Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will celebrate reaching a third successive FA Cup semi-final by taking a break from football – for a few days at least.
The 2-0 win over Everton, achieved in the last 10 minutes thanks to goals from Ilkay Gundogan and substitute Kevin De Bruyne, meant the club have reached the last four in the competition three years running for the first time since 1932.
With the international break now kicking in Guardiola will put aside his near-obsessive addiction to football to take some time off before he begins planning for the next phase on their route towards a quadruple.
“In this next four or five days I will not think about football or watch games and then at the end of the first week and the second week we will start preparing for Leicester and (the Champions League quarter-final against) Borussia Dortmund,” he said.
Guardiola’s main concern will be the health of his players as they jet off for matches for their countries.
As they are leaving the strictly-controlled Premier League Covid-19 bubble the Spaniard is keeping his fingers crosses similar measures are in place with national teams to minimise the risk to players.
“I hope they can come back and stay safe and well, not just for us but for them,” he added.
“Of course we have had incredible control but people are travelling so we spoke about this and told them to be careful.
“We are lucky in England that it is the best country, along with the United States, to vaccinate a lot of people and that makes our lives easier.
“Hopefully the people who go abroad come back safe.”
Guardiola accepted Everton provided one of their toughest tests of the last year with their defensive organisation and a resilience which was only broken following the 80th-minute introduction of De Bruyne.
He had a hand in the opening goal four minutes later, with his presence on the edge of Everton’s penalty area helping set up Gundogan for his 11th goal in the last two months after converting the rebound from Aymeric Laporte’s shot which was tipped onto the crossbar by third-choice goalkeeper Joao Virginia.
The Belgium international then raced through to add the finishing touches as the match entered added time.
City’s expensively-assembled squad meant their bench was worth about £420million – compared to Everton with five academy graduates among their substitutes – and the likes of Sergio Aguero, Ferran Torres and Joao Cancelo did not even get on.
Gundogan admits that is part of the reason for their incredible run of 25 wins in 26 matches.
“It’s very important,” he told mancity.com.
“We know that we have players on the bench every single game that can possibly make the difference, if we need it.
“When I scored, he (De Bruyne) had a great dribble and then Aymeric was able to shoot. He scored the second.
“In the biggest teams, they win like that, having players on the bench contributing in important moments.
“That’s what you need when you want to win. We are happy to have a great squad, to have a deep squad.”