Thursday 17 January 2019

Pep Guardiola hits back at Gary Neville's 'joke' jibe

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

Andy Hampson

Pep Guardiola has hit back at criticism from Gary Neville by referring to the former England and Manchester United defender's unsuccessful spell in management.

Neville, who lasted less than four months as Valencia boss in 2015-16, claimed it was "a joke" that Manchester City boss Guardiola had only six substitutes on his bench at Burnley last Saturday.

Guardiola said he had no alternative due to injuries and he did not want to call up a player from the under-23s - as Neville advocated while on duty as a Sky Sports pundit - because they had played the night before.

Further explaining the situation, Guardiola said at a press conference on Friday: "It's quite simple - we had a lot of injuries.

"We had that day a training session at four in the afternoon (on Friday). At the same time five or six of the (under-23) players I could have taken had a game here, just one or two hours later.

"It would not have been correct to go the manager, who is preparing for the game, and say, 'I need one or two players to go on the bench,' when they are going to play. For that reason, I didn't call him.

"This guy, the pundit, he has to know my job is serious. It's not a joke, never is it a joke. It's so serious. And he should know that because he was a manager... for a short time."

Premier League leaders City have at least two more players available for Saturday's clash against Leicester with defender John Stones and midfielder Phil Foden having overcome knee and ankle injuries respectively.

Guardiola said: "We'll have 18 players, (including) on the bench, so Gary Neville can be happy."

City remain without Leroy Sane, Benjamin Mendy, Fabian Delph, Gabriel Jesus and David Silva. Lukas Nmecha, the youngster Guardiola recently said would be promoted to the first-team squad as cover, was also injured for the game at Burnley.

Despite that lengthy casualty list, Guardiola's explanation did not meet Neville's approval at Turf Moor.

Neville said: "I think it's a joke, I absolutely think it's a joke.

"Forget the second team. Even if they played yesterday, bring one and put them on the bench. Give someone a boost at the club. It's poor to not bring a young player, really poor."

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