Pep Guardiola says that he has spent much time over the last few months contemplating how different Manchester City’s season would have been had they had the services for the entire campaign of Brazilian prodigy Gabriel Jesus, who could start tomorrow.
The City manager rhapsodised about the 20- year-old in the aftermath of his team’s goalless draw with Manchester United in which Jesus made his first appearance since breaking a metatarsal against Bournemouth on Feb 16. He had an impact on the game as a late substitute and had a goal ruled out for offside.
“You saw today after three months out in five minutes what he can do,” Guardiola said of Jesus in what was a notably impassioned monologue about the qualities of his striker. “He has his instinct. Next season he will be there with us. Always I have things in mind about what would have happened if we had Gabriel Jesus this season.
“We didn’t buy another striker because we bought him but he could not come before January and that means those four and a half months without him. When he arrived his impact was instant, it was so great in a tough league like this one and he could only play three weeks.”
Guardiola said that Jesus had only featured in two training sessions ahead of the United game but he will surely be tempted to play him against Middlesbrough tomorrow afternoon. “Especially in games where when the [opposition] defence is so, so deep, how you attack [changes]. I will never know [what it would have been like with Jesus], I would like to know what would have happened in many games when we missed chances.
“He has this instinct in the box, his dynamics, his aggression, he gives us for the second line of midfield players how he presses, how he goes to the box, his influence on his other team mates is huge.”
The City captain Vincent Kompany says that his relationship with Guardiola is strong, suggesting that he will be at the club next season despite having been left out of the side at times in February. The United game was Kompany’s third in a row, following a season of chronic injury problems.
Kompany said: “The manager has been brilliant with me. It’s not been a season where I’ve had any complaints. He’s been good with me and when I’ve been back to full fitness he has given me my chance. Our relationship is really good.”
Kompany is contracted to City until 2019 and he said he would work through the summer to be ready for next season. “Rarely has there been a season where we have dominated so many of the big games and come out of it just with not enough. Again, I am someone who looks to the future and I believe we are not far off. It is details but we are not far off having the real deal here. It’s just that everything that can go against us at the moment is going against us. But it is no excuse, of course.”