Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini does not believe that the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola to succeed him will overshadow the club’s four-pronged quest for silverware this season.
Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Sunderland gave Pellegrini a 65th Premier League victory in 100 games, a ratio bettered only by former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who won 73 of his first 100 English top-flight matches.
The Chilean’s record eclipses that of Alex Ferguson over his first 100 games in the English top tier and is better than both predecessor Roberto Mancini and Liverpool’s Rafael Benitez.
But it will not prevent him being replaced at the end of the season by Guardiola, and that announcement made on Monday dominated his post-match press conference after a win that kept City three points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City, who they host on Saturday.
Pellegrini’s defence under pressure from the press was as impressive as England goalkeeper Joe Hart’s had been in preserving City’s lead at the Stadium of Light.
Refuting the suggestion that Guardiola’s appointment might be a distraction for City, who remain in contention for league, Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup honours, he said: “The announcement was not on my mind – only having a good season ahead of the next game against Leicester.
“I want to do well in all competitions and all I was focused on was getting the three points. We are all thinking about this season rather than the next.
“I think that we are living in a very good season and if we can finish it very strongly, then it will be special.
“It will be difficult with each game as it goes along, but that’s what I’m focused on. I’m not thinking about myself right now. I want to talk about the team and the club, not me.”
A 16th-minute goal from Sergio Aguero and a superb display in City’s goal by Hart proved to be the difference between the two sides.
But Pellegrini, whose name was sung by the travelling fans, was at pains to point out that it had been a collective effort and that City’s players had shown they have steel to their game, as well as silk.
“This game against Sunderland was a very difficult game and I’m very happy about the result,” he said.
“The most important thing for the team was to come here and win this game and show we can defend very well if we need to.
“We’re known as an attacking team, but we showed we can defend, too. Sergio Aguero and Joe Hart had good games for us, but the whole team worked hard.
“I thought against Sunderland we showed we can play in a different way and in a way that’s needed to win such difficult games.”
City’s performance answered the question of how they would react to the Guardiola announcement, and the battling nature of their win bodes well for the run-in.
When Guardiola was announced as Bayern Munich manager in January 2013, Jupp Heynckes’s side went on to win the treble. Pellegrini may yet leave this summer as City’s most successful ever manager.
For Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce, survival itself is the only benchmark of success and it was no consolation to him that his side had outplayed a team who could end up as Premier League champions.
“I think it’s the most disappointed I’ve been since I’ve been at the club because we deserved so much more,” said Allardyce, whose side remain second-bottom, four points from safety.
“Some of the games we’ve lost we haven’t really deserved anything, so this makes it so much more disappointing to us.
“To play as well as we did against City and get nothing, I’m gutted.”— AFP