Pep Guardiola is looking forward to a quieter January after his all-conquering Manchester City side brought a hectic December to a satisfactory conclusion.
City played nine games in the final month of 2023, including two during their successful trip to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup.
It ended with a comfortable 2-0 victory over struggling Sheffield United on Saturday, a result which, coming after their midweek win at Everton, put the champions firmly at the forefront of the title picture.
The intensity now slackens considerably in the coming weeks, with just two Premier League fixtures – and three games in total – scheduled for January.
They will face an extra FA Cup tie if they beat Huddersfield in the third round next week but, even so, it is a considerable contrast to the recent programme.
“It is nice,” said City manager Guardiola. “We have 27million games in one month, (now) we have three games in the next month.
“It’s like life – some have a lot and some don’t have anything. It is what it is, but I would say it is welcome. I like it.”
Guardiola has regularly voiced his concerns about scheduling and players’ workloads and would welcome moves by the players’ union to try to limit any further increase of fixtures.
It has been reported that the Professional Footballers’ Association is exploring legal options after the recent European Court of Justice ruling in relation to the Super League appeared to reduce the ability of governing bodies to control the sport’s calendar.
Guardiola said: “Only they, the players, can change something – not just in the Premier League, everywhere.
“I’ve said many times we have too many games. The problem is we have just three weeks’ holiday in the summer and it is impossible to regenerate. Just look at the number of injuries at all the teams.
“The only ones who can change it are the players, if they really decide, to make it a better sport.”
City were far too strong for the Blades as they closed out a memorable year in which they won five trophies with goals in each half from Rodri and Julian Alvarez.
United remain bottom of the table with just nine points, but manager Chris Wilder has seen encouraging signs since his recent return to the club and also plans to take advantage of a lighter January.
Wilder said: “I 100 per cent believe the group will be stronger the next time we turn out in a Premier League game, through time on the training ground, through players returning and we are looking at bringing two or three in.
“Let’s have a go in the second part of the season, similar to how we approached this game. I won’t let that standard drop.
“We have to be a better footballing team, but I am sure we will. My teams have always got stronger in the second part of the season through the work we do.”