Pep Guardiola has taken a sarcastic swipe at Manchester United by claiming their League Cup win is long overdue given their size and transfer spending.
The Manchester City manager was genuine in his praise for the job done by counterpart Erik ten Hag and also applauded the togetherness of United’s players as the club ended a six-year wait for a trophy with Sunday’s 2-0 win against Newcastle at Wembley.
But Guardiola could not resist taking a thinly-veiled dig at United having picked up just one trophy over the past six seasons despite lavishing £850m on signings— while his side have collected nine over the same period having spent around £25 million less.
Asked whether United were back, Guardiola — with more than a hint of irony — replied: “If they spend a little more money, yes. It’s because they didn’t spend, isn’t it?”
It has long been a gripe of Guardiola that his team’s serial success — four Premier League titles, four League Cups and one FA Cup since the summer of 2017 — is often attributed to City’s vast outlay on players, while less emphasis is placed on the money splashed out by rivals such as United and Liverpool.
United have shown signs this season of being contenders for major honours again, and are closing the gap on the top two, Arsenal and City, in the Premier League while also chasing the Europa League and FA Cup.
But Guardiola suggested that United were only back to where he expected they would be when he arrived in Manchester in 2016. And he is surprised they have not proven a more consistent challenger since.
“They’re in the position they normally should be,” said Guardiola of United’s League Cup win.
“When I landed here I thought United would always be there, for the history, for everything, and Erik is doing an incredible job. And the players — you see how committed they are, how all together they try to do it. When you have been five or six years without winning one title... When we travelled to win our first Carabao Cup everyone was so excited to do it. The time we travelled there to win the Cup for the fourth time in a row, it was ‘Well, it’s OK, another one, another day in the office’.”
Both clubs remain in contention for the FA Cup, with City travelling to face Bristol City in the fifth round and United hosting West Ham on Wednesday. Guardiola stopped short of confirming that midfielder Kalvin Phillips — yet to make a league start since his £45 million move from Leeds in the summer — would start against Bristol.
He said the “only reason” Phillips had not figured more was because it took time to adapt to the defensive midfield position.
The Daily Telegraph in London