For all their glitz, glamour and goals galore during their record-breaking 20-game winning run, on Saturday Manchester City showed they can also scrap and know how to win ugly.
Pep Guardiola’s side were pushed to the limit at home to West Ham United as David Moyes’ tenacious apple-cart-upsetters looked like doing what no team has managed this year — take points off the Premier League leaders. But City dug deep and clawed their way to a 2-1 win thanks to John Stones’ vital strike in the second half.
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City are now 13 points clear in the EPL standings and still contending in the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League — and given their determination and will to win, another historic season could be on the cards.
The win on Saturday was Guardiola’s 500th victory in charge of a top-flight club in all competitions in a career taking him from Barcelona to Bayern Munich to Manchester. It is also his 200th win as City coach and he has needed just 273 matches to reach that total — fewer than any other top-flight manager.
After the win over the Hammers, Guardiola said overseeing the team’s 20-game winning run in all competitions may be one of the greatest achievements of his glittering career. City racked up a record 100 points in their title-winning campaign in 2017-18 and won all four domestic trophies the following season, but Guardiola believes their current win streak in a season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic ranks as one of his finest moments.
“In this period, in this era, with this situation, to be able to do 20, maybe it is one of greatest achievements we have done together in our careers,” Guardiola said. “That doesn’t mean a title win but this period in time, the toughest period in England, (to have) no one week of rest for three or four months, every three days a game, with the COVID, injury situations. To be on this kind of run — winning, winning, winning — means mental strength.”
With City facing Wolves on Tuesday, Guardiola said the packed schedule was taking its toll despite the manner in which he rotates his squad.
“Mentally it’s tough because we play many games every three days. People start to be tired ... We must rest mentally and physically. If not, you cannot sustain it,” he said.