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Pep Guardiola Surprised by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's 'Foul' Accusations

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIApril 23, 2019

FILE PHOTO (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF IMAGES - Image numbers 1074604018,1141519827 - GRADIENT ADDED) In this composite image a comparison has been made between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United (L) and Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City. Manchester United and Manchester City meet in a Premier League fixture on April, 24, 2019 at Old Trafford in Manchester. ***LEFT IMAGE*** CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 22: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Interim Manager of Manchester United looks on before the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Manchester United at Cardiff City Stadium on December 22, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City looks on prior to the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on April 09, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola was surprised by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's comments about his Manchester City team ahead of Wednesday's derby at Old Trafford in the Premier League. 

The Manchester United boss said he is expecting fouls and an aggressive approach from the visitors, per Samuel Luckhurst at the Manchester Evening News:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Solskjaer on City: 'They will snap at your ankles and heels and kick you, they are not gonna allow us easy counter-attacking because there will be fouls.' #mufc #mcfc

Guardiola denied the Norwegian's accusations and said he has never set up his team to play in such an aggressive manner, per BBC Sport.

"Did he say that? With 65% or 70% possession, how do we do that? I don't like it. My side is not built like that, not at all. ... In 10 seasons as a manager, I never prepared for a game thinking about these things. Never. 

"In football, you sometimes do that [foul] because the actions are so fast. But I never said we should do it to punish an opponent or cancel them. Maybe after the game you can ask him in the press conference."

Solskjaer's comments have been met with bemusement by the defending champions ahead of the two sides' crucial clash, according to Tyrone Marshall at the Manchester Evening News:

Tyrone Marshall @TyMarshall_MEN

Guardiola (and City) angry and bemused at Solskjaer’s comments about tactical fouls. Some added spice for derby day

Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph went a step further, saying Guardiola was "furious" about what Solskjaer said, and was "visibly shocked and irritated by the allegation."

Manchester United have conceded more fouls than Manchester City this season in the opposition's half. The Red Devils have conceded 195 free-kicks, while City have only given away 170, according to Opta (h/t BBC Sport).

This is not the first time that Manchester City have been accused of utilising tactical fouls. Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown wrote in his column for MailOnline in October 2018 that midfielder Fernandinho "is a player who is helping them become masters of the dark arts."

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has also taken aim at the Brazilian midfielder. He said Fernandinho "trips people up, picks them up, is nice and smiles and gets away with it," per James Ducker at the Telegraph.

Goal's Sam Lee offered his view on the 33-year-old:

Sam Lee @Sammy_Goal

Fernandinho does have a knack of getting away with fouls, though. There was a point last December when I was convinced he was actively trying to get himself booked (get a ban for a winnable game) and the refs (two I seem to recall) just wouldn’t oblige. NB, he also makes tackles.

Meanwhile, former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has written a column for MailOnline in response to Solskjaer's comments and also mentions Fernandinho:

"I have seen Solskjaer's comments about City using tactical fouls to disrupt play when they lose possession, and he has a point. They break at such speed and are so expansive that they are left exposed when they lose the ball.

"City midfielder Fernandinho, in particular, is guilty of these cynical fouls. But then so are all teams in certain situations. Look at United — Nemanja Matic is similar to Fernandinho in that he breaks up play through whatever means he can, that's his job."

Solskjaer's side come into Wednesday's game under pressure after a dismal 4-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. The Red Devils have now lost seven of their last nine games and face a battle to secure a place in the top four.

Manchester City head to Old Trafford knowing victory will take them above Liverpool and to the top of the table with just three games left to play.

They will be favourites for victory given the two sides' contrasting form, and Solskjaer's comments are likely to add further spice to what should be an intriguing game.

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