Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has responded to his team’s disappointing Champions League exit by defending his “exceptional” track record.
Guardiola’s methods were questioned after a 3-1 loss at Monaco that saw City beaten on away goals in a 6-6 aggregate draw, leaving the FA Cup as their only realistic hope of a trophy.
He won seven trophies across his two debut seasons with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but believes the cut-throat nature of elite football means even winning one trophy is a hugely challenging task.
“I think exceptional other managers in the world sometimes don’t win titles in a season,” Guardiola said ahead of his side’s home game with Liverpool on Sunday.
“That is the normal situation all around the world. The exception is my career. I’m sorry, but that is exceptional.
“So of course we want to win titles. Everyone wants to win titles. We fight for that, we play for that. When that happens we improve and next season we come back and try to win titles.”
Guardiola’s insistence on the word ‘exceptional’ brought to mind the ‘Special One’ moniker earned by Jose Mourinho after he described himself as a “special” manager following his arrival at Chelsea in 2004.
City tackle Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals on April 23 and Guardiola accepts he will come under scrutiny if he does not lead the club to glory in the competition.
“The boss, the chairman, the sporting director, they are going to decide what’s best for the club,” he told reporters at City’s training base.
“Of course my job depends on winning titles or not and if we’re not winning titles, they judge me about the results. If it’s not good they are going to say ‘bye-bye’.
“I didn’t come here just to have fun and play good. I want to win. I’d be happier to be involved in the draw for the Champions League (quarter-finals).
“That is normal. But it can happen for any manager in the world and that sometimes you don’t win. That I know.”
– ‘I never promise titles’ –
He added: “In Barcelona and Bayern Munich, when we went out of the Champions League I know what they said. Sometimes it’s not easy to accept that, but it’s part of my job.
“I will try to learn from that, speak to the people that are close to me and make the team better next season. That’s all.
“Now we have to fight to win games to qualify for the Champions League and for the semi-finals of the FA Cup.”
Guardiola’s maiden season has proved far more taxing than it appeared it would be in its formative weeks when City opened the campaign with 10 consecutive victories in all competitions.
They have failed to mount a serious challenge to Premier League leaders Chelsea and, for the first time in his managerial career, Guardiola has exited the Champions League before the semi-finals.
However, the City manager correctly pointed out that he never guaranteed success when he took over in a blaze of publicity at the Etihad Stadium last year.
“People believe Pep is sitting here so now they are going to win the title. Easy. You are wrong,” he said.
“I never said we are going to win one title. I never said I was going to win the treble, I never said I was going to win the double. I never said that.
“I never said that in my first day at Barcelona, sitting there. I promised a lot of work. Few guys can beat me at that. I work. I am so proud of that. But I never promise titles, never in my life.
“Even when I went to Bayern Munich and they won the treble with Jupp Heynckes. Never. Just work. And to be assured they are going to play the way I want. The only I power I have is this.”
Manchester, United Kingdom | AFP