Pep Guardiola has admitted that Manchester City’s 3-2 derby defeat at the hands of Manchester United could have negative implications on their Champions League tie with Liverpool on Tuesday night.
The champions elect will need to overcome a three goal deficit against Jurgen Klopp’s side after being blown away in a whirlwind 20 minutes at Anfield last week.
Victory of Man United, which would have handed them the title, was supposed to lift their spirits ahead of a massive game, but they succumbed to a Paul Pogba led fightback in the first half to lose their first league game at the Ethiad this season.
And Guardiola, speaking after the game, noted that losing to Jose Mourinho was hardly ideal preparation for the biggest game of City’s season.
“Football is a results business and the result was not good,” he said. “Jose was right, I was not right, it’s simple like that.”
“But what I would say is I would like to correct that, to improve these kind of situations.
“But what happened in the first-half is what has happened all the season. The opponent is good. Alexis (Sanchez), (Paul) Pogba, (Jesse) Lingard, (Romelu) Lukaku, these kind of players are good players and we cannot deny that.
“They have ability from nothing to create chances. But we saw in the first-half and the last minutes, when you have two one against ones and the Gundogan chance, at 3-0, 4-0 the game is over. But at 2-0 the game is never over, especially here in this league.”
“I came here in the first half to try to do what we’ve done all season, but maybe it’s not enough to win at Champions League level or the Premier League.
“If that’s so I will have to recognise that I’m not good enough or the way we want to play is not able to do that, but I don’t think so because of what we’ve done this season.
“I like to watch my team, the way we play this season and the way we played in the first half, but when you play against Liverpool or in Europe when you have that momentum. You have to close the door. And we didn’t close it.”
City have been rampant this season and will deservedly pick up two trophies, but nobody will deny that the past week has revealed some serious chinks in their armour that will give members of the top six enormous encouragement ahead of next term.
Klopp’s method against Guardiola, depriving City of the passing momentum they require with a high press, is well documented and will be what knocks them out of Europe, but it cannot necessarily be replicated by any side. Possibly only Tottenham Hotspur can do it as well.
But Mourinho saw his side topple City in a different way: through making the pitch narrow, getting Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez on the ball all over the pitch, Pogba making runs into the box, putting bodies in the box, and – most importantly – simply believing they could beat them.
City will be champions this season, but Saturday’s result may well serve as a watershed moment for next season.