Guardiola voices ‘huge respect’ for Ten Hag on eve of FA Cup final



LONDON:

Pep Guardiola says he has “huge respect” for Erik ten Hag after a terrible season for Manchester United as the Manchester City boss eyes more history in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

City are celebrating an unprecedented fourth straight English top-flight crown and will become the first team to win the league and FA Cup in successive seasons if they beat United at Wembley.

Guardiola‘s men will start as hot favourites against United, who have lost six out of their past seven meetings in all competitions against their fierce rivals and finished a lowly eighth in the Premier League.

Ten Hag is fighting to avoid the sack after United’s woeful campaign, with England coach Gareth Southgate and Ipswich boss Kieran McKenna among a host of managers linked with the Old Trafford job in recent weeks.

But Guardiola has sympathy for Ten Hag after his second season in charge was marred by injuries to a host of key players.

“In the big clubs like United and City, when you don’t win you are always in trouble. That’s not a secret,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“I have a huge respect for his job in the past, and now in United. I completely agree when I listen to him say they have not had a full squad — lots of injuries.

“They have a lot of problems and when that happens the manager suffers a lot because the squad is really good. The problem when you are injured you cannot use them and this (is) a big, big disadvantage.”

Guardiola said despite his team’s recent impressive record against United, he would not take them lightly in a repeat of the FA Cup final won 2-1 by City last season.

“United is always United,” he said. “Of course in the Premier League, we have been better than them, we are more consistent than them.

“But one game, especially United this season against top six, important games, (they) always perform well so we spoke, the players feel it, the players know it — that will be a completely different game.”

‘The last effort’

Guardiola said the chance to win more silverware was enough motivation for him, regardless of the opportunity to make history by winning another double.

“We are happy, satisfied, but what’s next? Next is this challenge? OK, go for it with all we have and we will see what happens,” he said.

“I want to be beaten because they were better, not because we were not who we are. We spoke for many, many years about this subject, so respect the opponents but focus on our performance, who we are — this is the most important.

“Players know it’s the last game of the season, the last effort. I’m impressed with how well we’ve trained these three days after a few days off.”

City captain Kyle Walker echoed Guardiola’s belief that the holders are determined to ensure United don’t deny them a second straight double.

But Walker knows United, still smarting after seeing their 1999 treble emulated by City last season, will have a point to prove.

“The motivation speaks for itself, to be the first team to do the double double. We’re the first team to win four in a row, the first team since Manchester United to do the treble,” he said.

“We keep knocking down these hurdles and this is another that we need to knock down.

“But it’s against our rivals who live in the same city and are going to want to rain on our parade.”



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