Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola maintains he has never instructed his player to persistently foul opponents.
Guardiola's Manchester United counterpart and old adversary Jose Mourinho soured the build-up to last weekend's derby at Old Trafford by claiming City's players of diving and using tactical fouls to cut out opposition attacks at source.
The Football Association (FA) this week asked Mourinho to explain those comments, continuing the prolonged fallout from City's 2-1 victory that has been dominated by accounts of a reported bust-up between players from both teams outside the away dressing room, which was allegedly instigated by the United manager objecting to loud celebrations.
That incident was tersely skirted around by both Guardiola and Mourinho ahead of respective midweek wins over Swansea City and Bournemouth and amounts to another item in the FA's in-tray.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's match against Tottenham, where City will aim to extend their Premier League record 15-match winning run and an 11-point advantage at the summit, the Catalan would not be drawn on the FA approaching Mourinho but staunchly refuted the claim there is a sinister side to his widely lauded tactical approach.
"I don't know how many fouls we make on the pitch but I think when you have 70 per cent possession we are not that [a tactical fouling] team," he said.
"When we have the ball, we kick each other – I think that doesn’t happen in football. I don't know statistically but I don’t think so.
"I never, never, never, never sent a message to my players [to make fouls]. You can ask the players, these players and the old players if my message on the pitch was to make fouls. I don’t use this kind of message."
Guardiola went on to explain that his tactics for stopping counter-attacks comes down to the same principle at the heart of his team's offensive approach – positional play.
"You have to be ready, to be close to their run," he said.
"Of course, we make fouls. Of course, we do that. We are not saints. It's because of the way the game is.
"Sometimes, when tripping, you make a foul and get a yellow card. That's football."
City's rampant form means they are an increasingly regular source of conversation for other managers.
Guardiola comes face-to-face with Mauricio Pochettino this weekend, who insists his irritation over the ex-Barcelona boss dubbing Spurs the "Harry Kane Team" has passed, while Arsene Wenger took a swipe at City's wealthy Abu Dhabi ownership on Friday – attributing their usurping of Arsenal's 14-game winning run to "petrol and ideas".
Rising above the fray is unlikely to get any easier.
"If you ask me [about] on the pitch we can be here [talking for] three hours," Guardiola added.
"When you ask me what he has said or he has said, forget about it. Off the pitch you have to knock on another door."
21. Juli 2018
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