Kevin De Bruyne: Man City’s season feels like the first one under Pep Guardiola

Ahead of the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, Kevin De Bruyne reveals how Manchester City are approaching the game.

Pep Guardiola’s side have won the competition in the last two seasons, and are aiming for a third successive title when they take on Aston Villa at Wembley this weekend.

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It is one of four competitions that City could still win – including the Premier League – and De Bruyne says the team will go all out for victory in all of them, starting with the Carabao Cup final.

He told Sky Sports’ Laura Woods: “This club takes every competition seriously. It doesn’t matter what competition we play, we play to win it and we’ve shown that whoever you’re playing in this competition, new players and maybe players who play a little less, are there to win the game. The guys have stepped up and done the job brilliantly. Props to having a really good team of 25 players.

“It is the first trophy you can win and it is a trophy. I know people say it’s the smallest competition but at least if you don’t win anything else, you’ve won something. There are a lot of players who play a lot of games in their career and haven’t won one competition, even the Carabao Cup.

“You have to respect every competition because we play in big games and sometimes against teams from the lower leagues but even then, we show the dedication to do what we need to do as professionals and show that we’ll do everything to win this cup.

“The beginning is going to be very tight. I don’t think they’re going to open up a lot and play the game we want to play but I think they played with five at the back and three midfielders last time and we started the game off really well.

“I think after 25 minutes, it was 3-0 [Man City beat Aston Villa 6-1 in the Premier League earlier this season] so you know they have to open up the game and then it becomes easier for us to play through them. They will hope to keep it tight, maybe get a goal here and there, but I don’t think it’s going to be an open game in the beginning.”

‘It feels like the first season under Pep’

By City’s high standards, it has been a disappointing season domestically – particularly in the Premier League – and De Bruyne mused on what the issues could be.

He said: “We’re performing well but we’ve lost too many points. It feels a bit like the first season with Pep where we were playing good football but we were making too many errors.

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“There are games where you think you are fully in control and then the last five or 10 minutes, we basically gave it away and in this period where Liverpool are not dropping any points, every point you drop is too much. Even if we did better, I think the way Liverpool are performing this year and winning basically everything, they deserve to win and be champions again.

“I don’t think there is a level of frustration with Liverpool because you just have to applaud what they are doing. It’s also the same as what we had for the last two years – if you have that many points and win that many games, there’s not a lot the opposition can do and I know they’re just going to control what they do themselves.

“The only frustration we’ve had is making too many mistakes and it’s nothing to do with them [Liverpool], it’s more that we know if we didn’t make these mistakes, it [the league] would be closer. We also accept it because you know how hard you have to work to be that good and there’s a lot of respect from both sides to each other. If they win it this way, that’s how it has to be.

“I always want to win everything. We know the league is gone but I would say win all the rest. I know that’s a hard job, but that’s what we want to do and that’s what the goals are. At the beginning of the season, we don’t say ‘we want to win the league and all the rest, we’ll see’, we want to win all four. We’ve still got the chance to do three so if that will be the case, then that will be pretty amazing.”

Future Ballon d’Or winner?

De Bruyne is regularly touted as one of the best players in the Premier League and has been challenged by Pep Guardiola to become one of the best five players in the world.

Does he think he’s there?

“Probably not too far,” De Bruyne thinks. “But who am I to decide that? I just try to be the best I can be. I’ve been playing well over the last few years and even last season, I had a lot of injuries but the times that I was on the pitch, I was doing OK. Even in Germany, I had good years and I felt happy, but who decides that [the best footballers], I don’t know, but I think I’m pretty close.

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“It helps [being nominated for the Ballon d’Or], but first and foremost is team performance. I know if the team performs well and I perform with them, I will get the accolades. Over the last few years, I’ve been in contention for the top 30 in the world and it feels good because you work very hard in your profession and to be acknowledged as being really good at what you do is always nice to hear.

“It gives me the motivation to stay there and be on top for as long as I can because [playing] football is for a short period of time and I just want to be the best version of what I can be. What that is, I don’t know, but every year is different and this year went really well for me.

“I think I’m more of a complete footballer than I was a few years ago. I’ve had some good years in my career but I think either side of the ball, mentally, leading a team, I’m better now than I was two or three years ago. I think I’m doing really well and I feel comfortable and happy with the way I’m performing.”

Taking the captain’s armband

De Bruyne has stepped into the captain’s role a few times this season with Vincent Kompany leaving in the summer and in the absence of David Silva and Fernandinho.

The Belgium international had enjoyed taking on more responsibility and would accept the full-time role if it was offered.

He said: “I think I’m a little bit more like David [Silva]. I don’t know how Vinny [Kompany] was seven or eight years ago when he took the armband and there is a lot of stuff you need to do sometimes as a captain. You also grow into that role but I’ve always been the player who has tried to set an example on the pitch. I’m not somebody who talks all the time but if something needs to be said, I will say it for the benefit of the team or when I think it’s the right moment.

“It’s something I’ve grown into because two or three years ago, Pep took me into his office and told me I needed to take more responsibility and took me into the five captains of the team. I came from five to three now and if the team votes, I’m trusted by them and I try to set an example that is good.

“It makes you acknowledge different things about football. It’s not just on the pitch, it’s also the things on the side – mentally and physically – that you learn and it can only help you in further things in life.

“If I got the opportunity [to be the full-time Man City captain], I would not say no but I think everything goes into a right moment. With Fernandinho and David being there, even Aguero if he was the possibility, I would understand because they’ve been here for such a long time and they’ve set example for a lot players and for myself also to follow them.

“To be around them in a different type of way now outside football is important to grow into and if I ever got the opportunity, I would say yes.”

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