Perhaps Raheem Sterling sums up the attacking instincts of Pep Guardiola best. ‘I don’t think he’s ever shouted at me for losing the ball because I took someone on,’ says the in-form England winger.
‘Maybe if you lose the ball with a silly pass when you’re winning but never if you’re trying to commit a defender and use the ball.
‘He encourages that at every opportunity. If you’re going to win a game you’re going to have to try something at some point.’
Guardiola’s adventurous methods, derided as naive in England when Manchester City were without a last season, are now being admired across Europe from Serie A leaders Napoli to today’s opponents Liverpool, just over 30 miles down the East Lancs Road.
City go to Anfield, where they lost 1-0 last season, unbeaten in the Premier League this season and in all domestic games since April.
They are chasing an unprecedented four trophies and are the highest scorers in the league this season. Liverpool are the second-highest.
Guardiola is too savvy to draw direct comparisons with the more sterile fare being meted out at other clubs such as Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United but the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager admits that he enjoys watching his City team inspire others to play attractive football.
‘I like that because more than a manager, I’m a fan. When I have to choose, those are the type of teams I like to watch,’ he said.
‘Barcelona, I love to watch, first because I am a fan of the club, I grew up there, and especially because we are in a period we cannot miss in terms of seeing their players, especially one [Messi].
‘I am happy that in Italy, Napoli and [Maurizio] Sarri are playing in a quite similar way. I identify quite well with how they play and how they want to do things.
‘It’s the same with Tottenham. Tottenham can drop points but I see the games and think: “They played well”. You always see they have 20, 25, 27 shots on target.
‘You see that and say “wow”. They play high and try to make the build-ups. I am talking personally. I’m not judging anything. As a fan, I like to watch these kinds of teams.’
Perhaps more than any team other than City, Liverpool get the crowd on the edges of their seats. One of their ‘Fab Four’, Philippe Coutinho, has decamped to Barcelona but Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane remain.
However, Guardiola promises that they won’t take the challenge of going to Anfield any more lightly because Coutinho has gone to Spain.
‘Coutinho’s quality is not in doubt. Barcelona have signed a top, top player,’ he said. ‘But it is not going to change my opinion of Liverpool on Sunday.’