Saturday 21 September 2019

Pep Guardiola heaps praise on his Manchester City players following derby win

Second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane saw City record a comfortable victory.

Pep Guardiola’s City beat United to go top (Martin Rickett/PA)
Pep Guardiola’s City beat United to go top (Martin Rickett/PA)

By Ian Parker, Press Association Sport

Pep Guardiola hailed his “incredible” players after the 2-0 victory over Manchester United kept the Premier League title race in Manchester City’s hands.

Second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane saw City record a comfortable victory over their local rivals and move back to the top of the table, one point clear of Liverpool with three games to play.

“Liverpool I don’t think are going to drop too many points, but it’s in our hands,” Guardiola said.

“Three games, we won the last 11. It’s incredible what these players have done so far, but still we have a job to do.

“If that victory happened in November, December or January we would celebrate it more, enjoy it more. Maybe tonight we can enjoy it, but tomorrow it’s over, it’s gone, so you have to be focused, so focused.”

There is no let-up for City, who travel to Burnley on Sunday with every game a must-win.

“I know the people are going to talk about how beautiful we are, how handsome we are, like this, like that, but now we have to go to Burnley,” Guardiola added.

“In my two previous seasons going to Burnley was incredibly tough, so we have to be focused, because Burnley is always a tough, tough game to play.

“But we’re fortunate that it’s in our hands so we depend on our own performances – if we win our last three games, we are champions and that is what we’re going to try to do.”

Guardiola said he was particularly pleased with how his side had responded to their dramatic exit from the Champions League against Tottenham, following it up with a league victory over Spurs and now the derby.

“That was the most difficult and incredible thing from these players,” he said.

“You cannot imagine the frustration. We felt that beautiful competition was really there. Then we had Spurs at home to stay alive in the Premier League.

“The pressure we felt and how we reacted was so important. After that we come here to our neighbours, the most prestigious team in English football in the last 20 or 30 years knowing if we lose we have nothing and we won.

“For two seasons now this team has shown great character, an incredible mentality and strength committing to what they have to do.

“Manchester City have to be so proud of these players.”

But while City celebrated after the whistle, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left applauding largely empty stands on another frustrating derby day for United, who have only beaten City once at home in the league since 2011.

The result added to the growing list of problems for Solskjaer, who has lost seven of his last nine games in charge.

Asked if there was a gulf in class between the two sides, he could only agree.

“Towards the end you can see,” he said. “I thought our players came out with a great attitude, we got a reaction from them, from the crowd and had some half-decent chances.

“They had biggest one with (Raheem) Sterling but at half-time we felt we were still in the game and then more and more after they scored you could see the difference.

“Of course you’re at home against a very good team but at home you want to win games like this.

“But they’ve set the standard and been the best team in country and that’s the challenge for us.

“We’re not there now for everyone to see but that’s what I’m in the job for, to improve and get closer to them.”

Despite the poor run of results, United still have a chance to qualify for the Champions League, and can move level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea when Maurizio Sarri’s side visit Old Trafford on Sunday.

“I’m concerned about the lack of results we are getting, but in times like this it’s not the time to point fingers at anyone,” Solskjaer said.

“We’ve got to stick together. The strange reality is we’re in with a shout for the top four.

“You could see a reaction but now we need more quality. We need to win that game. If we win it there are two games to make sure we get enough points and goals.”

PA Media

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport