It was 50/50 that Pep Guardiola would choose to step down at the end of the season. The losses against Real Madrid in La Liga and Chelsea at the Champions League wrecked havoc on those odds. Guardiola chose to leave.
There is absolutely no question about Guardiola’s genius. His four years at Barcelona delivered the best football this generation has ever seen.
It did not hurt matters that Guardiola had an extremely gifted squad of players at his disposal. Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pique, Alves but the system Guardiola built made them all better.
Guardiola preached artistry, teamwork, movement and vision. These principles worked: he won 13 trophies in all including six in his first year; three back to back Spanish titles and two champions leagues. And all of them were won with an unmistakable brand of attacking football.
Guardiola brought through the likes of Bojan, Pedro, Sergio Busquets, Thiago and most recently Tellio and Cuenca from the ‘B’ team into the first team. Some of them like Busquets and Thiago are probably the future of Barcelona.
There are those who suggest Guardiola’s system was too beautiful, too artistic and when faced with tactics like those deployed by Chelsea and Mourinho’s 2009 Inter Milan, it fails and there is no plan B.
My simple take is, a system like Barca’s needs no plan B.
Guardiola has achieved in four years at Barcelona what most managers never will even in 20 years. He has treated this generation with a style of football that we can only be grateful that we got to see.
Sir Alex Ferguson called Guardiola’s team the “best he has faced” in his career. That is not just really high praise, its the truth. Guardiola’s Barcelona is one for the ages.
It rarely happens but Sir Alex Ferguson does get it horribly wrong sometimes. Monday night was one such time. It was billed as the biggest game in Premier League history and United lost it before the first whistle sounded.
Ferguson chose a conservative line up and it backfired spectacularly. United ended the game with no shot on target.
Park Ji Sung was retrieved from his hibernation chamber and straight into the starting line up. He achieved little.
Combined age of 70
Scholes and Giggs also started and by the second half you could see their legs failing. If indeed the idea was to contain City, I fail to understand how two men with a combined age of 70 plus are the best options to start and Giggs played till the last whistle.
Nani was poor but at least he was active. Rooney once again proved he does not particularly relish the lone striker role especially with the near nothing support he received most of Monday night.
The omission of Antonio Valencia, probably United’s most dangerous crosser was astonishing.
The continued selection of Danny Welbeck ahead of Berbatov and Chicharito I find perplexing. Welbeck is too prone to the heavy touch, lack of control and composure at the most vital moments.
City started nervously but they came out of their shells and took the game to United. Zabaleta was particularly impressive so too was Yaya Toure who out paced Scholes and Giggs far too easily in mid field.
The goal was just punishment for Fergie’s tactics. Smalling lost Kompany too easily, De Gea should have stayed on his line and would probably have saved it.
City now lead the table on goal difference with two games remaining, Newcastle this afternoon and QPR next weekend. If they draw one of those games and United win their last two games they lose the title.
Newcastle are chasing a Champions League spot, QPR fighting for survival – interesting games at the very least.