LEICESTER, England — Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has given his support to Jose Mourinho after the Portuguese manager was sacked by Manchester United on Tuesday.
The two managers had a fierce rivalry when they were opposite numbers at Barcelona and Real Madrid for three years and there were fears that acrimony might be reignited when Mourinho was appointed United coach shortly after Guardiola was announced at City in 2016.
But the pair’s rivalry has been far more friendly during their Premier League years and Guardiola says he hopes to come up against Mourinho again soon.
“I am on his side,” Guardiola told a news conference. “As managers, we are alone. They [clubs] contact us to try to win and when you don’t win I know what happens.
“I always say I am in the position of the manager and I know exactly what they can feel and always I am there because we feel alone. All the pressure is on our shoulders.
“But he has a lot of experience, he is a top man and he will come back soon and we are going to play again.”
While United have begun their search for Mourinho’s replacement, City have few problems as they marched into the Carabao Cup semifinals with a penalty shootout victory over Leicester City. With a busy fixture schedule, Guardiola gave many of his young players an opportunity and 20-year-old Aro Muric was the hero, saving two penalties as City squeezed through after the game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.
“He’s trained really good. He’s so shy. It’s a nice moment,” Guardiola said of his keeper. “Thank you so much to our fans for coming, he deserved the big applause because during the game he was brilliant saving the actions with his foot and of course he saved two penalties.
“Aro is so big and the pressure for the opponents is not easy because his reactions are so quick. He has a lot of power in his legs and he made the right decisions, even for the penalty from Harry Maguire. The taker was exceptional but he was there. It’s good experience for him, he’s played all the competition and is a good signing.”
Teenagers Phil Foden, Brahim Diaz and Eric Garcia all played, with the latter making his first-team debut at the heart of the defence. The 17-year-old former Barcelona trainee impressed on the tour to the United States in the summer and was again solid with Guardiola saying he may have played sooner had he not suffered an injury setback in August.
“He has a lot of personality,” he said. “In preseason in the States he was incredible, commanding the line against Bayern Munich and Liverpool.
“Unfortunately he had a tough injury and was out for more than two months so he could not train with us. He’s a guy that has a lot of sense of the position. He’s so smart and he’s not the strongest in the air or the fastest one but few times the opposition win one position, he’s able to guide the line and has a lot of personality to play.
“He has good vision, a good pass. It’s incredible, I’m very pleased. He didn’t make one mistake and with the ball he played with huge personality. It’s not easy with [Demarai] Gray, Kelechi [Iheanacho] and [James] Maddison. It’s a big important event. I’m so delighted with his performance.”