sport news DANNY MURPHY: How Pep Guardiola has made Manchester City one of English ...

Manchester City could be Premier League champions and reach the Champions League final in the next 72 hours. They are one of English football’s greatest teams, particularly as they’ve had to cope with an unprecedented fixture list and empty stadiums. This is how they have done it…

SIGNING OF RUBEN DIAS

City were an easy touch last season, losing nine games because of errors at the back. Nobody was talking then about Ruben Dias compared to other Premier League targets like Kalidou Koulibaly but City’s recruitment department came up trumps. Dias has been influential in City shutting the back door and has been involved in 25 clean sheets even though he started the season at Benfica. I liken his influence to Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool, making the team stable. And he’s still only 23, he could be around for another decade.

Pep Guardiola has created a Manchester City team that is one of English football's best ever

Pep Guardiola has created a Manchester City team that is one of English football's best ever

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In signing Ruben Dias (right), Manchester City got a player with Virgil van Dijk-like influence

In signing Ruben Dias (right), Manchester City got a player with Virgil van Dijk-like influence

Dias' arrival coincided with Pep Guardiola's rehabilitation of John Stones, who seemed finished

Dias' arrival coincided with Pep Guardiola's rehabilitation of John Stones, who seemed finished

MANAGEMENT MASTERCLASS

Too many managers discard players after a bad season, particularly if they have a big chequebook. Pep Guardiola has shown if you listen and learn, you will get a second chance.

The transformation of John Stones is the best example. He’s always had ability but his City career had fallen off a cliff with even Fernandinho ahead of him in the pecking order at centre-half. Guardiola didn’t give up on him and credit to Stones for putting the work in.

Many of us thought Phil Foden needed to go on loan. Guardiola decided he was better off developing in-house and he’s been proved right. At 20, Foden has starred in different positions and plays like he’s been doing it for years. Bernardo Silva is another brought in from the cold.

ADAPTING TO NEW NORMAL

Nobody has coped with this season’s unique demands better than Guardiola, tactically and selection-wise.

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He has played differently and the plan for Joao Cancelo to step inside from full-back to central midfield during games has tightened City defensively, helped them control games and allowed Ilkay Gundogan to get forward and be a goal threat.

Guardiola has adapted plans for Ilkay Gundogan (pictured) and Joao Cancelo this season

Cancelo (pictured) has stepped inside from full-back to central midfield during games

Guardiola has adapted plans for Ilkay Gundogan (left) and Joao Cancelo (right) this season

Playing the traditional Pep way, full intensity all the time, could have led to fatigue with this crazy Covid fixture list. Instead, City have prioritised the control of games. Often

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