Manchester City v Rotherham United: Guardiola ensures that City’s egos have banded

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SAME beard, same bald pate, same chic touchline attire. And same adoration from their supporters.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne and his feted Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola operate at different ends of the footballing stratosphere, but there are similarities.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola pictured on Thursday during his side's win over Liverpool (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire).

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola pictured on Thursday during his side's win over Liverpool (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire).

And it is not exclusively to do with the pair’s appearance.

Guardiola has won domestic titles in Spain, Germany and England and boasts two Champions League victories and two World Club Championship gongs among his glittering managerial CV – but that does not represent his most handsome achievement, according to Warne.

It is nothing to do with his rarified footballing style either.

For the Millers’ manager, labelled affectionately as ‘Warneiola’ by Millers fans – with a chant paying homage likely to get many airings among the 6,000-strong Rotherham contingent tomorrow – the magic of Guardiola lies elsewhere.

For Warne, his decorated rival’s accomplishment in making a group of mostly young, impressionable ‘high-maintenance’ multi-millionaires invest something far more precious than money in him – namely their faith and trust – is what makes him special.

Warne said: “People keep saying you can speak about football and all that to him after the match.

“But if I did get the chance to speak to him I would just speak about how he manages the egos there. I think that is hugely impressive.

“I think that is a unique skill, which I do not think many people have got. Hence why many players end up speaking to owners and getting managers out.

“That is what I think can happen at big clubs. The big players can down tools or something.

“Whichever team he puts out you know that definitely will not happen.”

Struck by his human qualities every bit as much as his footballing achievements, Warne – who met Guardiola at an awards ceremony in Manchester in the autumn – added: “I am not in awe, more just impressed.

“The amount of stress he has at City must be a joke.

“He had a (football) career and went into management and then had an absolute ‘lockdown’ and challenged himself again and then took a sabbatical and went to the States.

“I think that is why he is better than anybody else as he could easily be on a boat in Monaco and chilling.

“But to put himself through this all the time means he has some drive.

“The biggest skills-set he has got, which people underestimate, is keeping people happy. I know how hard that is, at my level.

“He has complete interest in the players in how they are, their lives and everything. Because of that I think there is a connection between the coaching staff and them, which makes them better than most.”

The same duty of care and mutual connection is self-evident at Warne’s Rotherham.

His players may not be as super-wealthy and well-heeled as the affluent City rivals they will encounter tomorrow afternoon, but they are rich in other ways.

Warne’s quality in bringing individuals together and cultivating a family feel in a dressing room that is abundant with ‘good people’ as he likes to put it, and not just decent footballers, is perhaps his crowning testament.

Someone who can vouch for that human side is Ryan Williams.

Ahead of joining the club in the summer of 2017, the winger was afforded a little bit of extra time off with his family back in Australia before starting his next journey with Rotherham –after an injury-hit and mentally-challenging time at Barnsley.

Warne has been paid back ever since by consistent performances from Williams, who has become an established part of the Rotherham squad. A happy player invariably makes for a successful one.

Such smart man-management is the sort of thing Guardiola would appreciate. The little things matter.

Williams said: “His (Warne’s) management of players is probably his strongest point. But he also offers a lot of other stuff.

“He has let me do what I needed to in order to go and perform. I have a good relationship with him and if I have a problem –or if he has a problem in terms of me being on the pitch or off it – I just go and speak to him.

“He kind of sorts it out and brings it down back to earth. He has been massive, especially coming from Barnsley in that period where I had a few years out injured, back and forth.”

Common ground may exist in both Warne’s and Guardiola’s mentality, but the expectation levels at their respective clubs are wholly contrasting.

As for the Millers’ chances today, Warne is phlegmatic.

He said: “I spoke to a mate at Huddersfield the other day and he said, ‘Look mate, you might as well go there and have a right go.’ And I said, ‘Well, you went there and then you lost 6-1’.

“That is not being disrespectful to Huddersfield, who are way above us. The levels are massive, but crazy things happen in football.

“We all enjoy our lives working for this club. You just never know. It could be our day.

“But if we perform to our level and give our fans something to scream about then I will be more than proud.”