FA Cup: Cole Palmer wanted to leave Manchester City for two years, says Guardiola

Defending champions face Chelsea in last four while Manchester United take on second-tier Coventry City

Cole Palmer of Chelsea faces former club Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday. Getty Images
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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has praised "exceptional" Cole Palmer – but insists keeping him at the Etihad Stadium was a lost cause.

City will seek to contain Palmer at Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening when they face him and his new club Chelsea in the last four of the FA Cup.

Palmer, who moved to Stamford Bridge in the last days of the summer transfer window, has enjoyed a breakout season in London, surging to the top of the Premier League's goalscoring charts with 20 strikes.

Prior to joining Chelsea, Palmer had played only 19 senior league games spread over three seasons. Guardiola has admitted before that he underused a player who now looks a good bet for England's 2024 European Championships squad, but says the 21-year-old had his heart set on a move for some time.

"He's an exceptional player, we knew when he was here," said the Catalan coach. "I've said many times, I didn't give the minutes that maybe he deserved and now he has at Chelsea. I understand completely. He's a shy guy with a lot of potential. It is what it is. He's playing fantastically well.

"But he was asking for two seasons to leave. I said 'no, stay'. But he still said 'no, I want to leave'. What could we do? I said stay because Riyad [Mahrez] has gone but for two seasons he wanted to leave."

City go into Saturday's semi-final having suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak at the hands of Real Madrid in the last eight of the Champions League. While admitting that defeat still stings, Guardiola insists they must regroup, with a domestic double still in their sights.

He said: “We don’t have another option. I don’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves. In football, you lose games. We performed at our best and we were not able to win. You have to accept it.

“We did everything. We know it, they know it, all the world know it, but it was not enough. When it’s not enough, it’s bad night. So congratulations [to Real] and, tomorrow, FA Cup.”

Chelsea, meanwhile, go into the game having trounced Everton 6-0 on Monday night with Palmer scoring four of those goals. His manager Mauricio Pochettino urged caution, however, as the attacking midfielder's reputation skyrockets.

“He has to absorb the pressure to play in the Premier League consistently,” said Pochettino, who enjoyed success at Tottenham nurturing young talents through their formative years, including England captain Harry Kane.

“It’s about the demands in his private life. He is top scorer. He maybe needs to pay attention to different things than before. That’s going to have an influence on how he is going to prepare himself, how he’s going to rest and going to sleep, how he spends his energy.

“We need to be careful. We have the experience to manage this type of thing, when a young kid becomes a big star. Why is he not performing in a few months? Because his life has changed. He needs to learn from this experience that is completely different to the past.”

Ten Hag deals with more player strife ahead of Coventry test

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag confirmed Alejandro Garnacho has apologised for liking social media posts criticising his handling of the player ahead of their semi-final against Championship side Coventry City on Sunday.

The Argentina winger, who was taken off at half-time during last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth, liked two messages on X, formerly Twitter, which were negative about Ten Hag. He has now apologised, leaving no issues around his involvement this weekend.

Asked if it suggested the group was not together, Ten Hag replied: “I wouldn’t point to that. Alejandro is a young player, has to learn a lot. He apologised for it and after that we move on.”

Meanwhile, experienced midfielder Casemiro has received criticism for his recent performances, but Ten Hag has backed the Brazilian to rediscover top form.

“I think we needed the six when I arrived here and last season Casemiro was fantastic,” he said. “I don’t think he ever scored so many goals as well but as a six, a holding midfielder, as a strategist, he was so important for the team.

“This season he struggled with a bad injury he never had in his career, but he is such a winner. See his career, always in his career he has won, everywhere he was there will be success.

“I trust he will give us success and I know he will need games and he will be better and I’m very confident about him. He is a fighter, why he also won big trophies, he’s a personality and he’s a very important player and he will give us success.”

Opponents Coventry, managed by a former United player in Mark Robins, reached the semi-finals with a dramatic 3-2 win over Wolves thanks to stoppage-time strikes from Ellis Simms and Haji Wright.

Robins' side, currently eighth in the second tier, were beaten by Luton in last season's Championship play-off final and he hopes that experience of Wembley will help his players pull off a massive upset.

"We've already given the fans a special occasion getting there. Being in the national stadium with Manchester United, it doesn't get much bigger than that," he said.

"It's a brilliant opportunity for everyone and there's a lot of excitement around the city. There is a global reach there for Coventry City, the world will be tuning in and it's a great occasion for all of our players."

Updated: April 19, 2024, 5:49 PM