Pep Guardiola praised Raheem Sterling's calmness after a week that began with his alleged racial abuse at Chelsea ended with the forward claiming Manchester City's third goal in a 3-1 win over Everton to lift them above Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Sterling reacted to the shameful events at Stamford Bridge by highlighting how certain sections of the media reported some young black players in an unfavourable light compared with their white team-mates. His comments initiated a nationwide debate yet Sterling remained focused, first in Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim then against Everton, when he came off the bench to score his ninth league goal of the season.
"I see him so calm," Guardiola said of the 24-year-old. "I think he has handled in the last years many situations, rumours, people saying not nice things about him, his family or in that case, the colour of his skin: so that is why I admire him. He is calm, happy playing, beloved in the locker room, so it is good."
Sterling's strike against Everton pulled him one ahead of Sergio Aguero as City's top scorer in the league, one goal behind Mo Salah of Liverpool and Arsenal's Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in the league as a whole.
Sterling has recorded six assists, two behind Eden Hazard of Chelsea's eight. His manager believes he is now the consistent performer City require. "Of course, yeah. We are very pleased [with him]," Guardiola said. "It is important Raheem scores goals. Young players still they can improve and that is the only way to move forward."
Guardiola believes Sterling is at his best as a finisher when instincts take over, as demonstrated by his 69th-minute header. "Raheem, when he has not time to think in front of [the] 'keeper it is always [a] goal - the problem is when he has time to think," the Catalan added.
"The cross was incredible action from Fernandinho and good finishing. We are not the tallest team in the world but it is important to play a few minutes and score."
Gabriel Jesus scored City's other goals, his first since mid-August in the league. He now has three in total. "It is so important for him. Strikers need to score goals," Guardiola said. "The same he has done in other games but the difference is he has scored goals. He has done it in a fantastic way. It was so valuable his performance."
Guardiola was also happy that the Brazilian spoke English in his post-match interview.
"I insist all of them have to learn English," the manager said. "He showed fight and personality, he is a young player and has to improve many things. It is good for his confidence. It is a big compliment for him, I am so happy for him."
Jesus himself said: "I am so happy, we need to win a lot because this season is more difficult."
Jesus's contribution came as Sergio Aguero was reinstated to the match-day squad following injury, though the Argentinian remained an unused substitute. Kevin De Bruyne, though, did come off the bench, making a first appearance since November 1, following a knee injury.
"It is important he plays, he will play against Leicester in [the Carabao] Cup [on Tuesday]," the manager said of the Belgian.
Guardiola will watch Liverpool host Manchester United today when Jurgen Klopp's side need to win to leapfrog City at the top again.
Elsewhere, Burnley were agonisingly close to holding Tottenham to a draw at Wembley but Christian Eriksen netted in injury time to earn a 1-0 victory for Mauricio Pochettino's side and keep them within five points of City.