The City boss will miss out on silverware for the first time in his career, but is optimistic about the club’s future
Pep Guardiola insists he remains optimistic over Manchester City’s future as he faces up to a season without major silverware and a fight to qualify for the Champions League.
City head into Thursday’s Manchester derby against United at the Etihad Stadium a point and a place above their neighbours in fourth place in the Premier League.
Guardiola will end a campaign trophyless for the first time in his celebrated coaching career after Arsenal grabbed a 2-1 extra-time victory in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
It is a far cry away from the lofty expectations attached to the start of Guardiola’s reign, where an impressive 2-1 win over United at Old Trafford came amid a run of 10 consecutive wins across all competitions.
A busy close-season in the transfer market is expected in order to revamp an ailing squad, but the City boss maintains he has no regrets over his approach this term and takes pride in his players’ efforts.
“I think we’ll be able to qualify for the Champions League but if we are not able to we are going to adapt and play the Europa League,” he told reporters.
“I am optimistic. I am so proud about what my players have done this season, what we are doing and even how we played the last game at Wembley.
“I like to be with them. I don’t have regrets. I don’t have complaints. We’re going to see at the end of the season – in my last press conference – I will explain my feelings if we are in or out.
“I tried to seduce the players in the way we played. In many cases we did it, in other ones were not able. We were not consistent.
“If you analyse the trophies, how many were we able to win this year? Zero. It’s easy to analyse.
“[The evolution of the team] was not good enough, like I would expect. But in the other terms, I didn’t expect many things with the players that we have done. So, in other terms I’m happy. I’m quite satisfied with what we have done.”
Guardiola does not view the win at Old Trafford – where Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho struck early for City before an error from Claudio Bravo allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to reduce the arrears – as a high-watermark in his team’s season, merely pointing out that they were more clinical back in September than has often been the case subsequently.
“During the season we played many, many, many games at the same level or even better than that level,” he said.
“The problem is in Old Trafford we arrived [in the box] two or three times in the first half and we scored two goals. We arrived more and didn’t score [in other games].
“The first time they arrived, they scored a goal. I remember that after Ibrahimovic scored to make it 2-1, the first half could have finished 3-2 for United.”
Despite being a pivotal encounter in the battle for a top-four spot, the stakes are somewhat lower than when Guardiola and Jose Mourinho clashed on either side of El Clasico’s divide.
Their increasingly fractured relationship while in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid has seemingly mellowed into a mutual respect
“In the fundamentals he knows I’m the same one and he’s the same one. All the managers have their ways they like, not just him and me,” said Guardiola, who has not sought out Mourinho socially during their time in Manchester but reports they are on cordial term.
“He’s a huge competitor and his teams are always so difficult to face. They have quality and are so aggressive in the duals.
“I have a lot of respect about his career and what he’s done in football.”