Soccer

Michael Duff proud of his Cheltenham players despite Man City loss

Michael Duff brimming with pride in his players as League Two Cheltenham went within nine minutes of knocking Man City out of the FA Cup – and Pep Guardiola was left impressed as he offered his rival a bottle of red wine!

  • REPORT: Manchester City were given a scare before defeating Cheltenham Town
  • Michael Duff’s League Two side took a shock lead in Saturday’s FA Cup meeting
  • Duff began to dream of a famous result before City turned the contest around 

Michael Duff allowed himself to dream as Cheltenham Town came close to causing one of the FA Cup’s greatest upsets against Manchester City last night.

The League Two side led Pep Guardiola’s star-studded squad with nine minutes left of the fourth-round tie after Alfie May’s shock opener.

City’s class eventually told with goals from Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres but the Cheltenham manager hailed his players.

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff (right) was full of pride after his side pushed Manchester City

Alfie May gave the League Two side a shock lead before City rallied late to win the FA Cup tie

‘Once you see the scoreboard turn past 80 minutes against Man City… I’d be lying if I didn’t think we had a chance,’ Duff said.

‘I thought it was an incredible performance. Really proud of the players. I said to them, “can you walk off the pitch proud of yourselves?” These sort of games you can jog around and ask for shirts after but Pep and the players know they were involved in a half-decent football match.’

Duff and Guardiola had a lengthy conversation at full-time, with the Cheltenham boss – a former Premier League defender at Burnley – offered his counterpart a bottle of wine.

‘Pep said we should be proud,’ Duff added. ‘I just picked his brains about a couple of things. They are gold dust moments. It wasn’t the normal red wine I buy, I can assure you! I feel like going to bed right now, I’m absolutely exhausted. It’s emotionally draining.

‘My phone is going absolutely mental. Maybe the football club has stepped out of the racecourse’s shadow for five minutes.

‘It is tinged with disappointment. I told the players to enjoy this moment, the good publicity. But they have to turn up on Monday ready to go to work because we’ve got Oldham on Tuesday. We’ve got to kick on in the league. It was a nice welcome break but we have to harness this and use it as motivation.’

Cheltenham have earned a six-figure sum from their cup exploits and Duff believes that has preserved the future of his club.

Cheltenham went to within nine minutes of pulling off one of the FA Cup’s biggest ever shocks

Pep Guardiola was left impressed and offered Duff a nice bottle of red wine at the end 

‘The club will be here next year, probably because of this cup run,’ he said. ‘The run has been huge. There’s no money coming in. Not just the finances though, having the best players in the world coming to the town and raising the profile of the club. The groundsman works his socks off and has those players running on his pitch. That’ll make him proud. It was a really pleasing day.

‘We could’ve been one down after 17 seconds and you’re thinking ‘this could be a long day’ because they can stick nine past better teams than us. That can drive you on.

‘Getting them in at 0-0 was massive because the players started to believe. We were really quiet in the warm-up and we looked a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. But they grew, started to believe in each other. If you’re organised, you give yourself a chance. It was really pleasing to watch.’

Guardiola praised Cheltenham’s endeavour but remained happy with the application of his players.

‘We came here with humility and had the quality to make the difference,’ the City manager said. ‘Cheltenham used their quality in the box, they are taller and better than us there and we showed clips on how to solve it. It is difficult to control that.

Phil Foden impressed and he proved to be the difference as City regained control in the end

Duff said the whole day proved emotionally draining but he is really proud of his players

‘Of course I was worried. Ten minutes to go, 1-0 down. The quality made the difference. We are incredibly happy to win these type of games. We knew how tough it would be.

‘A big compliment to our opponent. I told Michael they have a fantastic team. They are so compact. They are fighters. Every throw-in is more important than a free kick. It’s not the first time a Premier League team has suffered but we go through.’

Foden admitted City were a little sluggish before half-time. The 20-year-old said: ‘We were a bit slow in the first half. It was all down to them, they played really well and made it hard for us. The pitch was a bit bobbly. They sat in deep. Pep just said keep going.’ 




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