Steve McManaman expects Pep Guardiola to transform Manchester City but has warned the Spaniard the job at the Etihad Stadium will prove his hardest.
Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich to succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season and is likely to do so while winning a third Bundesliga title in three seasons and possibly the Champions League, having been appointed when they were already the reigning German and European champions.
His three years there came after four in Spain which were so successful his Barcelona team is widely considered the finest in history, but came after he assumed control of a squad in which Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Samuel Eto’o were already prominent.
McManaman does not share the belief that exists among some that Guardiola has simply been fortunate to work with two groups of exceptionally talented players – he even believes the Spaniard has improved the Bayern team which won the treble in 2013 – but despite also being impressed with City’s quality he believes they have under-performed.
He played opposite the Spaniard while at Real Madrid when Guardiola was Barca’s captain, and after observing his ability to improve individual players is confident in City’s future.
He is also wary the competition in the Premier League remains intense, however, and believes Guardiola will be vying for success alongside improved Chelsea and Manchester United teams next season.
“I’m really excited by it, he’s a great coach,” McManaman, who played for City from 2003 to 2005, told Press Association Sport.
“His Barcelona team were great. Regardless of him not winning the Champions League he has improved Bayern Munich, they’re a better team to watch – I know they won the treble (the previous season).
“They’re a great side; their movement is brilliant. I know the players at Bayern really love working with him and he’ll be great for Manchester City.
“I want City want to play really entertaining football. You can’t play like Barcelona but he’ll make them play better, and they’ll be a better team to watch, and I’m really looking forward to how he does it.
“He’ll improve all of them. He’s got this ability to make the players better and be more comfortable.
“(At City) Raheem’s (Sterling) on the left wing, with (Aleksandar) Kolarov bombing around him, David Silva’s always inside, and I don’t think their movement is good enough. Pep would sort that out.
“They’ve been incredibly inconsistent with the squad they’ve got, and Pep will bring in his own people, he’ll certainly make them into a force.”
McManaman significantly improved, becoming a more cultured player, when in 1999 he left Liverpool for Real.
The promising Sterling last summer left Anfield for City for an initial £44million but while he is yet to justify that transfer fee, McManaman is confident Guardiola will inspire him to fulfil his potential.
“He’s incredibly talented,” he said. “He’s having an inconsistent time because City are.
“If you’ve got eight players struggling, you’re going to struggle in a team like that. If Sterling played in Barcelona’s team he’d be having a wonderful season.
“Last year I said he was the best teenager in Europe and I stand by that. That type of talent, the best manager will get a lot out of him, and he will improve Raheem a lot.
“(But) this will be the hardest job he’s ever had. This will be the biggest test for him. That’s why I’m really looking forward to it.
“I don’t think he will (repeatedly) win the league – Roman Abramovich will have something to say about that, or Manchester United, or whatever – but this will be his hardest job. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he changes City around.”
:: Steve McManaman was speaking on behalf of Capital One – the credit card in your corner. Visit facebook.com/CapitalOneUK