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Bitter experience keeps Guardiola grounded

Brighton (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola says Manchester City will not get carried away after a 2-0 opening day win at promoted Brighton as he is still stung by the bitter experiences of last season.

A year ago City won their first 10 games in all competitions, beginning with a victory at home to Sunderland, yet finished the campaign empty-handed. 

“Last season we were favourites too,” said Guardiola. “I sat here after the Sunderland game and you said: ‘You are the favourites, you are the most beautiful, the most handsome, and nicest guys in the League’. And you know what happened? After that, Chelsea killed us.”

“So okay, we accept what people say. Whether we are favourites or not is your job to say, not ours. I cannot control it. But I am used to that. I was manager of Barcelona and Bayern Munich so I can handle that situation.”

“Last season we were third and people said it was a disaster. We will try to improve. Last season we were a humble team and an honest team. We played with the best intentions and it was not enough. We’ll try this season. If not, then next season.”

City won far more convincingly on Saturday than the score suggests, even though they had to wait until the 70th minute to open the scoring through Sergio Aguero. 

Five minutes later an own goal by Lewis Dunk ended the contest. 

That was a relief after the uncertain starts made by title rivals Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, and his new three-man defence was seldom in difficulty.

“The first game of a season is always complicated,” he said. “We spoke about that -– we saw what happened with Liverpool and Watford, with Chelsea – that’s the Premier League.”

“Here every game is a battle, and from my experience – in Barcelona too – it’s difficult against a newly-promoted club. They have the passion, the fans, they have no pressure. 

“It’s difficult but we did it. We were stable as a team and conceded just one chance after a corner and after that nothing happened. We controlled the game.”

Guardiola added: “And we ran a lot. People say we are a big team, but we ran like a League One or Conference team. You don’t see a player in my team who didn’t run, and I’m proud of that. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus ran back, and Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. And that is the first step to creating something.”

“We did that last season too, but in the boxes we were not good. Today in the boxes we were perfect.”

Brighton, in their first top flight game since 1983, had few chances to break out and their nerves were evident in their inability to keep possession. 

“The manager [Chris Hughton] is top, and they have the qualities in their players,” Guardiola said. 

“They have strong central defenders and they are so well organised, but there are many teams like this. It will be tough for them, but it is tough for everybody.”

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