Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City are not experiencing a personality crisis as he aimed a startling put-down at former Manchester United stars Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov.
The City manager was riled by criticism from Evra and Berbatov, now both working as pundits, after City surrendered a winning position to go out at Real Madrid’s hands in the Champions League semi-finals.
Evra claimed Guardiola “can’t train people with personality”, while Berbatov offered a response that was not far from Guardiola’s own assessment, albeit saying City “had to be more concentrated and focused” in the closing moments.
There was also criticism from former Milan and Madrid star Clarence Seedorf, who said City lacked the necessary “mentality” to come through such a test, comparing them to Paris Saint-Germain.
City were 5-3 ahead on aggregate going into the closing minutes against Madrid on May 4, only to concede a quickfire double to Rodrygo, before Karim Benzema hit a penalty winner in extra time.
It was a dizzying turnaround at the Santiago Bernabeu, but City have responded by thrashing Newcastle United 5-0 and picking apart Wolves 5-1 to reassert their Premier League supremacy over Champions League finalists Liverpool.
90 – Rodrygo is the first player to score twice in the 90th minute of a UEFA Champions League knockout match. Bonkers. pic.twitter.com/drK2PKMqvR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 4, 2022
Guardiola denies City have any issues with their attitude, saying the approach that brought the back-to-back heavy league wins was “the same character that lost to Madrid in the last two or three minutes”.
“The former players like Dimitar Berbatov, Clarence Seedorf, Patrice Evra… these type of people they were there,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City’s clash with West Ham on Sunday.
“I played against them and I didn’t see this kind of personality when we destroyed them in the Champions League final against United.”
That was an apparent reference to Guardiola’s Barcelona beating United 2-0 in the 2009 Champions League final, when Evra and Berbatov both featured on the losing team at the Stadio Olimpico as the Catalan giants sealed a treble. The teams also met at the same stage in 2011, but Berbatov was not involved in that game, which the Blaugrana won 3-1.
“[They say] we don’t have personality because we concede in the last minutes, and after the last two games we have personality,” Guardiola added.
“Personality is what we have done in the last five years. Maybe Liverpool is going to win all four titles or just one. Am I going to say they don’t have personality or that they had a bad season?
“Of course they have and of course they are good, but sometimes in football, it happens.
“It is football, you cannot control it. When you always arrive in the latter stages, semi-finals, finals, it is incredible. This for me, because we arrive until the end, playing a lot of games, this is the most important thing.”