Guardiola surprised by Manchester City’s flying start

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STOKE-ON-TRENT: Pep Guardiola admits he is surprised how well Manchester City have started under his management after a 4-1 victory at Stoke City extended their winning start to the season on Saturday.

Guardiola’s team have won two Premier League games, either side of a 5-0 victory at Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League, since the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager replaced Manuel Pellegrini in the close-season.

And the City boss is delighted with his start in English football.

“We have had a short time together and in spells in our last three games my players have shown me how intelligent they are,” Guardiola said.

“They are really good players with a lot of quality which they have shown here in one of the toughest places in the Premier league – at least people told me that.

“We saw again an amazing team spirit, how they communicate between each other, how they celebrated the goals and how they celebrated afterwards with the fans. That is the first step.

“We will improve many things but I am little bit surprised in the short time the level we played in Bucharest and here.

“To win 4-1 here is very good and we have scored nine goals in two games. It was a nice week for us.”

Sergio Aguero took his total to six goals in three games with City’s first two goals, before substitute Nolito added two more late on to give the victory margin an emphatic look.

Stoke had pulled within one goal just after half-time when Bojan Krkic scored from the penalty spot after Raheem Sterling had been judged to have fouled Ryan Shawcross.

That followed an earlier foul by Shawcross on Nicolas Otamendi to hand City a penalty for their opening goal as referee Mike Dean twice penalised infringements following corners.

“We have to be careful,” Guardiola added. “That’s why I like to defend with zonal marking because it is not man to man.

“You just attack the ball, maybe block sometimes if the people come and attack the ball. It was a little bit strange and I am sure Mark Hughes can say the same.

“All the teams have to careful with these kind of actions. I am not a guy that likes to complain.

“I don’t want the players to think I am looking for an alibi. If you win you deserve to, if you don’t win then you don’t deserve.”

Serious contenders

Stoke, who had lost just one of their previous eight home games against Man City in the Premier League, could have had an earlier penalty when Joe Allen was barged to the ground by visiting defender Aleksandar Kolarov.

Manager Mark Hughes was left frustrated but believes City, where he spent a spell in charge from 2008-09, will be serious contenders to regain the Premier League title they last won in 2014.

“If that’s what the directive is, let’s hope every time Mike Dean referees, he referees in the same manner,” Hughes said.

“In my experience there is usually a little bit of a purge for three or four weeks then everyone reverts to type.

“As long as it’s consistent and it’s from this game to the end of the season then I haven’t got a problem with it. Through experience I rather doubt that will be the case but we’ll see.

“Mike Dean is one of the more high-profile ones so maybe he enjoys that centre of attention, possibly.

“The scoreline was a little bit flattering for City but they are a good side.

“They are going to run the league title very close and run everybody else who has ambitions to win it this year.”