Smells like teen spirit as Pep Guardiola sets out his vision for the future at Manchester City

Pep's brave new world - one driven by the club's rising young guns - is starting to materialise at the Etihad but, as the Catalan admits himself, there's still plenty to be achieved

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Out with the old, in with the new. Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City last summer was always set to bring about wholesale change at the Etihad Stadium, with the Catalan looking to implement a progressive, tenacious model of football that revolved around rising young talent.

This vision offered little room for City’s old guard - with the likes of Joe Hart, Samir Nasri and Eliaquim Mangala all being shown the back door - as attention subsequently turned towards the bright new future that was to come.

In came John Stones for £47.5m, 19-year-old Gabriel Jesus agreed terms to a January transfer and Guardiola personally rang Raheem Sterling during England’s ill-fated Euro 2016 to say he would ‘fight for him’. Youth was to be the thrust with which Guardiola would look to propel his new side forward – a plan that, after eight months of asking, finally appears to be coming together.

Of course, the going has been far from easy. The sense of schadenfreude in watching Guardiola struggle at times has been palpable, with critics notably questioning whether the City manager was truly up to the task of English football as his side went six games without a win in October – Pep’s worst run as a manger.

City have since rallied and even in spite of Jesus’ recent lay-off, or Stones' erratic decision-making, Guardiola’s emphasis on the club’s young guns is starting to pay dividends - even if he remains fully aware such a project cannot produce instant results as hoped for.

“My idea is to work for the mid-term and long term,” he said ahead of his side’s Premier League tie with Stoke.

“We bought young players because we believe they have a lot of quality. We don’t buy players just because they are young. They have a lot of quality, and of course we can invest a lot of money, with Raheem or with Leroy or the other guys. 

“It’s because we expect them to be here for four, five, six, seven years and make their careers here at Manchester City. That is the reason why. But the first thing we are looking for is the potential, the quality. After that, OK, as young as possible.”

Two players who have thrived under Guardiola and this youth-spun model are Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling. The pair have been directly involved in 14 of City’s 30 goals this calendar year, establishing themselves as central components to an attacking blueprint that has finally started to click into place.

Although Guardiola refuses to get carried away with the pair, arguing improvements are still needed from both, he acknowledges the potential they both have to offer.

“He’s [Sterling] playing a lot, a lot of minutes, a lot of games,” he added. “It’s true how many chances he creates, how many chances he scores from. He create penalties, aggressive without the ball, and presses and many other things.

“It is the same case as Leroy, he is a guy who still needs to improve. I would not like him to believe or think that it’s already done, that he’s good enough.

“He can be better, especially in the simple things. Still he makes mistakes in the simple and easy things and when he improves that, wow!

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Sterling has enjoyed a revival in form under Guardiola (Getty)

“You have to start with the simple things and then work on dribbling the ball, scoring goals, these kind of things. But he has the talent.”

Guardiola may not be without his mistakes – the decision to replace Hart with Claudio Bravo has backfired in spectacular fashion – but the outlines of his brave new world are starting to materialise. City remain unbeaten since their ignominious defeat at Goodison Park earlier this year and continue to move in the right direction as they juggle the demands of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League football.

This coming together on the pitch is unsurprisingly reflected in the sense of togetherness that now appears to be underpinning the youth-led side – something Pep readily admits to.

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Jesus has a bright future ahead of him at City (Getty)

When asked about Sane and Sterling’s blossoming relationship on Tuesday, he said: “It is nice. Of course we like it.

“It’s nice when we go to Abu Dhabi to see how close they are - that is the most precious and beautiful thing. Team spirit is better than ever since I’ve been here. That’s what I like the most. Everybody is involved. 

“So if you have a team spirit it is so important.” More like teen spirit, and Manchester City look all the better for it.

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