Elano makes prediction for Manchester derby, reminisces on City days, says team should be built around Foden
We spoke to former Manchester City midfielder Elano ahead of this weekend’s Manchester derby.
The Brazilian is generally regarded as a cult hero in the blue half of Manchester, spending two seasons at City from 2007.
Read his thoughts on his time at City, who he think has been the team’s player of the season, what he makes of Phil Foden and more ahead of his 5-A-Side team selection.
On this weekend’s Manchester Derby
Because of Pep Guardiola’s style of playing, City have been able to start games off so strongly and tend to take the lead early. That’s something I’d expect to see this weekend, too. Pep certainly has the players to go out and attack straight from kick-off and will hopefully get an early goal to settle any nerves that naturally come with a derby.
Pep likes to play in the opponent’s half and that will be the difference between the two teams this weekend – I’d expect him to do more of what we’ve seen in recent months, making it hard for Manchester United to get out of their own half.
I can see Man City winning the game 2-0.
On City’s player of the season
There was no debating Liverpool were the best team in the league last season, they deserved to win the title and it was very much their season. But with Pep Guardiola this season Manchester City have gone up another level. I just love watching the team play, it’s such good football, and they’re so patient in their build-up play.
The standout player for me in the team right now is Kevin De Bruyne; he is so influential to City in his build-up play and with the chances he creates and goals he scores.
I guess you could say it was inevitable Man City were going to have a bad season eventually, simply because they have been so dominant in the league over the last few years, so it was natural to see them fall off a little last year. But they’ve turned a corner and are more than back to their best this time out.
They’re a lot more consistent this year. There was a slight decline but Pep Guardiola has remained patient in his players and his players have found a great chemistry and now we’re seeing the results of persevering with the same set of players.
You could compare Liverpool’s season this time out to Man City’s last year. They themselves have enjoyed so much dominance in the Champions League and Premier League over the last few years so, again, it is natural to see them struggle this season.
Obviously COVID has impacted things a lot, but there’s no disputing how good Liverpool are. You can’t be perfect every year, game in, game out. I’m confident they will bounce back next season and will be right back up there challenging with Manchester City because they’re too good not to.
Man City and England should build around Phil Foden
Phil Foden has had an exceptional season so far. He’s a young player who was given an opportunity and he took it.
He fits perfectly into the squad and there’s a lot of room for him to grow into one of the best players in the world. And, of course, having someone alongside you like Kevin De Bruyne makes it a lot easier to grow and learn at an even quicker rate. Foden has been used well this season, and being surrounded by such great players is only going to help him.
I think Phil Foden is the kind of player you can build a whole team around. He has a great manager to learn from in Pep Guardiola and he should take every opportunity to learn from Pep, De Bruyne, and every other experienced name within the squad.
A lot will depend on how he can develop and continue to grow, but if he’s able to maintain this standard and improve, he’ll be a great option for both Manchester City and the English national side to build a team and a system around.
Where City could strengthen
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Manchester City could strengthen simply because I’m not in a position where I’m in and around training every day. Only if you’re working there will you really know exactly what needs working on.
As a coach I know a lot about that, but in my opinion I would say there’s always areas which an outsider might say need strengthening. There are always going to be top quality players out there that aren’t a part of your team but you have to make sure they’re going to suit your system if they’re going to join.
I would probably look at adding another defender, maybe someone a little more versatile. They have a lot of strength in depth in the centre of their defence but, as I said, you can always add players who will improve things.
But you have to remember, we’re talking about a team who have won 21 games in a row so it’s hard to pick holes in the side at the moment. I think what’s important above all else is that any player that is brought in has the right characteristics for a Pep Guardiola team.
Reminiscing on life at City
I joined Manchester City almost at the beginning of the journey they’re now on, back in 2007. It was an exciting time to come and sign for the club because I knew I was joining something special and I was confident I could help the club grow. It was a positive experience for me when I signed – even though we couldn’t win titles and I couldn’t help in that department, I joined at a time where we could start competing in and winning derbies and qualifying for Europe.
I took great pride in bringing back some happiness for Manchester City fans during my time at the club. It was obviously always going to be a slow process to get to where they are now, where they’re able to spend more money and attract bigger players – but I enjoyed being there at the start because I can say I was a part of it.
I was able to feel a connection with the Man City fans from the moment I joined the club, and that helped me want to do my best to bring joy to back to the supporters on the field. My relationship with them was always very good, I loved my time there. The fans are very loyal and it was always a boost for me to be representing them I played with a smile on my face because of them and I wanted to put smiles on faces in the crowd, too.
Obviously I wanted to win titles with the club and I wished we could have done that, but the situation we were in at the time meant we weren’t quite ready for those challenges. So the main challenge for us was to bring happiness back to the fans and bring back some hope for the future.
Back in Brazil I come from what you might call the suburbs, so I’m not really keen on the big city lifestyle – I always found London too busy for me whenever I went there, and for that reason Manchester was perfect for me. It’s still a big place but it’s so different to London it didn’t feel that strange to me.
My daughter was born in Manchester as well, so I’ll always have a strong connection with the place. I’ve always been welcomed back to the Etihad and I really loved living there. When it comes to Europe, I’m a City fan. The weather wasn’t great, but that was no problem.
I played two games for Brazil in London before I joined Man City, one of them was against Argentina and the other was Italy. I played well in the Argentina game – I scored two goals in that match – and around that time there was some speculation from other clubs, but the only bid came from Man City and from that moment I was always set on joining the club.
Losing 8-1 to Middlesbrough
The game against Middlesbrough was a horrible one to be a part of. From start to finish we just never really got going in the game and weren’t quite there mentally.
The Premier League is such a competitive league where you have to always be prepared mentally and physically and we just weren’t there. The environment around that whole game was just so bad, because obviously Sven Goran Eriksson was leaving the club, so in general the whole experience was negative. Even though I scored a goal I don’t think about it because the rest of the game was so bad. We just weren’t prepared.
It was complete silence in the dressing room after that defeat. No one wants to say anything; we all knew how bad we had played. Who is going to want to talk about it? Everyone had the same thought. It wasn’t to happen; that result wasn’t supposed to happen, so who was going to step up and say the right thing? There was no right thing to say at that point. It was the last game of the season so we had to just let it sink in and move on. Silence was the best remedy for sure after that game.
Favourite Man City moment and biggest regret
My favourite moment in a Man City shirt has to be my first goal for the club. It came against Newcastle in the Premier League and it was a very special moment for me to score in the Premier League. I managed some nice assists before that first goal but as a Brazilian I always wanted to leave my mark with a goal, so to do it in that match was a moment I’ll never forget.
My biggest regret from my time at City was simply not staying there longer. I don’t for a second regret joining Galatasaray, but I just loved my time in England. I could have stayed longer, I probably should have stayed and helped the team win trophies, and then moved on.
I tried as much as I could to embrace the Manchester culture while I was at the club. My eldest daughter studied at a high school in the city and I was working on improving my English all the time – it’s something I’ve started to do again recently. The club has such a special place in my heart, so much so that I will still play the song we used to come out to at the Etihad to my daughters.
On friends from Man City days
Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joe Hart and Kasper Schmeichel are three names I still speak to regularly. They’re very good friends of mine and we keep in touch on social media.
I still have a good relationship with Sven Goran Eriksson to this day. Wayne Bridge is another good friend of mine. I remember seeing on social media that he was on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here a few years ago so I saw a few clips of him in the jungle.
I have to say I was surprised to see him do a show like that to be honest – he was definitely a great character in the dressing room and I would say he was one of the funnier players I’ve played alongside. But I didn’t think he’d do something like that show. I wasn’t expecting to see Bridgey on a reality show; sadly for him I didn’t spend any of my own money voting for him to win!
How to celebrate a Derby Day win
My own experiences of the Manchester Derbies are generally positive because I joined at a time where our squad was strong enough to start competing in that fixture.
My best memory of that fixture was the game at the Etihad where my friend Geovanni scored in a 1-0 win. That was a special day, and I was the one who got the assist for his goal.
It was always vital for me to prepare mentally the night before any game, but I was always aware of how important those local games were and how much they meant to fans, so it was great to win them for the supporters, and I regularly enjoyed celebrating those wins by going out for dinner in Manchester and interacting with fans.
If I was younger then maybe I’d have celebrated in a different way, but a nice dinner and a conversation with City fans was enough for me – it was good to see them all so happy and share those moments with them.
A lot of players maybe shy away from going out in public and seeing fans off the pitch, but you have to remember I am from Brazil, so I can’t really sit still, and in my home country football is everything, so I’m completely used to going out and mixing with locals and football fans. I loved that side of things, and it was just as easy for me to keep myself to myself and stay indoors if I wasn’t feeling so great.
Give Ederson a penalty!
If I was Man City manager, I’d let Ederson take a penalty this season. He’s calm and has no problem whatsoever with the ball at his feet. I would be more than comfortable in him taking a penalty and getting a goal to his name before the end of the season.