Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s delight at his team’s 3-1 derby win over Manchester United did not stop him from delivering a strong message to winger Raheem Sterling over his showboating at the end of the game.
With City 3-1 up in the final minutes, Sterling had the ball deep in the United half on the left wing but, rather than take the ball to the corner flag or keep possession, the England forward produced some fancy-footwork stepovers.
The antics angered United’s Spanish midfielder Juan Mata, who appeared to believe that Sterling was taunting his team and, at the final whistle, Guardiola’s first move was to confront Sterling on the field about the episode.
It's an unwritten rule: don't taunt your opponents after a decisive win!
Raheem Sterling not only enrages Juan Mata and Man United, but even Pep seems to tell him off for his antics.
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) November 11, 2018
“He made some movements with the legs, we can avoid it but he is young, he can improve,” said Guardiola when asked about his conversation with the 23-year-old.
Such is unbeaten City’s dominance at the moment that Guardiola felt the need to make a point of being critical about elements of his team’s performance that he thinks ought to be improved.
Despite being clearly superior to their local rivals, the Spaniard was unhappy with his side’s first-half display.
“The first half was not so good, we played like we didn’t want to lose the ball but without the intention to attack,” he said.
“I felt when I watched my players, (they were) a team that feel the pressure. They wanted to do well in the derby. We were stable, we scored one goal, the first 15 minutes was good and after that we didn’t press so well.
“We deserved the victory. The first half we played a little bit with fear but football is a game and we didn’t want to lose the ball. We didn’t want to attack and they defended well.
“In the second half, the game was a bit (more) open so we have to find more space but we made a good performance against a top, top team.”
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho claimed his team’s stirring comeback win away at Juventus in the Champions League mid-week had taken its toll on his team.
United fought back for a 2-1 victory against the Italian champions in Turin on Wednesday while City cruised through a home game against Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk 6-0 and the Portuguese manager was quick to point out that context.
“Everybody has to agree – it is one thing to go to Juventus and play against one of the best teams in the world for 90 minutes and another thing to beat Shakhtar Donetsk at home 6-0 and be very relaxed. We arrived in different circumstances,” said Mourinho.
“It is not the physical effort but the mental pressure. I think some of the boys felt it a little bit,” he added.
But in contrast with some defeats this season, Mourinho was unwilling to criticise his team’s attitude and effort.
“The way people who don’t understand football analyse it is with stats. I don’t go for stats. I go for what I felt in the game and it was there until minute 80 something.
“We made mistakes. We were punished but the fight, the togetherness, it is something we are building and are not going to lose that because of a defeat,” he said.
“For me zero words against my players, everything is positive. I am with them and they are with me,” added the former Real Madrid boss.
Mourinho was without French midfielder Paul Pogba, sidelined with injury, and while the United boss did not want to use that absence as an excuse, he said the need to play Marouane Fellaini had limited his later options.
“I don’t like to lose and speak about this player that was not (here), I don’t like that very much but he is important for us in many aspects,” Mourinho said of Pogba.
“We had to play Fellaini, he was not ready to play for 90 minutes. I can imagine (if) when the result was 2-1 to bring a fresh Fellaini, I think they would be in big big trouble.
“When we had that final push, Fellaini was doing an incredible effort to stay on the pitch, risking his injury and condition to stay on the pitch. For different reasons we miss Paul but that doesn’t mean with Paul we win the game so that is not an excuse.”
Eighth-placed United are now 12 points behind leaders City and 12 ahead of Cardiff City who are in the relegation zone.