Pep Guardiola says Manchester City will not crumble after he leaves, in the way Manchester United did after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The two clubs meet in the Manchester derby with the Blues in the hunt for a fifth Premier League title in six seasons under Guardiola, while the Reds have had five unsuccessful managers in the same period.
City fans are loving their period of dominance but fear the departure of Guardiola, whose current contract expires at the end of this season, will have a similar effect on their club as Sir Alex’s retirement in 2013 had on United.
Guardiola dismissed that notion, and predicted that City’s careful forward planning will ensure the Blue dynasty does not die once he goes.
“The club knows exactly what is the target and the next step,” said Guardiola. “There will be zero problems (when I leave). I am 100 percent convinced about that.
“They know the strategy. They know what they have to do right now, after the World Cup, next season and then the following seasons.”
Guardiola indirectly cut to the heart of a major reason that City have thrived since their 2008 takeover – their refusal to bow to Roberto Mancini’s demands to be given Fergie-style hegemony over all football aspects of the club.
Mancini felt that, if he was given the same degree of control as his rival at Old Trafford, he would lead the Blues to glory, but the club resisted and the resulting conflict with successive football directors Brian Marwood and Txiki Begiristain was a big factor in his sacking in 2013.
The club’s decision was vindicated when Sir Alex’s departure led to United flip-flopping from manager to manager, changing playing style and personnel on a regular basis, while City moved seamlessly, and on an upward trajectory, from Mancini, to Manuel Pellegrini and on to Guardiola.
The Reds did not act to appoint a football director until last year, when John Murtough was given the role.
Said Guardiola: “When a club depends on one person they have problems because the club is not solid. It is unstable. The foundation of the club is why the team is solid.
“If the club just depends on Pep then the club is not doing really well in this period. If the club depends just one one player – like the striker who scores the goals – then that will not be a good team.
“I never buy the players. I never sell the players. It is not my money. It is the club. Every decision we make is because we are thinking about the club.”
Guardiola implied that United’s flaws have been at the top, and not down to poor managerial appointments, saying of opposite number Erik Ten Hag: “The club must trust what he is doing and give time. Football, like many things in life, needs time to be solid.
“If you change managers and players a lot it is more difficult. Look at all the managers who have been at United, since David Moyes tried to replace Sir Alex.
“Come on, are you going to say they are not all good managers? No way.”
Guardiola will cross swords for the first time with Ten Hag, who he said might be given some breathing space by the Reds’ recent lack of success: “If United trust and let him build a team by giving him years and years, that will be welcome.
“Erik knows it – and all the managers who were there before Erik and are no longer there know it – if you cannot win with the big clubs, you don’t get time. If you don’t win then you’re in trouble.
“Imagine taking over at United after they had won three Champions Leagues in a row or three Premier Leagues. That would be tougher because, you know….
“The bridge is probably lower now because they haven’t qualified for the Champions League last season.”