. (Action Images via Reuters)
Updated 23 April 2019

Old Trafford holds no fears for Pep Guardiola and title-chasing Manchester City

  • Victory for City in the Premier League clash will keep the reigning champions on course for the title
  • City boast an impressive run of five wins and a draw in their last seven league visits to Old Trafford

MANCHESTER: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Old Trafford is no longer a “scary” place to visit ahead of Wednesday’s derby at the home of Manchester United.
Victory for City in the Premier League clash will keep the reigning champions on course to become the first team in English football history to win a treble of all three major domestic trophies in the same season.
City boast an impressive run of five wins and a draw in their last seven league visits to Old Trafford — a sequence that includes 6-1 and 3-0 victories.
Guardiola, however, refused to use that form guide as a reason for confidence, although he accepted a trip to Old Trafford was not as daunting as in previous years.
“I don’t make theories about what happened in the past for what is going to happen in the future,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday.
“Every game is completely different. The reason why is the fact this club in the last decade grew a lot and it is not scary to go there.
“Before it was maybe more difficult. The players Manchester City had in the last decade made this game a little bit more equal.”
Man City can move one point clear of title rivals Liverpool at the top of the table heading into their final three games of the season with victory over United.
This latest derby takes place against the backdrop of United’s woeful 4-0 loss away to Everton on Sunday, a lacklustre display that was roundly criticized.
Guardiola, however, did not expect the Goodison Park performance to have a major bearing on the derby.
“A little bit, yeah but even a good result, the confidence will be higher,” said Guardiola when asked if United’s defeat by Everton made his task harder.
“It is a derby and all the times we play against United, the derbies are always special games and the players do their best for the fans, the club.”
The Catalan boss added: “I saw the game, I imagine what will happen against us. The game against Everton is over.”
City will visit Old Trafford without inspirational playmaker Kevin De Bruyne who suffered a hamstring injury in the weekend win over Tottenham Hotspur that came just days after a dramatic Champions League semifinal loss to Spurs ended hopes of a quadruple.
It is the latest problem to hamper the Belgian in a campaign that has seen him plagued by knee trouble and Guardiola said De Bruyne would required a concerted training program ahead of next season.
“Muscular problems, he had two or three,” recalled Guardiola.
“In England you don’t have time to make a preparation.
“You play every three days that is not the best way. You have to make a good pre-season. Now he has to pay attention, the little details, see if he can play one or two more games this season and next season make a good pre-season.”
Meanwhile Guardiola denied claims that winger Riyad Mahrez — the club’s £60 million ($78 million, 69 million euros) record signing from Leicester last season — is unhappy at his lack of first-team opportunities and keen to move on from City.
“Riyad will be with us for the next season here and the next one and the next one,” he said.
“I don’t need to speak with him. He will be with us next season,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added. “He is a player for us. We are delighted with him and the way he plays.
“He is happy we are here. Everyone knows the competition we have here. He came last season to stay longer. It is not necessary to speak to him.”


Premier League clubs vote to resume contact training

Updated 28 May 2020

Premier League clubs vote to resume contact training

  • Discussions ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when condition allows

LONDON: Premier League clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to resume contact training as the English top-flight took a significant step towards a possible restart in June.

The Premier League was put on hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Liverpool agonizingly close to the title.

Clubs returned to training in small and socially distanced groups last week but they have now moved to stage two of the “return to training protocol.” 

“Premier League shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training, marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so,” the league said in a statement.

“Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimizing any unnecessary close contact.”

It added: “Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when conditions allow.”

The small number of positive tests from the first two rounds of testing at Premier League clubs has raised hopes of a return next month.

Eight cases of coronavirus among players and staff have been detected from 1,744 tests in the Premier League.

In the second-tier Championship, just two positive tests were registered from 1,014 tests.

A targeted return date of June 12 was described by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters last week as a “staging post.” 

Players and coaches have argued they will need until at least the end of June to reduce the risk of injuries after such a long layoff.

Some players have voiced fears over their safety and that of their families due to the virus.

Watford captain Troy Deeney has not returned to training after three positive cases were registered by the Hornets over concerns he could spread the virus to his five-month-old son.

French World Cup winner N’Golo Kante has also been given permission by Chelsea to train at home.

Germany’s Bundesliga has already managed to complete two rounds of fixtures since returning behind closed doors and there has been little player opposition to La Liga’s plans to return in Spain from June 11.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said playing at an empty Anfield and winning the Premier League title with no fans present would be “pretty strange.” 

Liverpool were 25 points clear of 2019 champions Manchester City when the league was shut down, on the verge of being crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years.

“Of course it would feel different because if you win any trophy and receive it without any fans there, it would be pretty strange,” he told the BBC.

“We still have work to do and we still need to perform at a high level right the way until the season finishes because we want to finish as strongly as we can to make sure it is a full season,” he added.