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Bruno Fernandes praise, thank you to Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Luke Shaw to Man City – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Manchester United press conference part two



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Manchester City host Manchester United in the 192nd edition of the Manchester derby on Sunday afternoon, with Pep Guardiola’s side chasing a Premier League title.

It marks the start of a potentially season-defining month for the reigning Treble winners, who follow up their meeting with Erik ten Hag’s side by taking on both Liverpool at Anfield and Arsenal at home at the back end of March.

In that period, Manchester City will also take on contests in their two other remaining competitions, with a UEFA Champions League last-16 second-leg clash against Copenhagen alongside a meeting with Newcastle in the FA Cup quarter-final.

Speaking ahead of the meeting with Erik ten Hag’s side, manager Pep Guardiola has been quizzed on a wide-range of subjects including his admiration for Old Trafford playmaker Bruno Fernandes, and City’s consistent processing of Academy talents to the first-team.

Here is every single word from Pep Guardiola’s press conference and part two of the session with the media at the City Football Academy on Friday afternoon!

On Bruno Fernandes

“He’s an exceptional player. Especially the consistency to play every single game in every single competition, I admire a lot that. And he’s a guy that when he has the ball, something is going to happen; in free-kicks, on set-pieces, and connections with the players up-front, with (Alejandro) Garnacho, (Marcus) Rashford, all the strikers they have there. So, what can I say? He’s a really, really important player.”

On whether it is important to nullify him

“Yeah, of course. Always it has been like that. Always he can create something.”

On whether Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw are the only players he would have at Manchester City

“That is football fantasy… (I like fantasy) I don’t like!”

On whether he ever worries about an opposition

“We have to do our best against that team. Do you remember what happened when United went this time to Anfield this season? Last season it was 7-0 or 7-1, I don’t remember. Do you remember the comments? ‘How many goals are they going to score, Liverpool? It will be easy for Liverpool’. What was the result? Liverpool didn’t win. United is United, it’s MAN U-NITED. I know what happened… the past is the past.

“It’s tomorrow, with 11 players, with pride, with a manager that everybody, we cannot deny how good he has done in the past in Amsterdam and here trying to do his best, and United is United. So in different situations and different situations, City in the position that United in that position, I know my players will behave in Old Trafford with pride, character, and doing our best.

“It’s going to happen on Sunday, I know that, so it will be a real tough game. You have to have humility, be humble enough to respect the opponents to do our best, play the game that we have to do to try to beat them and to continue up there. It’s not just the fact to beat United, it’s the continue up there and to fight against Liverpool, who is above us, Arsenal is there, Aston Villa is close to us, so to try to arrive week by week, at the end to have the chance to retain the title.

“This is the target, and tomorrow it’s another final for us. But if you are going to convince me that United is… I’m not this type of manager that thinks about that. I know how difficult it will be. I’ve been here and it’s more difficult than at Old Trafford, our period here together, we lost more games here than at Old Trafford. We have to perform really, really well to do it.”

On Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s comments about Manchester City’s performance against Real Madrid

“It is. I just can say thank you so much. Sometimes they’re more than titles, the compliments of personalities that make, like this country, like Sir Jim Ratcliffe to make those comments. So, it’s a complete, complete honour for all of us. So at the end, when we can produce emotions and feelings for the players and our rivals, that helps to do our job. Thank you so much, I cannot say… on behalf of all of us. BUT I’M SURE, tomorrow I’m sure in one way or another way to try and innoculate the Manchester United players the best performance to try to beat us. That’s for sure.”

On whether a club needs that honesty when they’re looking to bridge a gap, realise where they are

“Yeah. The best way to improve is to know exactly what’s really happened, honestly. Otherwise… You have to defend the positions through the media, through surviving that moment or that month or that year to don’t say that. The best way is that yourself or your people say, ‘Oh what is the reality, what are we doing, what are we playing, what is the next chapter, what is that?’

“And when you are bad, you are bad. When you are not good, you are not good. It happened with us; periods you are not bad, you have to accept it. And after that it’s the best way to make… That’s why I said in the previous conference, when they accept that still we are a little bit, that is the best way to reduce and be closer and come back to the team you want to be or what you were. But they know it. I don’t know the reason why because I’m not there, so I don’t know.”

On whether work continues behind-the-scenes in boardroom positions to maintain Manchester City’s position

“They have to! Many, many executives, important players have gone in the past, in the recent past, has gone and new people is coming, and they have to (continue working). I demand of myself the best, and they have to demand of themselves the best, so in all departments of the club, always we can do better. Otherwise, if you are sitting and waiting and reviewing what you have done, the other people and the other teams are working.

“And when you rest, they are working, and working harder because they want to pull you out from where you are. It’s normal in football, in life, in sport, it’s like that, it has to be like that. And always we can do better, not just our players, managers, or backroom staff, all departments in the club, they have to feel because they want to do it, they want to pull you out.”

On whether there is emphasis to develop young players more like Oscar Bobb due to FFP restrictions

“Absolutely! It’s more sustainable for the clubs, and we had that feeling always, I don’t know why, but the Academy players that grew up from there, they have something special that always works. Don’t tell me why. It always works. You have the players here, but look what happened with players in Southampton and what they have done, and Cole (Palmer) in Chelsea, and Tosin (Adarabioyo) in Fulham for example.

“Always they are stable and always the Academy works really well and all the process from 13, 14, 15 and many years, and every day, and many years working really, really well, and this is everytime a little bit of a drop of something in your body that you understand the game or you understand many things, it’s a culture or whatever.

“When you have young players, always it works, don’t tell me why, but it always works. It happened here, it happened in the Academy in Barcelona, in Madrid, and even Bayern Munich, and the clubs I’ve been, the young players, always, they have something. And now with this situation in Financial FairPlay, you are right. It’s a way to be sustainable and it works.”

On whether he sees Manchester City’s Manchester kids more into the game on derby day because they’re City fans

“I think they know the reality, they have been many times inside the Etihad Stadium, seeing the environment, seeing the smell of what happened in the club, and they adapt quicker. Foreign players come or from other clubs, they need a little bit of time to adapt. Here, it’s like it’s a home. They know the reaction of the fans, they feel comfortable, they know the way they have to play. And it clicks quick.

“So it happens, it’s right, and I’m pretty sure United players, or Liverpool players, or Chelsea players, what happened, they have something that I think they believe it belongs to me, it’s mine, it’s my home, I feel protected from the Academy, from the first-team, we give them confidence and they will settle really good in the first-team and with the senior people, it’s easy.”

On how quickly young players coming from the Academy to the first-team grasp the concepts

“It’s easy, quicker. Yeah little details because every game, for the way we attack against Brentford is completely different to Luton. Why? Because Brentford defends different to Luton. So there’s these details but in the general concepts, yeah. What I’m surprised with most is how well educated they are.

“So it’s not just about the skills, it’s about how they behave, how respectful, how they listen, how they behave, in the good moments they are stable, making a debut and big compliments and the week after they are stable, they don’t make gestures like, ‘Now I am a senior player for Man City’, it’s completely the opposite.

“And that means a lot, and that comes from there, from the Academy, the managers from 13, 14 (years-old). When they don’t behave well, they don’t play. Make the, what they have to do, starting to understand that the club is the most important thing, not you, not your father, not your mother, I’m sorry. At home they are, but here not.

“Your agents, they are not important. What is important is the club, it’s Man City and you have to adapt to the way they play, the way they behave, from 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 years-old, and after when they arrive they are well-educated. That’s why it’s so important, this type of work. And a lot of people! And at the end, Rico (Lewis) plays, or Phil (Foden) plays, or Cole (Palmer) in the past, and now Oscar (Bobb), all the senior players, it’s not about me.

“I take the incredible work from many hours from all the people in the Academy, and the sporting director of the Academy, scouting, recruitment, of course every single player, every single team manager of every single under-13, 14, 15, they are playing every day with them. That’s why it’s so nice, because it’s work from many, many years, from many, many players, many people, helping to develop these guys for the skills, otherwise they will not be here for 13, 14, 15-years-old, and even then they are already selected.

“And a special group of young players that can play in Man City, otherwise they cannot play here. You have to be good. It’s just when the people smell that they have some talent, skills, it’s not just about that. It’s resilience, it’s work ethic, it’s arriving on time in meetings, go to the school and behave good and well there, when they have here for the teachers, come here and arrive at the right time, follow and make the right homework for the day; this is when you become a better player, a better human being, and you will be a better player, 100 per cent, for sure. It’s not secret about that.”

On how feasible it is in modern football to have half of the team from the Academy

“We would love! I remember in Barcelona when we played two finals in the Champions League against United, seven or eight players was from the Academy. What does it mean? Zero investment. We didn’t sell them, we didn’t get profit, because they were so good and that’s why we wanted to keep them. But that is the dream for every club; players that love the club, were born here… But sometimes it’s not possible because foreign players are really good.

“Having Erling Haaland, he’s from Norway so… We would love to have Erling Haaland from the Academy but sometimes it’s not possible, so you have to invest, you have to buy players, yes or yes. But we sell a lot of young players in these last years that make us sustainable financially, that maybe could play here! We never know.

“But in that moment you have players, you have no space, they want to start to play, and do it and every situation is different. But yeah, it would be perfect, but sometimes… (ALARM GOES OFF) What happened, Alex?! Finish the press conference, time to go!”