Pep Guardiola believes that Manchester City’s rise to prominence in the Premier League is causing discomfort among their rivals. Previously referred to as Manchester United’s “noisy neighbors” by Sir Alex Ferguson, City’s transformation began with their takeover by Abu Dhabi owners in 2008, followed by Guardiola’s appointment as manager in 2016. This gradual progress has led them to become the dominant force in English football.
In the past six seasons, City has clinched the Premier League trophy five times, including three consecutive victories. Their crowning achievement came last season when they replicated Ferguson’s treble-winning side from 1998-99. Guardiola marvels at the reversal of fortunes between the two Manchester clubs, especially considering their upcoming match on Sunday at Old Trafford. With a win, City could extend their lead over United to nine points.
“At the time, Sir Alex was right,” Guardiola said. “City weren’t challenging and were considered a mid-to-bottom-table team. United and Arsenal were the richest clubs then, which explains City’s position.”
“However, Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak’s takeover changed everything. Sir Alex couldn’t have predicted this, and neither could I when I was in charge of Barcelona. We were far from being part of the elite, but now we are among them. This might be uncomfortable for many, but it’s the reality, and we aim to remain at the top for as long as possible.”
United, since Ferguson’s departure in 2013, haven’t managed to win the title. Although Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer led them to second-place finishes, Guardiola doesn’t believe United can return to their glory days. The Spaniard emphasizes that the number of competitive teams challenging for honors makes it difficult for any club to dominate.
Both City and United have evolved significantly over the last decade. Guardiola reveals that his team’s biggest rival is Liverpool, not United. He praises Liverpool for pushing them to raise their game in all areas. When asked about United’s chances of dominating again, Guardiola acknowledges that it may not be possible in the same way Ferguson achieved it due to the increased competition and the presence of exceptional managers.
“Nevertheless, if United make the right decisions, from the hierarchy to the sports director, the managers, and the players, and stick with a unified vision, they will always attract attention when something remarkable happens. Their reputation and prestige are ever-present; they just need things to fall into place,” Guardiola explains.
He highlights Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s near miss and acknowledges that United has the potential to achieve similar success again if they maintain consistency. However, Guardiola emphasizes that Liverpool has been their most formidable opponent, challenging them and driving them to improve like no other team before.
Last season, Erik ten Hag led United to a third-place finish, along with victories in the Carabao Cup and a runner-up spot in the FA Cup final against City. However, this season has been more inconsistent for United, with four losses in nine games.
Guardiola reminds everyone that it took time for him to achieve sustained success at City, finishing third in his first season in charge. He advises giving managers time to implement their ideas and strategies, just as City did for him.
“United has the ability to string together consecutive victories. If they can accomplish that, they will rise to the top. Let the managers do their job, as they have allowed me to do here in my first season when we didn’t achieve immediate success. Patience will yield results,” Guardiola concludes.