By News Team
23rd November 2021
Former Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips claims that Pep Guardiola doesn’t need to win the Champions League with the Citizens to leave behind a legacy, as he’s already achieved enough with the club to be considered a legend.
City host PSG in the Champions League tomorrow where they currently sit top of Group A ahead of the Ligue 1 side, and while many have suggested the Premier League champions may prioritise European football this season, Wright-Phillips believes that’s not in Guardiola’s thinking.
“Watching Pep (Guardiola) over the years, and watching the way the team plays, he won’t prioritise any tournament over another,” said Wright-Phillips. “I think he’ll just take it game by game and he’ll be going into this game with the same attitude that they did at the weekend versus Everton and that’s to win the game. Pep wants to win all games and the Champions League is no different. He’ll focus on winning, and he’ll do the same for the next game after that.
“Personally, I hope that City win the Champions League this season. As a City fan, I’d be delighted to see them lift that trophy because it would shut a lot of people up. Lots of people say you aren’t a big team until you win the Champions League, but I think that’s not true as if you make it to the final of the tournament then you’re making a massive statement.
“Pep doesn’t need to win it to cement any legacy. He’s already a legend and his legacy is there. What he’s created at City is phenomenal. How do you replace him? Whoever replaces him will face an uphill battle after everything he’s done at the club.”
PSG travel to City hoping for a repeat of the match earlier on in the tournament at the Parc des Princes, where Lionel Messi’s first goal for the club helped secure a 2-0 win for the Parisian side. But Wright-Phillips is expecting his former side to win due to their stronger squad, providing they can take their chances.
“Personally, I think City have the better squad” said Wright-Phillips. “In the game at PSG, I thought City should have won had they had taken their chances, and PSG will be aware of that and I’m expecting the same work from Neymar, (Kylian) Mbappe, and (Lionel) Messi with them tracking back and helping their teammates out. If those three don’t do that then I think City will dominate the game.
“I can see City winning 2-1 – they’ve done it before and have the know-how to beat PSG, it was just the problem in Paris was taking chances and against them you have to take chances. You can’t leave yourself open when they have Messi, Neymar, Mbappe, because they can switch it on and off and you can’t afford to do that against them.”
While Messi is yet to light up Ligue 1 with PSG like he did in La Liga with Barcelona for so many years, Wright-Phillips maintains that the Argentinian is still adapting to life in France and the best is yet to come.
“I don’t think he’s struggled (at PSG),” said Wright-Phillips. “I think they just play a completely different style of football. At Barcelona, whatever they did it ended at Messi’s feet. If it was a counter attack it ended with Messi, and he might score a goal. Now he’s at PSG, Neymar was there before him and Mbappe, who is the main man at PSG. Just as much goes through them as it does Messi, so I think it’s just about adjusting to that style because everything at Barcelona was guided and geared through him.”
There were rumours in the summer that Messi might reunite with his old boss Guardiola and play his football in the Premier League, and Wright-Phillips admits it’s a shame it didn’t happen for football fans in England.
“It would’ve been amazing,” he admitted. “Not only for Man City but for the Premier League in general and for the fans to come and see such a talent, like they have done with (Cristiano) Ronaldo. It would’ve been amazing for both of them to be in the Premier League at the same time.
“I don’t think City made a mistake (in not going for Messi). The option came up, it didn’t work out, he chose to stay, and it didn’t happen. That’s that.”
On the topic of transfers, and with City stars including Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, and Ilkay Gundogan out of contract in 18 months’ time, Wright-Phillips was asked about potential replacements and where the players might head. But he thinks there’s still futures for those players at the club.
“For players like Raheem (Sterling) and Riyad (Mahrez), where do they go? A year or two ago you might have said Barcelona or Real Madrid, but they aren’t what they used to be two years ago and for now, they are at the best European club they can be which is moving forward, and I think City will want to keep them.
“They have got brilliant youth players to replace them – you don’t always need to go out and buy and I don’t think Pep will, given the talent he has and the youth coming through. It’s not easy to replace those players, so why not go for some of the younger talented players?
“Looking at players like Fernandinho, as a more long-term replacement, then I hope City look at Declan Rice or Jude Bellingham. They would be the ones to sign for me. City tend to go for players at a good age where they could fill that position for a number of years. I can see a lot of teams trying to go for those players. If West Ham make it into the Champions League, which I think they can, then I don’t think Declan would leave anyway. That makes Jude the obvious one, but I think there will be a lot of teams after him.
“With Jude, he’s got that nasty side to him which in that position you need. He’s also so box-to-box and has the ability of an attacking midfielder as well. If you want someone to sit and break up play, then it has to be Declan Rice.”
Things aren’t as rosy on the other side of Manchester, as City’s rivals Manchester United parted ways with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a humbling 4-1 defeat to Watford at the weekend. Wright-Phillips believes that the timing was wrong for the club, who now face a tough task of bringing in a manager at an awkward time of the season.
“I think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could still get a top European job,” he said. “He’s done badly considering it’s Manchester United, because I think people forget who they are and what they should be aiming for…but he’s finished in Champions League positions back-to-back in the last few seasons. Until the last five Premier League games, his job was safe.
“Obviously what happened against Liverpool happened, and then City steamrolled them as well…Watford demolished them…I think that’s a bad run of results, but in general until that bad run of results Man United were sitting fourth or fifth and a few points off the top teams, so as much as we say Ole hasn’t done that well…for Man United he hasn’t…but for Solskjaer managing in the Premier League with a big team, he hasn’t done that badly, it was just that he couldn’t get those players to perform the way they should. Jose Mourinho had the same problem.
“The sacking happened at the wrong time and in my opinion, they should’ve left it until the end of the season. It wasn’t a surprise that it happened but it’s the timing that has caught everyone off guard. I did find it strange that they sacked him without a backup plan. They are planning on bringing an interim manager in for another interim manager…it sounds like a mess, to be honest.
“I think they should just go for (Mauricio) Pochettino. They missed out on (Antonio) Conte by messing around and deciding on what they should do, and he took the Spurs job. The only way to get a manager of the calibre they want right now is to go with a five-year contract and a five-year plan. It takes time to build a team and the new manager needs time. You’ve seen that with Liverpool and Chelsea, to a degree.
“Poch is going to inherit some great players if he goes to Man United, but they might not suit Poch’s system, and he might want to go and buy new players…so there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be sorted out.”