Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City fans' support for Joe Hart will not alter Guardiola's masterplan

Manchester City 1-0 Steaua Bucharest

By Mark Ogden

Pep Guardiola admitted his treatment of Joe Hart may prove to be a mistake, but insisted he will continue to take controversial decisions for the benefit of Manchester City.

Hart applauded all four corners of the Etihad Stadium after playing his first game of the season - and potentially his last for the club - in the 1-0 Champions League play-off second leg victory against Steaua Bucharest, with Fabian Delph's second-half header completing the formality of City's progress to the group phase.

With Guardiola confirming that a £17m deal for Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was "almost done" following the 6-0 aggregate win, Hart is expected to leave the club before next Wednesday's transfer deadline.

But while admitting that his decision to drop Hart has been unpopular among City supporters, who chanted the keeper's name throughout the game, Guardiola claimed it is one he had to make.

"Joe is still a player with us and I am happy with him today," Guardiola said. "I know he is a legend of the club and part of the reason the club has been successful is Joe.

"But I am here to take the decisions. I have made a lot of mistakes in my career, but I try to be honest and I can't deny what I feel. At Barcelona or Bayern Munich, all of my decisions weren't right, but I had to take them.

"I am here and I have to take decisions, that's all. Some will agree, some will not agree. I understand.

"The City fans can express what they feel. I would like all my decisions to make everyone happy - the fans, the media the club, but it is impossible."

Hart, who has spent 10 years at City since being signed from Shrewsbury Town as a teenager by former manager Stuart Pearce, insisted he and Guardiola were being "men" while dealing with the current situation. But the England No.1 admitted he did not know what lay ahead and where his future would be.

"We all know there is a situation going on, but I feel that inside, outside of all the circus, we are handling it well as a good team with a good management staff," he said.

"This is a special place for me, I don't think there has been any secret made of that.

"It is a place I love to be, but situations occur in football.

"But we are men, we get on with it and I really appreciate the people of Manchester City and it turns out that they appreciate me."

City, meanwhile, go into today's group stage draw in Pot Two, with Guardiola adding: "We have had two good games (against Steaua), so we are ready for the Champions League.

"We were the better team in Bucharest and the better team today.

"They had 10 men behind the ball, but in the second half, we attacked much better and we can celebrate being in the Champions League."

MAN CITY: Hart, Maffeo, Stones (Adarabioyo, 59 mins), Kolarov, Clichy, Toure, Fernando, Delph, Jesus Navas, Iheanacho (Fernandinho, 76 mins), Nolito (Angelino, 59 mins). Unused subs: Gunn, Sterling, Aguero, Silva.

Steaua: Cojocaru, Aganovic (Stanciu, 53 mins), Tamas, Mitrea, Momcilovic, Enache, Sulley (Achim, 62 mins), Bourceanu, O Popescu (Popa, 53 mins), Hamroun, Tudorie. Unused subs: Nita, Simion, Vilceanu, D Popescu.

Referee: Pawel Gil (Poland)

Man of the Match: John Stones

Match rating: 3/10

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