Pep Guardiola believes Sir Alex Ferguson cannot be blamed for Manchester United's recent demise, calling the former Old Trafford boss "the most important person" in the club's history.
Speaking ahead of Bayern Munich's much-anticipated Champions League trip to the Theatre of Dreams, Guardiola responded to suggestions by David Moyes that even his fellow Scot would have struggled with United's squad this season.
Guardiola refutes this claim, as reported by David McDonnell of the Mirror:
Football is special and many things are difficult to understand. I don't know how Sir Alex can have a bad experience for this club. This club is thanks to him. He put it to another level.
Before that it was Liverpool. But Sir Alex is the most important person United's history, at least in the last half century.
Moyes' previous comments were nicely summed up by Ian Herbert of The Independent:
United's season has been crammed with disappointment, a feeling that will be mightily hard to shake off when Bayern visit. The German champions have lost once in all competitions this season—Dec. 10's 3-2 defeat to Manchester City—while United have suffered nine defeats in their last 18 matches, per WhoScored.com.
Pressure on Moyes reached its climax prior to last month's second-leg tie with Olympiakos. Although United managed to overturn the 2-0 deficit in front of their own fans, 3-0 home losses to Liverpool and City highlight a team who are easily beatable on their own turf.
Moyes' men are most vulnerable to speedy attacks and struggle to break down teams who naturally maintain possession with short passes. Bayern are drilled to exploit these shortcomings and, in Guardiola, boast a manager who is revered for his tactical nous.
The inconsistency of United's season is best summed up by ESPN FC:
Ferguson certainly left Moyes a beleaguered United squad—one of the weakest in recent memory—but his successor has had two transfer windows to address this.
Instead of replacing aging players with fresh talent at the outset of his tenure, Moyes opted to spend big on Marouane Fellaini during the summer and added Juan Mata in January. Ultimately, it is he who should be judged.
Expectations are understandably low for the upcoming tie. United have shown little for Bayern to fear this season, but many will hope the importance of the tie galvanises the English club's performance.
A loss will see the end of United's Champions League quest until at least the 2015-16 season, as top-four qualification in the Premier League remains 10 points off with six games to go.
Form suggests only one outcome on Tuesday. United fans can hope this time will be different, but in the end, that feeling of optimism has been routinely crushed this season. Should Moyes once again fail to beat an elite team, the jury will be out on his display as Old Trafford boss yet again.