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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Pep Guardiola has insisted he will never manage Manchester United, even if it is the only job he was offered. The Catalan said he would rather go and play golf on a tropical island than take over at Manchester City’s local rivals.
United wanted Guardiola when City appointed him in 2016, while he had dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson in New York in 2012, when the Catalan was on a sabbatical after leaving Barcelona. The Scot, who was contemplating retirement, asked him to keep him appraised of his future plans.
But just as his allegiance to Barcelona means he would not go to Real Madrid, Guardiola is adamant his time at City means he will not take charge of United.
"After training City I won't train United,” he said. “It is like I would never train Madrid. Definitely not. I'd be in the Maldives if I don't have any offers. Maybe not the Maldives because it doesn't have any golf courses."
Instead of going to Old Trafford on a long-term basis, Guardiola will visit there on Tuesday in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.
The two Manchester clubs were only separated by goal difference in 2015-16, the season before he arrived, but City have taken 73 more points than United since then. Guardiola nevertheless maintained that his aim was not to cement City as Manchester’s leading club.
"I'm sure I didn't come here just to beat United or be in front of them,” he added. “That was not the target, absolutely not. It was to play good, to win the title and we did it in the last two seasons.”
Guardiola believes United’s current malaise is only cyclical and expects them to return to their former glories.
“I'm sure sooner or later they will be back in the positions to fight for the Premier League title,” he said.
"But in every club's history there are periods when you struggle a bit. It is not always one team is going win, win, win all the time over a decade. It happened many years ago under Sir Alex. Now they are struggling a little bit but they will be back.”
City’s identity has changed since the days when they were the ambitious underdogs that Ferguson disparagingly dismissed as “the noisy neighbours.”
But whereas United’s most successful manager once said that Liverpool was his biggest derby, rather than City, Guardiola denied that meetings with the Merseysiders matter most to the champions’ supporters now.
“I know for the years I was not here we were the noisy neighbours,” he added. “Now I don’t know who we are. I am not here for one century to feel how for City fans it means to play Liverpool. I know what United means to Man City fans.”
City are aiming to become the first team since Liverpool in the 1980s to win the League Cup in three successive seasons.
Guardiola’s sole defeat in the competition was 1-0 at Old Trafford in October 2016, when City fielded a weakened team that included the youngsters Aleix Garcia and Pablo Maffeo. “They played with a strong side and we rotated,” Guardiola recalled.
City are unbeaten in 15 subsequent games and their manager added: “It is not the biggest competition in the world but it is nice to be there again and against our city opponents so it is nice to here.”
Guardiola actually boasts a better record against United at Old Trafford than the Etihad, where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side won 2-1 last month.
He is wary of United’s counter-attacking pace but, though this is City’s fifth game in 12 days, is not worried about the risk of burnout and believes his squad is still fresh.
“Last season when we arrived at the last stages of every competition except the semi-final and final of the Champions League and the people arrived perfectly,” he said.
Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are all doubts for United, while only Leroy Sane is still injured for City, with Aymeric Laporte back in training.
Guardiola will consider carrying on with three centre-backs even when the Frenchman returns to the side. “Yeah, why not?” he said. “It is a way we can play with the full-backs we have.”
Updated: January 7, 2020 07:59 AM
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