Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola maintains he has never instructed his player to persistently foul opponents.
Guardiola's Manchester United counterpart and old adversary Jose Mourinho soured the build-up to last weekend's derby at Old Trafford by claiming City's players of diving and using tactical fouls to cut out opposition attacks at source.
The Football Association (FA) this week asked Mourinho to explain those comments, continuing the prolonged fallout from City's 2-1 victory that has been dominated by accounts of a reported bust-up between players from both teams outside the away dressing room, which was allegedly instigated by the United manager objecting to loud celebrations.
That incident was tersely skirted around by both Guardiola and Mourinho ahead of respective midweek wins over Swansea City and Bournemouth and amounts to another item in the FA's in-tray.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's match against Tottenham, where City will aim to extend their Premier League record 15-match winning run and an 11-point advantage at the summit, the Catalan would not be drawn on the FA approaching Mourinho but staunchly refuted the claim there is a sinister side to his widely lauded tactical approach.
"I don't know how many fouls we make on the pitch but I think when you have 70 per cent possession we are not that [a tactical fouling] team," he said.
"When we have the ball, we kick each other – I think that doesn’t happen in football. I don't know statistically but I don’t think so.
"I never, never, never, never sent a message to my players [to make fouls]. You can ask the players, these players and the old players if my message on the pitch was to make fouls. I don’t use this kind of message."
Guardiola went on to explain that his tactics for stopping counter-attacks comes down to the same principle at the heart of his team's offensive approach – positional play.
"You have to be ready, to be close to their run," he said.
"Of course, we make fouls. Of course, we do that. We are not saints. It's because of the way the game is.
"Sometimes, when tripping, you make a foul and get a yellow card. That's football."
City's rampant form means they are an increasingly regular source of conversation for other managers.
Guardiola comes face-to-face with Mauricio Pochettino this weekend, who insists his irritation over the ex-Barcelona boss dubbing Spurs the "Harry Kane Team" has passed, while Arsene Wenger took a swipe at City's wealthy Abu Dhabi ownership on Friday – attributing their usurping of Arsenal's 14-game winning run to "petrol and ideas".
Rising above the fray is unlikely to get any easier.
"If you ask me [about] on the pitch we can be here [talking for] three hours," Guardiola added.
"When you ask me what he has said or he has said, forget about it. Off the pitch you have to knock on another door."
|No offers for Evans yet, says West Brom boss Pardew|
|Stafylidis seals Stoke switch|
|Worry about your own team - Dortmund slam Wenger´s Aubameyang pursuit|
|Praet denies agreeing deal to join Juventus|
|No BBC for Real Madrid´s Leganes clash|
|Stoke close to Stafylidis signing|
|Brisbane Roar 3 Perth Glory 2: Holman settles five-goal thriller|
|Gourvennec leaves Bordeaux after seventh defeat in eight games|
|Pique agrees new long-term Barcelona contract|
|Wenger rules out Ozil sale as talks continue over Wilshere deal|
|Sanchez-Mkhitaryan deal close, says Wenger|
|Meunier blasts ´disgraceful´ PSG fans after Neymar boos|
|Pique demands better at Camp Nou after Espanyol ´insults´|
|Schweinsteiger re-signs with Chicago Fire for 2018|
|Juve trying everything to sign Can, says Marotta|
|Rooney convinced me to join Everton – Walcott|
|Simeone: Sevilla deserved their win|
|Conte calls for VAR improvements|
|Neymar not angered by PSG whistles - Silva|
|FA Cup Review: Wigan dump Bournemouth out, nine-man Chelsea scrape through|
|Valverde rues Barca profligacy in Espanyol defeat|
|Chelsea 1 Norwich City 1 (aet, 5-3 pens): Hazard and Caballero seal Blues progression|
|No generosity from Neymar as Cavani waits to make PSG history|
|Neymar sets Ligue 1 landmark with staggering individual display|
|Espanyol 1 Barcelona 0: Melendo ends unbeaten run|
|Paris Saint-Germain 8 Dijon 0: Neymar hits four as Cavani levels Ibrahimovic record|
|Atletico fan in ´serious condition´ after being stabbed before Sevilla game|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Sevilla 2: Montella´s men stage dramatic first-leg comeback|
|Lukaku will score 30 goals for Man Utd this season, predicts Yorke|
|Liverpool loan Grujic to Cardiff|
|Mbappe: More to come from Neymar & Cavani partnership|
|Messi the greatest ever despite no World Cup win, insists Di Maria|
|Villa determined to earn place in Spain´s World Cup squad|
|Walcott swaps Arsenal for Everton|
|You even learn from Guardiola at home - Otamendi lauds Pep impact|
|Otamendi pens Man City deal to 2022|
|Neymar leads tributes to retiring Ronaldinho|
|Ronaldo must focus on playing - Zidane sidesteps exit talk|
|Zidane still an idol for James despite ´sad´ Madrid exit|
|Stoger will stay at Dortmund if ´everything fits´|
|Bordeaux´s Malcom facing disciplinary action over social media video|
|Ronaldinho retires – The greatest Brazilians to play for Barcelona|
|Athletic reward Williams with contract until 2025|
|Jones taking unlikely inspiration from City in United´s title pursuit|
|Moyes unaware of Chelsea interest in Carroll|
|Verdi wants Bologna stay amid Napoli links|
|Ronaldinho retires – A shining light of Brazil´s 2002 World Cup-winning team|
|Ronaldinho retires – a World Cup and Ballon d´Or among Brazil great´s prizes|
|World Cup glory and Bernabeu magic - Ronaldinho´s best moments for Barca and Brazil|
|Ligue 1 Review: Balotelli at the double as Payet shines and Malcom toils|
|Pato still dreaming of World Cup selection|
|FA Cup Review: Iheanacho makes VAR history, kit confusion reigns|
|2016-17 UEFA Study: PSG, Man City drive record-breaking spending|
|Conte packing in homework as Chelsea games stack up|
|2016-17 UEFA Study: Manchester United record highest revenue but largest debt|
|2016-17 UEFA Study: The headlines in transfers, wages and revenues|
|Iheanacho scores English football´s first VAR goal|
|Materazzi not surprised by Coutinho transfer fee|
|Ronaldinho retires - Brazil and Barca great plans 2018 farewell|
|Koziello swaps Nice for Cologne|
|Simeone ready to unleash Costa and Vitolo alongside Griezmann|
|Lambert ´never thought´ he would return to Premier League|
|Wenger ´very aggressive´ towards referee Dean, says FA report|
|Reported Arsenal target Malcom starts for Bordeaux vs Caen|
|Valverde not making big deal of Dembele´s latest Barca blow|
|Arsenal will have a ´hard time´ signing Malcom|
|Ronaldo and Madrid nominated for Laureus awards|
|Nantes´ Diego Carlos brands Chapron clash ´historic´|
|This is not important - Conte unconcerned if substitutions upset Hazard|
|Conte ´doesn´t think´ Chelsea have pursued Sanchez|
|Emery hints at Neymar return against Dijon|
|Mkhitaryan key to United-Sanchez deal, claims Raiola|
|Tevez: CSL spell was a holiday|
|Mignolet considering Liverpool future|
|Fred waiting for Guardiola call amid Man City speculation|
|Inter confident but patient over Rafinha|
|Giggs had counselling after Old Trafford exit|
|Neville: Mourinho would happily swap Mkhitaryan for Sanchez|
|Man United becoming Pogba´s team – Mourinho|
|Can ´talking with everyone´ but hints at Liverpool stay|