Pep Guardiola was quick to reject Gary Neville’s claim that Manchester City have become masters in the art of committing tactical fouls to stifle the opposition.
Following City’s 1-0 Premier League win over Tottenham on Monday, former Manchester United stalwart Neville alluded to the champions’ ability to break up play when under pressure.
Midfielder Fernandinho was highlighted as a particular exponent of the craft by Neville, in his role as a pundit on Sky Sports, as City returned to the top of the table.
When Neville’s assertions were put to Guardiola in a news conference ahead of Sunday’s clash at home to Southampton, the Catalan insisted he would never send a team out with the instruction to deliberately transgress.
“I’m not completely agree[ing] with that,” he said. “We try to play, of course sometimes we make fouls. Never my teams are focused on making something wrong for the opponents.
“We try to attack, to play our game but never to do that to avoid what they do. It’s never happened in my career and never will happen in my career because I understand the game in a different approach.
@fernandinho has been nominated for the October PFA Premier League, Player of the Month!
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 3, 2018
“We try to make the best football as possible to win the games. Possession for numbers is nothing if you don’t create chances. I’m not agree[ing] with that comment that we are a team that are looking for these situations because it never happened in Barcelona, it never happened in Bayern Munich, it never happened at City and never will happen in the future in my career, never.
“When the opponent has the ball we are going to press them, but the people have to know, and Gary Neville knows perfectly well because he was a player, the opponents play too and sometimes they dribble and you make a foul.
“I don’t know the statistics but I don’t think we are a team that makes a lot of fouls and normally when you have 65, 70 per cent of the ball we cannot kick the opponent.
“But I can assure you, never in my life have I said to my players ‘you have to do that [foul] to make problems to the opponents to not let them be who they are.'”
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