Pep Guardiola says Manchester City were always his first-choice club when he decided to come to the Premier League, despite Alex Ferguson’s attempt to lure him to Manchester United.
Former United manager Ferguson wrote in his 2015 book ‘Leading’ that he asked Guardiola to contact him before accepting his next job during a dinner in New York in 2012.
But City manager Guardiola, who was then on a sabbatical, has played down the idea Ferguson proposed the United job to him.
“My English is not perfect now, but it’s a little bit better. But in that period my English was not good, and maybe I didn’t understand him,” Guardiola said on the eve of Sunday’s Manchester derby.
“But I don’t remember, when we were in a magnificent restaurant having dinner, that he suggested to me that I should go to Old Trafford. I don’t remember. I know he said that, but I don’t remember.
“We spoke about life, about football of course, about the Premier League, but he never sent me a message under the table to say: ‘Maybe, you know, United will be involved,’ or something like that.
“I don’t remember that. It was just two friends, two colleagues in football, talking about many, many things.
“When he spoke really fast, it was difficult to understand him. But it was nice because he chose an amazing restaurant, and of course he paid.”
Ferguson stepped down at United at the end of the 2012-13 season, but by then, Guardiola had already committed to join Bayern Munich.
In any case, Guardiola said he wanted to join City and link up again with director of football Txiki Begiristain, with whom he had previously worked at Barcelona.
“I had already spoken to Bayern,” Guardiola told reporters in Manchester this week. “And in my mind, I was clear that I wanted to live that amazing experience in Germany.
“Bayern Munich were the first to call me, alongside Manchester City. But I decided to go to Germany, to learn German and to live that experience.
“From the moment Manchester City approached, I decided that if I were to go to the Premier League, I would go with them, because I know Txiki.
“I met Khaldoon (al Mubarak, the City chairman) there in my last period in Munich and they showed more interest than any other club to pick me up, and that was so important for me.
“They said: ‘We want you, not just for the hypothetical titles you are going to win, or won in the past. We want you.’
“That’s why I decided to come here. And believe me, I don’t have any regrets about that.”
Guardiola retains plenty of admiration for Ferguson, who won 49 trophies in 26 and a half glittering years as United manager.
“Definitely. Definitely,” said Guardiola. “Just imagine, 13 Premier Leagues. That’s why he’s ‘Sir’.
“It’s magnificent, what he’s done. I said many times that sometimes you are lucky to be manager for one period when you have a group or generation of amazing players and you win a lot of titles.
“He had a generation, out. A new one and win again, out. New one and win again. That is so complicated.
“To maintain that for a long time and be there winning with attractive football, scoring lot of goals and not just in ‘Fergie time’, but during the games... I respect his long career.”