Guardiola: City players more important than Man United boss

Guardiola is set to resume his bitter and long-running rivalry with Mourinho, who starts his job as manager at neighbours Manchester United today.

City’s new boss has been busy reshaping his squad and his backroom team at the Etihad Stadium, naming retired Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta as one of four assistant coaches yesterday – as we revealed he would in February.

And Guardiola is adamant he will not be dragged into public disputes with his arch-rival across Manchester.

“The most important thing in football is that people don’t come to the stadium to see how good the manager is. They come to see how good our players are,” he said.

“It’s not just this year – there have been many, many good managers in the Premier League, with Jose, with Jurgen Klopp, with Antonio Conte, with Claudio Ranieri, with Mauricio Pochettino, with Ronald Koeman. The reason I am here is just to help the players.”

Guardiola played for Mourinho in the late 1990s, when the Portuguese was assistant manager to Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal at Barcelona.

But the two men have not seen eye-to-eye since Mourinho was overlooked for the Barca job in 2008 in favour of the inexperienced Guardiola.

Their rivalry became poisonous when they went head-to-head in La Liga after Mourinho was appointed Real Madrid boss in 2010.

Guardiola quit Barcelona in 2012 after facing two years of increasingly bad-tempered spats with his rival. The low point came during a Spanish Super Cup meeting in 2011, when Mourinho was captured on film poking Barca’s then-assistant boss Tito Vilanova in the eye during a touchline brawl.

Guardiola is no fan of the former Chelsea manager’s dramatic public antics and controversial press conferences, and has made clear he intends to play things with a straight bat.

The City boss, who has signed a three-year deal to replace Manuel Pellegrini, made his first public appearance in his new job in front of around 5,800 fans yesterday at the Cityzens Weekend festival, held at the club’s Academy Stadium.

The new boss knows City’s players well having faced them four times in the Champions League during his three years at Bayern.

But he has warned they have to prove themselves all over again now he is in charge or face the consequences.

He said: “I know the players. I know their quality but they have to show me, show the fans again. The past is the past.

“I don’t want the guys to think about what the club can do for them. We are here to make Manchester City a better club in the next three, four, five years.

“First I have to meet my players and get to know them. I have to hug them, kick their arse and then, after that, I need time to know them. I have an idea how I want them to play, but I need time.”

Guardiola has begun his reign by signing Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan from Borussia Dortmund for £20million and Spain winger Nolito from Celta Vigo for £13.8million.

But he has dismissed suggestions he is about to make an attempt to bring five-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi to City.

The Barcelona forward, who retired from international football last week, won two of his four Champions League titles when Guardiola was the club’s manager.

But asked about the possibility of a reunion in Manchester, Guardiola said: “He is not a bad player, this guy. But I am sorry – Messi has to stay in Barcelona for the rest of his career.”

Meanwhile, City striker Kelechi Iheanacho will have to give up on his Olympics dream to focus on impressing Guardiola.

The 19-year-old striker was selected in Nigeria’s 35-man provisional squad for the football tournament at next month’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

But City have made clear he will not be going because Guardiola wants him to have a full pre-season.

Iheanacho said: “If your country wants to play for them

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