MIDDLESBROUGH, United Kingdom, Mar 12 – Pep Guardiola insists he is keeping all his options open as he pursues a trophy in his first season at Manchester City.
Guardiola’s side are still in contention in the Premier League and Champions League, but the City manager appears equally committed to success in the FA Cup.
Facing a quarter-final at Premier League strugglers Middlesbrough on Saturday, Guardiola admirably resisted the temptation to rest several of his most influential players with a Champions League trip to Monaco only four days away.
The Spaniard was rewarded with a 2-0 victory that represented the ideal preparation for Wednesday’s game where they lead 5-3 after the last 16 first leg, and a daunting run of Premier League fixtures against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
By the time they go to Stamford Bridge on April 5, the FA Cup may provide the sole remaining opportunity for Guardiola to fulfil his desire to lift the trophy that means City’s season will not be considered a total failure.
His players displayed a similar passionate desire to make progress against Middlesbrough, who were indebted to their second-choice goalkeeper Brad Guzan for a series of splendid saves either side of goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero, two players Guardiola might have rested.
“No, I was not tempted to rest people. Today was a ‘final’ and I didn’t want to be sat here saying I am out of the cup,” said the City boss.
“Now we need to take things step by step and see which rivals we are going to face in the semi-finals.
“This is a big step for us and now we must try to go back for the final after the semi-final because the cup is very important to us.
“I get excited a lot about going to Wembley because I remember the old and the new stadium. We are so happy to be there and we are there because of the way we played. I’m so pleased with our performance.”
– Distraction –
Silva’s goal came after only three minutes and Aguero sealed a deserved success after 67 minutes.
“We would like to have scored more goals, but we have created chances,” Guardiola said.
“We are at Wembley in the semi-finals and we deserved it by far after four away games in the competition, three against Premier League teams and another against one of the best in the Championship in Huddersfield.”
Middlesbrough’s defeat removes a distraction for Aitor Karanka’s team as they fight against relegation, but the manager senses that this could be a turning point in their season.
“We have rediscovered our confidence in the way we approached the game,” he said.
“They are one of the best teams in the league and played a strong team which showed they consider us a good team.
“As a coach I can be proud of my players. We know we don’t have individuals that other teams have and for that reason we have to be together and work hard every day.”