The Manchester City boss was delighted after the 1-1 draw with the Merseysiders and it is easy to see why
Pep Guardiola says Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool is one of the proudest days of his career and, if you can look past a bit of hyperbole, it is not hard to see why he is so happy.
This was not the result City wanted heading into this top-four clash but it is surely the response that Guardiola needed after his side crashed out of the Champions League in midweek.
After the players, for whatever reason, did not carry out his orders in a dire first half at Monaco, a half which sealed their European fate, Guardiola will have needed proof that it was just a one-off.
Within 10 minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday we saw that the players, even the ones who have a hunch they may not be here next season, are willing to fight for their manager.
The Blues started the match at lightening pace and, although the quality was not always there, the determination to win this important match in the race for Champions League qualification was there to see from start to finish.
That is why Guardiola was so overjoyed in the immediate aftermath of this harem-scarem match.
“The Monaco game was so so tough for us,” he added. “How we recovered today, with the mentality to attack and attack, and how we run in the last minutes with Liverpool resting all week, I want to stay with these guys a long long time.”
If he had any doubts about his players’ commitment before the match, they have been quickly dispelled.
Their quality is another matter.
Both managers will feel they should have won this game, with Adam Lallana and Sergio Aguero missing particularly gilt-edged chances with the score at 1-1.
Aguero had earlier shown his class to cancell out James Milner’s penalty, an especially controversial decision given Gael Clichy got more of the ball than any of the players involved in the four incidents, two for each side, in the first half.
Guardiola insists there will be no wholesale changes to his squad but he has previously lamented Aguero’s missed chances, and for all his public protestations he knows most of his defenders have their limitations.
“We played better, we create more, we concede few, but we don’t win, that’s not new,” the Catalan lamented afterwards.
Decisive changes lie further down the line but when you strip back the type of madcap events which can decide games, such as refereeing decisions or, frankly, some sloppy defensive mistakes committed by City in the dying stages, what we were left with at the Etihad Stadium was total dedication to the cause, from both sets of players.
Jurgen Klopp has demanded that at all of his clubs and will be pleased to see his Liverpool side keeping up the fight, though he will be even happier if they can match this effort against the Premier League’s also-rans, something which has been their problem throughout 2017.
Guardiola, of course, wants total commitment and while his project is far from completion, the effort, at least, is clearly there.
With Arsenal and Chelsea coming up, and United laying in wait later in April, City have some very tricky matches coming up which will have a huge bearing on the overall success of Guardiola’s first season in charge.
It has not panned out exactly how he wanted but, with the club committed to spending big in the summer to bring in players better suited to his style than the ones he has now, there is a promise of much better to come. He has achieved enough in his career to deserve a bit of faith in that department.
And with the City players clearly still up for the fight, this season is nowhere near done yet. That’s why Guardiola is so proud.