Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Guardiola Has to Take City to the Next Level

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Guardiola Has to Take City to the Next Level

Article excerpt

THE last time City played in Holland, the cracks between Roberto Mancini and his titlewinning squad were clearly starting to show.

But five years on, as Pep Guardiola prepares to take the Blues back to the Low Countries for their Champion League opener at Feyenoord, they are a more seasoned, battle-hardened outfit.

And anything less than three points against the Dutch champions would be disappointing.

Having won the Premier League in spectacular style, the enigmatic Mancini had set his sights firmly on conquering Europe in the 2012-13 season.

He was given a tough hand in the draw, coming up against Spanish champions Real Madrid, the rising stars of Borussia Dortmund and Dutch champs Ajax, steeped in European pedigree.

A 'typical' City defeat in the Bernabeu - after they had led 2-1 with three minutes to go - was followed by a home draw against Dortmund, with Joe Hart's incredible display staving off a total drubbing.

At least, the City fans thought, a trip to Amsterdam might offer some respite and, probably, a welcome three points.

The travelling Blues partied hard in the hotspots of the city, but the match was a huge come-down.

Samir Nasri fired them ahead, but an Ajax team that included Toby Alderweireld, the inspirational Christian Eriksen and Daley Blind, struck back.

Having conceded an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, the City defence was then rooted to the spot as Niklas Moisander darted past their zonal marking system and rose to head home Eriksen's corner.

Anything three points Dutch would disappointing Stuart Eriksen finished it off with a third, leaving the Blues to start an inquest which had very different viewpoints.

Mancini, who had tinkered with his formation and tactics throughout, blamed the 'attitude' of his players.

But Micah Richards claimed the manager's switch between three and five at the back has caused confusion in the ranks.

"I think the players prefer a 4-4-2 but he's the manager and we'll do what he says," said the defender, not convincing anyone that the gaffer still had the backing of the dressing room. …

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