MANCHESTER (AFP) – Pep Guardiola said Manchester City’s triumph in the Manchester derby was a victory for the honesty of his players and their football following criticism from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
Set-piece goals from David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi earned City a 2-1 win at a snow-flecked Old Trafford on Sunday that propelled Guardiola’s side a yawning 11 points clear of United at the Premier League summit.
Mourinho had accused City’s players of diving and committing “tactical fouls” prior to the game and afterwards he made an unconvincing claim his side should have been awarded a late penalty when Ander Herrera was booked for diving.
But Guardiola said: “We won because we were better. In all departments, we were better.”
Guardiola grew accustomed to Mourinho’s barbs when he was in charge of Barcelona and the Portuguese was trying to knock him from his pedestal at Real Madrid and he said his old adversary was up to his old tricks.
“The message was the same in Barcelona: our players diving,” Guardiola told his post-match press conference.
“When a team has the courage to have 65, 70, 75 percent average ball possession in all the games, it’s because it’s an honest team.
“It’s because they want to play. And that is what we have done. We are clear, we are open. We want the ball, want to attack, we want to try to win the games in the way we believe.
“The others can do whatever they want. My players want to play, want to attack. Sometimes they’re quicker, sometimes they’re faster, but they’re not a team who try to look for something special by diving.
“Because we are honest.”
In a classic example of Mourinho mischief-making, the United manager had also questioned Guardiola’s right to wear a yellow ribbon in solidarity with the jailed Catalan separatist leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.
The City manager has not been told he cannot wear the ribbon and he delivered an impassioned defence of his position after the match, saying he intended to show his support for the pair “even if they suspend me”.
While City were the dominant team – seeing 65 percent of the ball and registering seven shots on target to United’s five – it took a dazzling double save from Ederson to thwart Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata late on.
Mourinho was aggrieved by an incident prior to that when Spanish midfielder Herrera flopped to the ground over Otamendi’s foot and was booked – correctly – by referee Michael Oliver for simulation.
Mourinho, whose team briefly drew level through Marcus Rashford, claimed it was a “huge penalty” and said the two goals his side conceded, both of which stemmed from fluffed Lukaku clearances, were “disgraceful”.
“Yes, they had much more of the ball, yes they had that apparent control of the game,” Mourinho said.
“But the biggest save is the double save of their goalkeeper and the biggest decision of the game is the unlucky decision of Michael Oliver.”
He added: “Manchester City are a very good team and they are protected by the luck and the gods of football are behind them.”
Asked whether the title was now irretrievable, Mourinho conceded: “Probably, yes.”
Guardiola was more circumspect, instead opting to congratulate his players on becoming the first team in the history of the English top flight to win 14 straight games within the same season.