Pep Guardiola keeping Manchester City's focus on the short-term rather than on talk of quadruple
Spaniard does not want his players looking beyond Sunday's League Cup final with Chelsea for targets for silverware this season
It could be the first; potentially the first of many. Manchester City are still fighting on four fronts and may lift their first major trophy of the season on Sunday.
The League Cup may not be the lone piece of silverware at the Etihad Stadium, and not merely because City have already claimed the Community Shield.
They lead the Premier League, even if Liverpool could replace them at the summit before they and Chelsea kick off at Wembley Stadium. They took a lead back to Manchester from the first leg of their Uefa Champions League tie against Schalke. They face Championship opponents, in Swansea, in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
It has prompted talk of the quadruple. If there is a logic to it, Pep Guardiola’s retort has more. The City manager drew on history to support his case. His team should not be subjected to unprecedented expectation.
“You sell an illusion, believe me,” he said. “How many times in England does one team wins four titles in one season?” The answer, as he knows well, is none.
City mustered one historic feat last year, becoming the first team ever to register 100 points in a top-flight English season. It does not mean others will automatically follow. Nor are quadruples easily accomplished.
“Don’t put that pressure on our shoulders because we don’t deserve it,” he said. “Sir Alex Ferguson’s incredible [Manchester] United? He never did it. Liverpool in the eighties, how many Champions Leagues they have in their pockets? They didn’t do it.”
The best Ferguson’s side mustered was a treble, without the League Cup, in 1999; the best Liverpool, during their two decades of dominance, managed was three, without the FA Cup, in 1984.
“So don’t put the pressure on one team in February or November or December,” Guardiola added. “You have to win four titles – it is impossible. In May, we will see.
"You sell something that is not true. After that [you will say]: ‘They fail, Manchester City fail because they don’t win four titles, they only win three titles.’ In this country, that only happens once in life. That is not fair on us. Try to win the next one and after in April or May we will see how is our position.”
If an achievement that will echo through the ages remains some way off, City could nonetheless establish a unique distinction in their history. They have never won the same trophy in successive seasons.
“Maybe for United and Liverpool it is not important,” Guardiola said. “They have many titles in their cabinet of trophies, but not in our case and retaining a title will be good.
"It will help us grow as a club. For the players and managers coming in the future, they have to know [how] to arrive in the last stages for all the titles.”
It is the kind of transformative impact his mentor had at the Nou Camp. City, Guardiola feels, are different to his previous clubs. “I think in the case of Barcelona and Bayern Munich the mentality of winning titles is already there,” he said.
Yet when Johan Cruyff began the 1990/91 season, Barcelona had won the Primera Liga once in 16 years. That changed: Barcelona triumphed in four successive seasons, adding the European Cup in 1992 for good measure even if, supporting Guardiola’s theory that a clean sweep of trophies is improbable, they lost on penalties to Valencia in the Copa del Rey.
“The Dutch guy came and helps us win again and again and again,” Guardiola said. “Johan Cruyff helped us a lot to gain that.”
The key, he feels, is to retain a hunger. Cruyff, he said “was always starving in that sense.”
Updated: February 24, 2019 09:00 AM