In terms of a manager’s skill, what is the most important thing?
Tactics are so important because everybody has to know what they have to do on the pitch. The relationships and behaviours off the pitch between team-mates have to be as good as possible. Everything is important: your life, your private life, your relationship with the media. And especially we are going to try to convince this amazing club that they are good. They are good. And the fans as well; the fans have to believe they are good, the club are good, the players are good. We don’t have the history, the shirt of Barcelona, Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich or Manchester United, their titles. To be in Europe – we have to try over the next decade to be there every year. That is the most important for the club, more than winning one title, believe me.
In your mind, is football more like an orchestra, which is conducted and rehearsed? Or is it more like free jazz? In the first part of the process, the defence is schematic things – four or five movements. So I believe that’s more schematical, more like an orchestra. But offensively, the way you attack is open. In some parts of the pitch of course you have to be creative and take the chance. But I don’t like it when people say: ‘I like freedom; I want to play for myself.’ Because the player has to understand he is part of a team, with 10 other players. If every player plays like a jazz musician, it will be chaos. They will not be a team.
You have said you look at the last six games of your next opponents in full
That is when I was young. When I was young I was able to see six games of each opponent. Now I am an old guy. We lost hair trying to see six games …
Do you still look for your eureka moment when you know how you are going to undo your opponent?
Yes, but now I don’t have that feeling because I am still in the process of knowing my players. What I don’t want is when one of my players comes and gives me a question and I don’t have an answer. I have to avoid that. That’s why I have to know my opponents.
As a manager do you experience nerves on matchday?
Yes, you have to feel that. If not, you’re better being dismissed. You have to feel that nervousness, that pressure, in your body. But it’s a good energy.
You called over John Stones 90 seconds into one game. What are you looking for the second a game kicks off?
After 90 seconds you realise that what you thought about the game, your opponents or you, it’s happened or not happened. Immediately you can know that. I saw the opponents and maybe after 90 seconds they do something different from what we thought and I have to communicate to one player and they change a little bit. I would like to have timeouts after 30 minutes and more substitutes. In that case with John Stones it was about our buildup. I realised immediately they wanted to avoid us playing inside, leaving us to go outside. Maybe 90 seconds is an exaggeration but after 10-15 minutes you know exactly what the opponent want to do and what you have to do and if the plan you prepared is going to work.
You are judged by results but the style of play is the indicator for you of the transformation. If it’s not the score, what are you looking for?
I am so happy when I feel emotion about the way my team plays. The result is an empty thing. The result is: I’m happy for the next two days because I get less criticism and more time to improve my team. But what satisfies me the most in my job is to feel emotions, the way we play. For example, we won at Crystal Palace and Burnley and I didn’t feel absolutely anything about the pleasure to see my team play. I was so happy we won the game but I want to feel the team playing like I want. If not, why am I here? Why am I here? To win titles? OK, win titles but then the day after … Of course I am happy for the people. But the process is the reason.
Even when you win you like to dwell on what went wrong
That’s part of my job. All the managers in the world are here to win games. Of course when we win I am so happy, I am so satisfied and I drink a good glass of wine and enjoy that. But what I like is to imagine the next step can be better. If not, I will not be here. And the moment I feel in that process, I will feel it is the end of my career. I will not be a trainer at 60 or 65. No, no, no. Manchester City is three years or maybe longer but I am still approaching the end of my career as a manager. I’m pretty sure of that. If you’re looking for me, I am on the golf course. I will be there. It’s not raining any more, it’s not windy any more.
What do you love about football?
The game itself, the 90 minutes, where you prepare the tactics and the training sessions. That is the reason I’m here. When I finish my career as a coach I will disappear. You won’t find me again in your life. On the golf course but … I like the game. I think all the managers are like that. Football is a beautiful game.
This is an edited extract from an interview with NBC Sports