Pep Guardiola says his decision to name six substitutes against Burnley was a question of timing rather than a form of protest.
After the Manchester City manager failed to fill his bench for last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Turf Moor, the move was criticised by pundits including Gary Neville.
“I think it’s a joke, I absolutely think it’s a joke,” former Manchester United defender Neville told Sky Sports.
City were without Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and John Stones due to injury, with Guardiola citing a late withdrawal from David Silva for his choice to name a squad of 17.
“I think it’s the first time in my life but all the players were injured, believe me,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.
“David trained with us that day. On that day, at four in the afternoon, he did a training session. That’s why I did not call another player.
“During the training session he said he wasn’t ready and after that I said, ‘Go to the second team’, but in one hour and a half the second team were going to play a game.
“So I thought I am not going to call a player to go to the bench when normally the substitute is Brahim [Diaz] or maybe Yaya [Toure] or another one.
“That was the reason why. Normally, of course, you would have 18 players. It was the first time in my life, it was an exception.
“If the training session had been at 10 in the morning, 11 in the morning it would have been 18 players. But it is not a big issue, it’s okay.”
.@LeroySane19 and @gabrieljesus33 are nearing the end of their road to recovery! #mancity pic.twitter.com/HidR5mXX4c
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 9, 2018
And Guardiola hit out at Neville, who was in charge of Valencia for four months before being sacked by the LaLiga club in his sole managerial job to date.
“He has to know this guy, the pundit, he has to know my job is serious,” Guardiola said of Neville’s comment.
“Never is it a joke. My job is so serious. He should know that because he was a manager for a short time.”
Asked if he would consider naming a squad short of the full complement again, Guardiola added: “I don’t know. Management is not a book, where every time you have to do the same things.
“Sometimes I speak to the team in one way, the other week in another way. All the other managers are the same. It is not a book where we have to follow the rules.
“Of course, the prestigious pundit [Neville] can say whatever he wants, but I take the decisions.”
City welcome Leicester City to the Etihad Stadium, but Silva could again be absent due to injury.
“He had a tough kick against West Brom and here it is painful,” Guardiola said. “It’s not a big problem, but it’s a kick where you need time.
“He trained today but he doesn’t feel right and I would prefer he recovers. He is so important for us.”
With City without Silva and Sane, a move for Riyad Mahrez failed at the end of the January transfer window.
The Foxes winger subsequently missed Leicester’s two matches, but Guardiola refuted claims his side were to blame for the situation.
“Leicester came to pick up Kelechi [Iheanacho], we did it,” Guardiola said.
“In all the transfers, clubs call the clubs. It’s simple like that. After that we are not involved in anything.
“It’s a decision for the player and for the club. Not for Manchester City.
“I wish as soon as possible [Mahrez] can come back and play because he is an extraordinary player.”