Michael Duff brimmed with pride in his players when League Two Cheltenham dropped out of the FA Cup within nine minutes of Man City eliminating – and Pep Guardiola was impressed when he offered his rival a bottle of red wine!
Michael Duff allowed himself to dream when Cheltenham Town nearly caused one of the FA Cup’s biggest setbacks against Manchester City last night.
The League Two side led Pep Guardiola’s star-studded squad with nine minutes to go from the fourth round after Alfie May’s shock opener.
City’s class eventually recounted with goals from Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres, but Cheltenham’s manager greeted his players.
Cheltenham boss Michael Duff (right) was proud after his side pressured Manchester City
Alfie May gave the League Two side a shock ahead before City came too late to win the FA Cup game
“Once you see the scoreboard run 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 achievement. Really proud of the players. I said to them, “Can you walk off the field proud of yourself?” Games like this allow you to run around and ask for shirts, but Pep and the players know they were involved in a half-worthy soccer game. ‘
Duff and Guardiola had a lengthy conversation full-time, with the Cheltenham boss – a former Premier League defender at Burnley – offering his counterpart a bottle of wine.
“Pep said we should be proud,” Duff added. ‘I just got his brain on a few things. They are gold dust moments. It was not the normal red wine I buy, I can assure you! I feel like going to bed now, I am absolutely exhausted. It’s emotionally draining.
‘My phone is going crazy. Maybe the football club stepped out of the shadow of the racecourse for five minutes.
‘It is permeated with disappointment. I told the players to enjoy this moment, the good publicity. But they have to show up on Monday to go to work, because we have Oldham on Tuesday. We have to start in the competition. It was a nice welcome break, but we have to take this and use it as motivation. ‘
Cheltenham have made a six figure sum from their cup wins and Duff believes this has preserved the future of his club.
Cheltenham went down within nine minutes of pulling one of the FA Cup’s biggest shocks ever
Pep Guardiola was impressed and offered Duff a nice bottle of red wine at the end
“The club will come here next year, probably because of this cup run,” he said. ‘The run has been enormous. No money is coming in. Not just finances, the best players in the world coming to town and raising the club’s profile. The groundman works his socks off and lets those players run on his field. That will make him proud. It was a really enjoyable day.
‘We could have been down after 17 seconds and you think’ this could be a long day ‘because they can remain nine better teams than us. That can propel you forward.
Bringing them in at 0-0 was huge because the players were starting to believe. We were very quiet in the warm-up and looked a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. But they grew, began to believe in each other. When you are organized, you give yourself a chance. It was a lot of fun to watch. ‘
Guardiola praised Cheltenham’s efforts, but remained happy with the efforts of his players.
“We came here humbly and had the quality to make a difference,” said the city manager. ‘Cheltenham used their quality in the box, they are bigger and better than us there and we showed videos how to fix it. That is difficult to control.
Phil Foden impressed and proved to be the difference when City finally regained control
Duff said the whole day was emotionally draining, but he’s really proud of his players
‘Of course I was concerned. Ten minutes to go, 1-0 behind. The quality made the difference. We are incredibly happy to win these types of games. We knew how difficult it would be.
‘A great compliment to our opponent. I told Michael they have a great 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’ll keep going. ‘
Foden admitted that City was a bit slow before half time. The 20-year-old said: ‘We were a bit slow in the first half. It was all up to them, they played really well and made it difficult for us. The field was a bit bumpy. They were deep in it. Pep just said keep going. ‘