Pep Guardiola will not allow Manchester City to rest on their laurels because they do not have to look far to see how quickly success can disappear.
Manchester United remain the most successful team in Premier League history with an incredible 13 Premier League titles – eight more than any other club – but their success has dried up over the last decade after winning the league five times in the 1990s and six times in the 2000s. They have not won the league since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, and will have gone five years without any trophy by this summer if Ralf Rangnick is unable to pull off a huge upset in the Champions League.
City pipped United to the title in 2012 and have not looked back since 2014, finishing above their nearest rivals every year since as well as winning a further four leagues.
Guardiola is on course for a fourth success in five years, a level of dominance not seen since the height of Fergie’s United, but warned that they could quickly go the same way if they stop putting in the effort.
“A long time ago United controlled this league like no other team: could you imagine in that time they would go eight seasons without winning the Premier League? Could someone in this country think about that? But it’s happened,” he said.
“And if it happened to United it can happen to us tomorrow. Not next season, to-mo-rrow.
“It happens. Because football is so difficult and unpredictable because the human being is imperfect. We are not perfect so it happens. But the way we resolve that is to look at ourselves. I said many times to the players that we play against us With all respect to our opponents, we play against us.
“This is the target. We have to perform for ourselves as high as possible. If the opponent is better, we accept it and wake up in the morning to improve to beat [them] the next time. But we play against our best. We have to reach our best every single game, or try to reach it every single game.”
If nobody can be perfect, Guardiola is still demanding his City players reach as close to it as possible as he steels them for another epic title tussle with Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s team can close the gap to six points if they win their game in hand, and have shown before that they can go on long winning runs. City go into their game at Norwich having won 13 of the last 14 games but have been unable to shake their biggest rivals.
Guardiola predicted on Friday that 95 or 96 points would be needed to win the title – a total Liverpool can only reach if they do not drop a single point between now and the rest of the season. The best way the Blues can handle that pressure, according to their manager, is to each push themselves to be the best version of themselves that they can every time they step onto the pitch.
“We face an opponent but this is not important, what’s important is ourselves,” he said.
“If we face a team that defend so deep that don’t want to attack in certain moments it’s complicated like Brentford, okay we have to deal with that. We play and Fulham is completely different, guys who want to play take the ball and they are eight or nine points clear in the championship one game in hand and it is about us how you deal with that.
“This is the mindset since day one. I try to focus on Manchester City and ourselves since the day I arrived here. No excuses here, no excuses with me. If you start to complain, you are not able to play in this team. ”