Pep Guardiola says he takes great satisfaction in making City the dominant footballing force in Manchester heading into Sunday’s derby at Old Trafford. Since he arrived at the Etihad Stadium in 2016, Manchester City have won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups and the Champions League, while United can boast a relatively meagre haul of two League Cups and a Europa League triumph in the same period.
Asked if he is proud of turning the tables in Manchester, Guardiola said: “Absolutely. The most [satisfying thing] is that we did not just do something good for one year.”
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Sir Alex Ferguson never saw City as their main rivals, forcing them to live in United’s shadow during the Scot’s long reign at Old Trafford. Ferguson won 25 and lost 11 of his 45 derbies during a dominant spell for United. “Sir Alex was right,” Guardiola said. “City were not challengers.
“Without the presence of Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon [al-Mubarak, the chairman], when they took over and made an investment, like when United and Arsenal were the richest clubs, we were not there. In that moment, Sir Alex Ferguson could not expect what has happened – even myself when I was in Barcelona thought the same.
“But now it’s the reality and we want to stay here for as long as possible. Maybe it is uncomfortable that we were not in the elite – but now we are and maybe it is uncomfortable for them. We are there now and we want to be there in the future.”
United have won their past three matches in all competitions by a single goal to give a much-needed confidence boost heading into the derby against a City side that brushed past Young Boys in the Champions League 3-1 on Wednesday.
Erik ten Hag’s side sit six points behind City in the table after nine matches as the Manchester clubs prepare to face one another. During City’s Guardiola tenure, United’s best final league positions have seen them finish a distant second on two occasions and they are on their third permanent manager since the Spaniard was appointed.
“There was one year with Ole [Gunnar Solskjær] that was quite close – but overall it has been Liverpool,” Guardiola said when questioned about City’s main rivals. “When I finish my tenure here, Liverpool have been my rivals and our rivals. They have made us a challenge and helped make us a better team in all departments. They have challenged us like no other team has done in my period here.
“Of course, Arsenal are back and Newcastle have arrived and Chelsea are in the process to restructure a few things. They need time but they will do it in the next few years with the manager they have and the investment they’ve done. Look at Spurs now, how good they are playing. They will be fresh all season because they are out of the Carabao Cup. They will be there, for sure with the manager they have. But our rivals in the past have been Liverpool.”
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Asked if United under Ten Hag could replicate their past success, Guardiola said: “Maybe not in the way that Sir Alex Ferguson controlled in those days because in that moment I think there were two or three teams. But now there are more with a lot of incredible managers. So maybe not in that way, but if they make good decisions, with hierarchy and sports director and manager and players with the same ideas, come on.
Sir Alex Ferguson shakes hands with Pep Guardiola after last season’s FA Cup final. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
“When something happens at Manchester United it’s on the highlights all day so the reputation and prestige they had they will always have – but they need it to click to make the right decision. If it happens, when it happens, they will be there.”