Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has admitted he thought he may have been sacked last season.
The 47-year-old is on the brink of winning his first Premier League title, with victory at Everton on Saturday potentially putting City 19 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester United with only 21 left to play for.
So it seems implausible now that little over 12 months ago the Spaniard was sweating on his job.
But last season’s clash at Goodison Park in January 2017 was a different story, with City crashing to a 4-0 defeat despite dominating the play and going on to finish in third place, 15 points behind champions Chelsea.
Guardiola has now confessed he was concerned his methods weren’t working and that he may be dismissed.
“Of course. I thought ‘If it doesn’t work, I’ll go home, another one is coming and someone can try in his way’, so in that moment there was concern about the results, what we can do to improve,” said the City boss.
“In that moment I thought that could happen, that it doesn’t work.”
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager added: “But at the same time, I thought if next season it’s not going well, if it’s the same, Txiki (Begiristain, City’s director of football) or Ferran (Soriano, City’s chief executive) would decide ‘OK Pep you are not good enough’ and change.”
– ‘Works to play my way’ –
Guardiola speaks from a position of strength now. But he showed a little-seen vulnerability in admitting he experiences self-doubt, especially when results weren’t going as well as expected last season.
“Of course you think ‘It’s not going well, we are not winning. What do we have to do?’”, he said.
“That is normal. All the managers think the same when they don’t win.
“They think ‘What can we do to get better?’ But I said many times we’ll try until the end.
“I said last season many times when I was asked — it works to play my way and I said ‘I am going to insist (playing that way), so I never had a doubt about that.”
Amid speculation that City star Raheem Sterling could be a target for other clubs, Guardiola — who is under contract until 2021 on a £19.5 million ($ 27.4 million, 22.2 million euros) deal, has insists he will be at the Etihad next season.
“My future next season is here,” he said.
As for title celebrations, a cautious Guardiola said: “It’s not already done! We need three — or two wins.
“I don’t know absolutely anything about what they are preparing or anything like that. Nobody has said, nobody has consulted me.”
City are set to be without John Stones (concussion) and Sergio Aguero (knee) against Everton.
Stones came off in England’s 1-1 draw against Italy, while Aguero missed Argentina’s friendlies against Italy and Spain, as well as City’s 2-0 Premier League win at Stoke City before the international break.