One of the more excessive punditry proclamations this season came from Gary Neville when he dubbed Pep Guardiola the ‘greatest manager of all time’ after Manchester City had retained the Carabao Cup against a Tottenham team who flew the white flag days before kick-off.
The standard of punditry nosedived in a season of locked turnstiles, with broadcasters appearing to encourage partisan punditry, as if to offset the absence of paying matchgoers. Neville, otherwise erudite, has often been accused of overcompensating for his red allegiance by overpraising United ‘s rivals.
Guardiola is one of the greatest managers and the game’s current great, the only challenger Sir Alex Ferguson never toppled. But you did not need a coaching badge to conclude Guardiola got it wrong with his line-up in Porto. Chelsea’s winner – sprung by Mason Mount pinging a pass through a gap a jumbo jet could have driven through – was a complete condemnation of Guardiola’s omission of a defensive midfielder.
The choice of the ineffectual Gabriel Jesus as the first substitute was also peculiar and, for a coach who has invested nearly £1billion in five years, Guardiola is still without an expert left-back.
Guardiola seeks to highlight his genius through tactical innovations yet sometimes he is too clever for his own good. He transformed Philipp Lahm, this century’s finest right-back, into a magnificent midfielder yet they did not lift the European Cup together at Bayern Munich. Ederson has evolved into a borderline outfield player under Guardiola but he was culpable again in the finale of City’s Champions League campaign