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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola joked that Manchester United fans do not need to be scared about his side winning the treble this season, insisting it was still “far away” after they booked their place in the FA Cup final.
Riyad Mahrez’s hat-trick ensured City reached the showpiece occasion next month with a 3-0 victory over Championship side Sheffield United at Wembley to end a run of three successive semi-final losses.
With the Premier League title now firmly in their hands ahead of a decisive match with Arsenal on Wednesday and in the last four of the Champions League they look a good bet to match United’s fabled achievement in 1999.
They don’t have to be scared, we are neighbours, the neighbours are always nice to each other
Guardiola mused that the once ‘noisy neighbours’ now enjoy a cordial relationship with their city rivals and have nothing to be worried about, but anyone who is thinking of winning the treble is not being realistic.
“They don’t have to be scared, we are neighbours, the neighbours are always nice to each other,” he said.
“We are far away, people cannot believe that we are far away with this kind of situation. It is OK for people to discuss it for a funny moment, but the reality is different. The reality is to come here and perform.”
Mahrez was the matchwinner for City, who made six changes from their Champions League quarter-final second leg at Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.
The Morocco international opened the scoring shortly before half-time from the penalty spot and then scored twice in five minutes after the break as City put the tie to bed.
Mahrez’s performance will make Guardiola’s life easier as the City boss revealed that Mahrez is not afraid to show how he feels when he does not play regularly.
“He is always grumpy with me when he doesn’t play all the time, he makes me notice how grumpy he feels,” he said.
He is always grumpy with me when he doesn’t play all the time, he makes me notice how grumpy he feels
“Today no. He is an exceptional player, a big stage player and has the mentality to score the goal. The composure for the penalty was important to go in after the first half at 1-0 and the second and third goal was brilliant.
“I am so satisfied with Riyad, he has given many, many things in these years and more in the future hopefully.
“We have known each other for many years, I know I have lost the battle to make him understand how important the group is. It is important when he plays at that level and when he does everything is fine.”
Things might have been different for the Blades had Iliman Ndiaye converted his golden chance in the opening few minutes, but after that they could not lay a glove on the Premier League champions.
Boss Paul Heckingbottom was proud of the display but now turns his attention to Wednesday night, where a win against West Brom will confirm his side’s promotion to the Premier League.
“There is a lot of frustration there. But I saw a team go right to the end,” Heckingbottom said.
“There are big lessons from that game, if we get the points we want on Wednesday night and get to where we want to be, that’s the benchmark.
“We need to understand and everyone to a man we need to be better, prepare better, execute better. We didn’t score when we had the first moment of the game and that is critical against the best.
“We have got ourselves in a position now and we know what we need to do.
“Having seen the fans today I am determined and focused to get promotion for everyone at the club and will fight for the three points on Wednesday so that we do it at Bramall Lane.”
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