Pep Guardiola hits back at Gary Neville over criticism of Manchester City subs bench decision

Mike Whalley
The Independent
Guardiola has hit back at Neville: Getty
Guardiola has hit back at Neville: Getty

Pep Guardiola has sarcastically referred to Gary Neville as a “prestigious pundit” after dismissing criticism of his decision to name only six substitutes on Manchester City’s bench.

Guardiola also made a disparaging reference to former England defender Neville’s brief and unsuccessful spell as manager of Valencia while defending his selection for last Saturday’s match at Burnley.

City’s manager claimed that he did not have enough players to name a full complement of seven substitutes for the Premier League match at Turf Moor, a decision that Neville described as “a joke”.

The former Manchester United captain argued that Guardiola should have given the seventh spot on the bench to a youth or reserve player, adding: “If you’re the academy or reserve-team manager at Manchester City, you must think: ‘I’m wasting my time.’”

Guardiola had already responded to that suggestion by saying that he could not pick a player from City’s elite development squad, as they had faced a game on the Friday night.

But he was highly critical of Neville’s comments, saying: “This guy, the pundit, he has to know my job is serious. It’s not a joke, never is it a joke. It’s so serious. And he should know that because he was a manager – for a short time.”

Asked if he would be prepared to name six substitutes again despite Neville’s criticism, Guardiola replied: “I don’t know. Management is not a book where every time you do the same things.

“Sometimes the full backs go inside, sometimes outside. Sometimes I speak to the players in one way and another day in another way.

“All the managers do the same. It’s not a book where you have to follow the rules. Sometimes I say: ‘OK, I take that decision.’

“And of course the prestigious pundit can say whatever he wants. But I take the decisions.”

Many pundits, including Neville and former England captain Alan Shearer, interpreted Guardiola’s decision as a protest against a number of dangerous challenges made on City players during recent matches.

Guardiola decided against naming a full bench (Getty)
Guardiola decided against naming a full bench (Getty)

Leroy Sane was ruled out until mid-March after his ankle ligaments were damaged by a wild tackle from Joe Bennett during City’s FA Cup fourth-round win at Cardiff on January 28, while Kevin de Bruyne and Brahim Diaz were on the receiving end of bad challenges as West Brom were beaten in the Premier League three days later.

Guardiola, whose side are at home to Leicester in the Premier League on Saturday played down that idea, adding that it was the first time in his decade-long coaching career that he had not named a full bench.

He said: “It was the first time in my life that it had happened, but all of the players were injured believe me. David Silva was not fit, John Stones was not fit.

“David trained with us that day at four in the afternoon but during the session, he said: ‘I am not ready.’

“After that, I went to the second team but in an hour and a half, they were going to play a game. So I felt that I was not going to call the player out of their side to go on the bench.

“It was an exception. If the training session had been at 11 in the morning, I’d have had 18 players but it’s not a big issue.”

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