Pep Guardiola believes it is “ridiculous” that any credit for Raheem Sterling’s resurgent Manchester City form should go to the manager for dropping him.
Sterling’s winner in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Wolves was his 100th Premier League goal and a fifth in the 27-year-old’s last eight games. Yet Guardiola dismissed the notion this was due to the forward being left out during the closing phase of last season and the start of this one. “I would like to say yes for my ego and for a better contract for the next seasons,” he said. “I am sorry – that is the most ridiculous thing; all this credit is for the player.
“I am going to reveal a secret: when we played Aston Villa [a 2-1 win on 1 December] the day before we have 12 players and he was not selected and on the day [Ilkay] Gündogan had a pain in his back and could not travel and Raheem played. Just take a look at the first 15-20 minutes he played – it was the best 15-20 minutes maybe from the last months. I can pretend I know everything but that [form belongs] absolutely to the players. I want more from him but I want more from Gündogan, I want more from Kevin [De Bruyne], I want more even from Bernardo [Silva], from Rodri.”
Guardiola referenced Max Verstappen’s Formula One championship triumph on Sunday when the intervention of the safety car allowed him to overtake Lewis Hamilton and clinch the title. “Verstappen and Lewis are incredible champions but sometimes success doesn’t depend on you,” he said. “Something else decides if there is a winner.
“The players have to fight like Verstappen and Hamilton have until the end. In the end a law or a VAR or a bad decision can happen and you don’t win. What you have to do – like Raheem has in the last games or these incredible two athletes from Formula One have done – is never give up.”
City host Leeds tomorrow with only Ferran Torres unavailable because of injury and would extend their lead at the top to four points with victory.