This, perhaps, was the perfect distillation of City in the early part of 2021: a team fuelled entirely by their own volition, a team who ultimately don’t care if you’re there or not, a team playing a game that doesn’t really require you to participate. Here, Marco Rose’s side were essentially treated as ball-feeders, shadow runners: choreographed patsies whose sole purpose was to make City look like they were trying.
The Premier League leaders eased towards the quarter-finals of the competition with a routine 2-0 victory in the first leg of their last-16 tie against the German side in Budapest.
Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus scored either side of half-time – both goals created by Joao Cancelo – while Monchengladbach offered little, and Guardiola claimed City’s wealth is behind their 19-match winning run in all competitions.
The Blues boss has never made any bones about the fact that being able to bring in top-drawer footballers has been a key factor in his success story at City, and previously at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
But some critics claim that just about anyone could achieve success with City’s wealth, conveniently ignoring the fact that Guardiola has been in charge of three top-class squads BECAUSE he knows how to extract the best from them, and not by accident.
“In general, we controlled the game. Unfortunately we were not clinical enough up front,” Guardiola told BT Sport.
“That is something we have to improve in this competition. Up front we have to be more clinical. In this competition you have to be perfect to make sure you go through.”
The trouble with trying to win the ball off City, you see, is that you don’t just have to win it once. Such is the intelligence and aggression with which they swarm around the ball in numbers that even when you get the foot in, force the error, they gather up the second ball and come again. And so winning the ball off City really means winning it three or four times, by which time you are not only disorganised and a bit tired, but now surrounded by City players.
Guardiola continued: “He drives with the ball and at the central defenders. He is a player with a huge quality and his physicality is overwhelming.
“If we played another game tomorrow he would be ready to play. In the final third, he was brilliant. Two beautiful goals.”
Silva also caught the eye, with the Portuguese not only finishing the first goal but also having a hand in the second with a cushioned header from Cancelo’s cross.
Guardiola said: “He has a special sense and quality to play football. He is an exceptional player.”
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