Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has admitted that he sees Manchester United ‘finally coming back’ after almost a decade of struggling to be competitive in the Premier League.
United haven’t won, or even seriously challenged for, the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. In nine full seasons since then, they have finished outside the top four and failed to qualify for the Champions League on five occasions.
The Red Devils did finish as high as second under Jose Mourinho in 2017/18 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2020/21, but each time Manchester City were well clear and there was no title race. United also then slumped back to sixth place the season after both.
However, even though his City team thrashed United 6-3 in a recent Manchester derby, Guardiola has said he ‘likes’ what he is seeing from the red half in terms of progress under Erik ten Hag.
“I have the feeling United are coming back,” the City boss said. “Finally United is coming back – I’ve seen it on Thursday [against Sheriff] and against Chelsea in the first half [last weekend].
“I said I like what I see of United right now. There will be a lot of teams like United fighting. That’s why you have to fight to qualify for the Champions League and fight for the title.”
Despite a promising pre-season under the belt, United got off to the worst possible start under Ten Hag in August when successive defeats to Brighton ad Brentford made him the club’s first new manager to lose his first two games in 101 years.
But the Dutchman’s impact has been seen since then, making his mark on the team, and they have dropped points only sparingly whilst also picking up wins over Liverpool and Arsenal.
Guardiola, who worked with Ten Hag at Bayern Munich, himself knows exactly what it is like trying to build a title-winning team when brand new to the Premier League. His City side suffered a number of heavy defeats in his debut 2016/17 campaign, before eventually scraping a top four finish.
Similarly, Jurgen Klopp finished eighth in his first season at Liverpool and didn’t mount a challenge for the title until he had been in the job for three years.
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