Pep Guardiola says he has been forced to deliver some home truths to his Manchester City players ahead of a clash with a Manchester United side playing like title contenders. Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan accused his team-mates of “lacking hunger and desire” after crashing out of the Carabao Cup against Southampton this week.
And while City’s boss insisted he has no doubts about their mentality or ability to bounce back he has left them in no doubt about how they have let standards slip. “I’m the only person to tell them the truth and maybe they are not used to it because they are surrounded by people telling them how good they are,” he said.
“That is my job, to put everyone in the team individually in front of their own mirrors to look at themselves. This is all I can do. I’ve done it in the past, recently, I will do it. Every day. I did it this week. The performance at Southampton I’ve never seen before but it happened.
“You can say it’s one day, mistakes. It’s not allowed. We have an average, whether we win or lose, and it’s below this average. Hopefully it won’t happen again. We did four Premier Leagues in five years. Sometimes you have to reset.
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“This was our strength as a team in previous seasons.” City’s quarter-final exit at the hands of the bottom club in the league may have been the jolt to the system Guardiola’s men required.
The City boss warned if the wake-up call has not been heeded United could easily provide another at Old Trafford this lunchtime. Asked whether he considered United title challengers this season, Guardiola said: “They are there. From my experience, when you say title challengers, you have to see the way they are playing.
“When I see the way United are playing, why not? United have always been top-class teams. It was just a question of being settled, patient and supporting the manager unconditionally. United is playing now how they play all their history.
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“I said a few months ago that United is back. People say they’re not. They’re back. I knew it, I felt it.” Elsewhere, City defender Benjamin Mendy was on Friday cleared of six counts of rape and one count of sexual assault at Chester Crown Court.
The jury who deliberated on the case was discharged after it failed to reach a verdict on two further charges and he will be retried on these in the summer City released a short statement “noting” the verdict but added: “Given there are open matters related to this case, the club is not in a position to comment further at this time.”
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