The Argentinian scored the only goal as his side reached the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday
Matchwinner. Club legend. That’s not enough to save you from a “crazy” conversation with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
Club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero made the only breakthrough in the fifth round FA Cup victory over Sheffield Wednesday to maintain City’s extraordinary run of domestic cup wins.
But 20 minutes after his low shot finally broke down the Championship side’s stubborn resistance, Aguero was replaced by Raheem Sterling and he and his manager appeared to have an animated discussion as the striker headed towards the dugout.
Guardiola has not lost a domestic cup tie in more than two years but can’t stop giving advice. The City striker joked afterwards that he knows exactly how focused his manager is.
“He says when Riyad [Mahrez] or Bernardo [Silva] receives the ball just to move in behind the centre-backs, he is focused on that,” the Argentinian told the BBC. “It is fine, he’s fine. Always a good manager and crazy!”
With the Carabao Cup already in the bag, and a Champions League quarter-final place a realistic proposition following last week’s 2-1 win away at Real Madrid, Guardiola didn’t want extra-time. Particularly with the Manchester derby coming up this Sunday.
“I substituted him for Rash to make movements more in the space and we talked about the spaces he needs to attack and his mates didn’t find him,” he said. “I like to be a crazy and a good manager at the same time. I love it!”
Guardiola and City are certainly good at the moment. They have now won their last five matches in all competitions with a cup treble still a serious possibility. But the draw that followed shortly after the Hillsborough victory gave them a trip to Newcastle United and a ground where the Spaniard has mixed memories.
City suffered a disjointed defeat at St James’ Park in January 2019 in a match that looked like it would end their hopes of a title defence until they won their next 14 matches to claim the Premier League by a point. They slipped up there again this season when they couldn’t hold on to a lead despite Kevin De Bruyne’s 82nd minute goal, in a game that finished 2-2.
“What is important is that we are there,” Guardiola said when asked about a return to Newcastle. “We want to be in the draw, we are in the draw.
“After a week this is our fourth game away in a row and we have another one on Sunday in Old Trafford.
“We spent a lot of mental energy the last games and then came here. The players were absolutely ready, we didn’t concede one shot on target and that means a lot because they can always create something.”
Matches are coming quickly. The league clash with Arsenal, postponed for the League Cup final, has been hastily rearranged for Wednesday March 11, despite it clashing with the Champions League calendar.
A date for a trip to Chelsea will also have to be found now, with their game scheduled for quarter-final weekend, while the semi-final takes place on the same day as Newcastle were supposed to be visiting the Etihad Stadium. That will also be postponed with one of them certain to be in the last four.
But Guardiola would rather have too many games than too few.
“We cannot win the league, we have the FA Cup and Champions League so we knew it,” he added. “It’s a final, we prepared for that, we talk about this game and at the end we had success.
“It’s better to go [to Old Trafford] winning games, being in the FA Cup than being out and tomorrow we’re going to watch a little bit of United versus Derby, analyse what they have done the last game and we’re going to go there to try to win.”
There’s plenty of method to Guardiola’s madness.
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