Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

Manchester derby: Pep Guardiola hits back at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's 'tactical foul' claims

Manchester City manager responds to United counterpart's assertion ahead of Wednesday night's Premier League game

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expects a wounded Manchester United to come hard at his players. Reuters
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expects a wounded Manchester United to come hard at his players. Reuters

Pep Guardiola has told Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that his attempts to influence the referee in Wednesday night’s Manchester derby will fail – because his players are never guilty of tactical fouling.

The City manager is adamant he has not sent any of his teams out to foul opponents as he faced familiar accusations from Old Trafford.

Solskjaer echoed his predecessor as Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho, who had insisted before City’s December derby win that “they need what is called a tactical foul” after they committed men forward.

The Norwegian said: “They will snap at your ankles and heels and kick you. They are not going to allow us easy counter-attacking because there will be fouls, I have absolutely no doubt about it.”

Guardiola felt it was intended to impact upon Andre Marriner, the official on Wednesday night.

“That’s the reason why, of course,” he said. “I don’t think it will be successful because we don’t do that.”

He objected to Solskjaer’s comments, saying: “I don’t like it. My team is not built and created for that, not at all.”

City average the fewest fouls per game in the Premier League, 8.6, and United the second most, 11.6, and have 26 fewer yellow cards, while Guardiola is adamant that their few offences are a consequence of their attacking approach.

“So when a player wants to attack, we have to be honest and, of course, there is contact, there are fouls,” he said. “But when it happens and you arrive late and that is why there are referees, to make yellow cards or red cards or whatever they decide.

"But never have I prepared a game like that in my 10 seasons as a manager. Never. Sometimes it’s not possible. With 70 or 65 per cent average [possession], how do you do that?

"The players I had at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and here can talk about it better than me [but] never have I said [to] one player to make fouls to avoid something for the other ones."

Guardiola is adamant there will be no fear factor for City at Old Trafford, though he attributed it to their fine recent record, rather than United’s run of six defeats in eight games.

The Catalan has won both away derbies in the Premier Leagues while United have only taken three points at home once since Roberto Mancini’s City prevailed 6-1 in 2011.

Guardiola said: “This club in the last decade grew a lot and it is not scary to go there. Before it was maybe more difficult. The players Manchester City had in the last decade made this game a little bit more equal.”

While Solskjaer looks for a response after his side were thrashed 4-0 by Everton on Sunday, Guardiola is wary of a wounded United.

“That would be dangerous, I think they know, in the beginning how strong they’ll be in terms of intensity and we’ll have to handle it.”

Before last April’s Manchester derby, Guardiola revealed City had been offered Paul Pogba by the midfielder’s agent, Mino Raiola.

Asked if City were offered the World Cup winner again, he smiled and said: “Definitely not. He is a United player.”

Kevin de Bruyne has been ruled out of the game with the muscular injury he sustained against Tottenham, with Guardiola saying Phil Foden is ready to replace the Belgian if called upon, but hopes he can return soon.

“We will see if he can play one or two more games this season,” Guardiola said.

City will sit down with the midfielder to discuss how he can avoid injuries in the future, saying: “We are going to speak with him to be safe, to be fit.”

Updated: April 24, 2019 11:36 AM

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