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LONDON, England — Pep Guardiola says he is expecting Harry Maguire’s imminent arrival to transform Manchester United into title challengers after watching his Manchester City side strike an early blow over Liverpool in the Community Shield on Sunday.
City won a shoot-out at Wembley after a 1-1 draw to claim the preseason trophy for the second year in a row.
City and Liverpool finished 25 points clear of their nearest rivals last season during a thrilling Premier League title race that was decided by a single point. But Guardiola believes the pair will not be as dominant this year — particularly after sources have indicated that United have beaten City to a deal for Maguire.
Asked whether Maguire was good enough to turn United into contenders, Guardiola said: “Yes. He is an excellent, top-class player.
“We were interested but we could not afford it and United can afford it.
“He made an incredible World Cup, strong in the air, good with the ball and drives with the ball so fast. He has all the qualities to work for United. Congratulations to United for the signing.
“I don’t know if it’ll be like last season with two real contenders to win the Premier League. I think United, with Maguire, and the others have bought — Arsenal as well and Chelsea and Tottenham. So I think there will be many contenders this time.”
City are still searching for a centre-back themselves after Vincent Kompany’s departure, while there is also fresh speculation Leroy Sane could move to Bayern Munich.
The German lasted just nine minutes at Wembley after appearing to suffer a twisted knee, but Guardiola is hopeful the damage is not too serious. Sane left Wembley with strapping around his leg but was not limping heavily.
“The first impression was not good but I don’t think it’s bad,” said Guardiola. “I honestly don’t know, I haven’t spoken to the doctor — we’ll wait and see. I think he will be OK.”
City start the defence of their league title with a trip to West Ham on Saturday before facing Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium a week later.
Guardiola has taken his team to China, Hong Kong and Japan during the summer, but he insists he can only start preseason now after missing key members of his squad because of the Copa America and the Africa Cup of Nations.
“Now is good, it’s the start of the real preseason,” said Guardiola.
“In Asia, we had to survive with the humidity and the jet lag. And you cannot sleep and in the morning — you are exhausted and go to the training sessions which is humid and it’s impossible.
“Now of course we start the competition in the Premier League and we need to try to take points because we tried but we are not fit right now. We knew it, and we know it after this game, but we have long weeks. We don’t have a midweek game, and that is a real preseason.
“We have two or three weeks training and concentrating [on] ideas and take it day by day. Sergio [Aguero] came just three or four days ago, Fernandinho came for the first time [on Sunday] and [we] try to avoid injuries and, day by day, to get in a better condition. This month is going to help us get our rhythm and ideas we want to play for the rest of the season.”
Guardiola also said he kept winger Riyad Mahrez out of the squad on Sunday over concerns the player could have breached doping rules as the club lacked full details of medication he used for a sinus issue.
The Algeria intentional only returned to training on Friday after leading his country to victory in the African Cup of Nations final last month.
Guardiola said “for doping control, today was a risk because the doctors didn’t have it [full details]. That’s why he wasn’t in the squad to play some minutes. He could have played some minutes but we could not take a risk because the doctors did not have exactly the medicines.”