Pep Guardiola insists Manchester United’s prolific form means Manchester City still cannot take Premier League glory for granted.
City need a maximum of five points to win their third title in four seasons and Guardiola’s side could complete the job if they win at Crystal Palace on Saturday and second-placed United lose at home to rivals and reigning champions Liverpool a day later.
The City manager feels it would be foolish to be distracted by the looming finish line, however, particularly in light of United’s 6-2 Europa League demolition of Roma on Thursday.
“Let me try to beat Crystal Palace. Don’t ask me what I’ll feel [if I win the title] because I didn’t experience it, it didn’t happen,” he told a pre-match news conference.
“I know you anticipate it, but the reality is yesterday we saw another example of which contender we are playing. United are an extraordinary team who arrived in the last two months in their best form all season.
“We need five points to be champions and tomorrow we have an incredible opportunity to make this step.
“If we win that game, we are going to think about what happens. Just in case it does happen, you can ask me about my feelings. But I cannot explain about my feelings in the future because I did not experience it.”
Since a run of two wins from eight Premier League matches from the end of January to the beginning of March – a prolonged slump that allowed City to streak clear, United have been in imperious form.
A 2-0 derby win over City began a run of five consecutive top-flight wins, checked by last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Leeds United.
Leeds recently beat a heavily rotated City line-up, something Guardiola is expected to repeat with a fully fit squad and the second leg of their Champions semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain on the horizon.
City came from behind in stirring fashion to win 2-1 in the French capital in midweek, aided by some half-time tactical tweaks by their manager.
However, Guardiola again insisted the credit should rest with his players – acknowledging relatively little squad upheaval over recent years as a virtue when negotiating this season’s compacted schedule.
“In our period together, these five seasons, we are almost the same guys as the first Premier League we won,” he said.
“I said many times all the managers at top clubs when you play every three days, we don’t have training. I’m a manager but I don’t feel like on the pitch we can develop because have time.
“The only reason is the quality of the players that we have, who can understand what we are looking for and change some ideas immediately because they are intelligent.
“There are no more secrets. In one season you can be a successful, win something important, but to be consistent through the years there is just one secret – have quality players. Don’t sell it on any aspects other than that.
“When you have a team like this you can sustain it for a longer time.”
Even so, Guardiola believes fatigue might be a factor for a sixth successive game on the road – including Wembley visits for the FA Cup semi-finals and EFL Cup final over the past two weekends – against an opponent who have previously proved a tricky proposition.
“It is a lot of trips, a lot of travel, we are tired in many aspects,” he added.
“The reality is Crystal Palace, a Roy Hodgson team. Every time we faced them we had a lot of problems to win the game.”