Pep Guardiola referred to Barcelona’s “genius” mentor, Johan Cruyff, as the Spaniard detailed the slim odds that will dictate the Premier League title race.
Manchester City are five points behind top-flight leaders Arsenal, having played another game at the weekend when Mikel Arteta’s side travel to Everton and Guardiola’s strugglers Tottenham.
The Premier League champions are no strangers to late-season glory, going unimpressed in 28 games to defeat Liverpool in the title race last term.
City arguably have a much more daunting task at hand as they attempt to destroy Arteta’s Arsenal this time around, but Guardiola says he will use lessons from Dutch great Cruyff in 2023.
He told Sky Sports: “I won four La Ligas in a row in Spain when I was a football player. In the fifth I wasn’t the same. In the sixth I wasn’t the same. I wasn’t hungry enough.
“Caviar. Madrid beat me. Fifth and sixth. I understand the players. But I’m here to do it.
“I realized a little later. It is difficult for a player to realize in real time exactly what is happening.
“It’s ridiculous how small the margin is between winning and losing. You have to pay attention. I did my best. I never doubt that players do their best.
“But at the same time you think, ‘Okay, I’ve done it, I won.’ After, to be on top again, it takes time.
“Johan had many great qualities but one of them was that he knew exactly how you were going to feel before you felt it, before it happened.
“That’s why he was a genius. He would tell us, ‘Now this will happen.’ Fortunately or unfortunately, he did most of the time.”
Erling Haaland has scored an impressive 25 goals in 19 Premier League games since joining City from Borussia Dortmund ahead of this campaign.
But change in Manchester has proved difficult, despite the Norway international’s heroics, City have a completely different side to Guardiola’s first title-winning campaign.
“It’s happened. We change, everyone changes. It’s normal. Most of the time it’s the players who decide they want to leave,” he said.
“The club is always open to doing it. There are other clubs where the release clause is the most important. Someone has to pay it or you stay. I don’t agree with that completely.
“Always, when they are not comfortable working with the manager, the team, the club, the city, whatever, they have to try to move on.
“Of course, there has to be an offer. But if you come with an offer, I’m pretty sure we’re going to reach an agreement.
“For example, Gabriel [Jesus]Alex [Oleksandr Zinchenko] and I count [Sterling] gone this season.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for what they have done for me and this institution, winning 11 trophies in five years. It’s just amazing. Believe me, I wish them all the best personally and professionally.
“It’s the same with me when I leave. One day they will bring in a new manager who has his own passion and his own ideas. Everything will go on.”