They may not be the ‘Invincibles’ this season, but Manchester City are driven in their desire to be the best.
But that won’t derail a campaign that has seen City take a 12-point lead at the top, hold a 2-1 advantage over Bristol City in the semi-finals of the League Cup, visit Cardiff in next weekend’s FA Cup fourth round and face a Champions League last-16 test with Basle.
Defender Kyle Walker believes that mentality comes from the standards set by themselves – and manager Pep Guardiola.
“It’s intense really because the manager here wants the best out of us – as we do ourselves,” he said of working under the Catalan.
“But it’s good. You would rather have a manager that cares about you than one who doesn’t speak to you or doesn’t want you to learn.
“He spends time on and off the field with you on how you can improve, what you can do better, but he also tells you what you do well.
“That is obviously good coming from the guy you are working under. It boosts your confidence.
“We want to be the best. That’s just the group of lads we have got in the dressing room.
“They are all quality, with good international experience, and if we didn’t demand the best for ourselves and myself then we would be doing ourselves an injustice.
“When you are winning football games it’s hard to be down. That’s what we work hard all week to get the result that we want. If we are winning every game and coming in unhappy then there might be something the matter with us and we need checking.”
And Walker says the bond and spirit in the City camp has been so good that Kevin De Bruyne has become an adopted Yorkshireman.
Guardiola’s backline has been notable for the presence of the £50 million right back, Barnsley-born centre-back John Stones and midfielder-turned-left back Fabian Delph.
And the Tyke trio have provided fun as well as fine performances, prompting the Belgian playmaker to join in.
“Me, Fabby and Stonesy are doing all right,” added the Sheffield-born Walker, who has provided balance and brilliance in City’s swashbuckling displays following his summer arrival from Spurs.
“I’ve known Fab since about six when he was playing for Bradford and it’s a joy to play with him. He’s a fantastic player and a good lad on and off the pitch.
“We all have a laugh in the changing room together and I think it’s good to keep the spirit high on and off the field.
“Kevin tries to join in with us as well. He’s basically English as well. He’s a Yorkshireman definitely!”
It was often said in cricket that a strong Yorkshire side meant a strong England. And Walker is hoping that applies to the national football team too and the contingent can all play a part in this summer’s World Cup.
The 27-year-old is eager to feature on the biggest stage of all, having missed out on the Brazil tournament four years ago with a pelvic problem.
Injury also saw Walker ruled out of the 2012 European Championships after a superb season that saw him named PFA Young Player of the Year.
He said: “I missed out on Euros and a World Cup, but I believe in fate. Things happen for a reason and that wasn’t meant to be.
“It’s not nice when you miss out on big tournaments or big games. I can remember getting the phone call telling me I wouldn’t be in the squad for the last World Cup, it hurt.
“I thought I had a decent season. OK I got hampered by injury but you have to take it on the chin.
“You have to say ‘OK I’m going to prove you wrong and you are going to put me in the team next time’.
“I went to the Euros two years ago and thought I did reasonably well personally, although we didn’t do as well as a country. So hopefully I can follow on that this summer if I get the nod to go to Russia.”
But Walker’s focus is on City for now as he added: “I’m not looking too far into the summer though. My main job is with City until I join up with England next. I’m all about City now and trying to help them get into finals.
“For me it’s concentrating on football and helping Manchester City get to where we, the manager, and the coaching staff, want to be this season.”
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