‘He completely underestimated the power and speed of the Premier League’: Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reveals how Pep Guardiola first struggled in England but insists Manchester City coach is ‘the best’ in the world
- Pep Guardiola had difficult first Premier League season as Manchester City boss
- He then went on to win the league title in consecutive season with the club
- Ajax manager Erik ten Hag has labelled the Spaniard as best coach in the world
- Ten Hag believes his early experiences in England improved him immensely
Pep Guardiola’s early Premier League troubles as Manchester City boss have helped him become the best in the world according to his former protege Erik ten Hag.
Having taken over at the Etihad in 2016 after a spell at Bayern Munich, Guardiola endured a trophyless debut campaign but then went on to lift consecutive Premier League titles as well as one FA Cup and three League Cups as his famed methods bore fruit.
And ten hag, who served as Bayern Munich’s reserve boss under Guardiola before taking the reigns at Ajax, outlined how the early setbacks have helped the Spaniard adapt and thrive amid the physicality in England.
Pep Guardiola overcame initial struggles at Manchester City to win back-to-back league titles
Erik ten hag served under Guardiola at Bayern Munich and hailed the Spaniard’s adaptation
Ten Hag said: ‘Only once in his career has Pep made a mistake – in his first year at Manchester City when he completely underestimated the power and speed of the Premier League.
‘He realised that you can’t play the kind of football he loves without having a couple of physically strong athletes – and so he brought them in. So he’s not a stubborn coach.
‘Yes, he is stubborn in his philosophy, but not in the execution. And that makes him the best.
‘Nobody will ever forget Guardiola. He has won so many trophies for a start – but it is mainly about how his teams play.
‘Guardiola only wants to win games with beautiful football, just like his teacher Johan Cruyff.
‘And what makes him stand out is that he is proving his quality as a top coach in Spain, Germany and now England.
‘He has adapted to the culture in every country.’
Manchester City have now won two Premier League titles under Guardiola’s leadership
Guardiola initially came to prominence as a manger after great success with Barcelona, leading the club to multiple domestic and European honours.
Ten hag added: ‘Guardiola had great players at Barcelona, like Andreas Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Xavi and others.
‘But it takes a lot of quality from a coach to make top players play in a great way as a team.
‘You have to convince them that they each have a role in that team. Guardiola is a master of that. Some top players cannot play in his teams – like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
‘Everyone has to contribute. The team comes first and not the individual. Even Messi was more of a team player under Guardiola. He has never been as brilliant again as he was under Pep.
‘Now, Messi is above the team – and everyone has to work for him. And we see that Barca have not won as much in recent years as they did under Guardiola.’
Barcelona won the Champions League in Guardiola’s first season as manager of the club
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