Pep: We won’t be buy­ing in Jan­uary

Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE - By TYRONE MAR­SHALL tyrone.mar­[email protected]­ @TyMar­shal­l_MEN

PEP Guardi­ola took Kevin de Bruyne off dur­ing City’s 3-2 de­feat to Wolves to try and save the Bel­gian’s legs for today’s Eti­had Sta­dium clash with Sh­effield United.

De Bruyne was with­drawn with City 2-1 up at Mo­lineux, be­fore late goals from Raul Jimenez and Matt Do­herty con­demned them to a 3-2 de­feat that has all but ended their hopes of re­tain­ing the ti­tle.

The Blues had led 2-0 against Wolves, thanks to Ra­heem Ster­ling’s dou­ble, but had been play­ing with 10-men since the early stages af­ter Eder­son was sent-off for bring­ing down Diogo Jota.

That led to Clau­dio Bravo re­plac­ing Ser­gio Aguero, who was mak­ing his first start since Novem­ber 23, be­fore Guardi­ola made a tac­ti­cal change at half-time, go­ing to five at the back with Eric Gar­cia re­plac­ing Riyad Mahrez.

Dis­cussing the re­place­ments he made, Guardi­ola said: “The first one, it was a red card. The sec­ond to go with five at the back be­cause they make a lot of switches of play with Do­herty and Jonny and we helped prob­lems to move and be pro­tected in that po­si­tion, and Eric helped us be­cause he’s so in­tel­li­gent in those po­si­tions.

“Af­ter that Kevin was good but with another game [com­ing up], Gundo didn’t play, we have another game in less than 48 hours and we didn’t want two hold­ing mid­field­ers ex­pend­ing all their en­ergy.”

This was City’s fifth Premier League de­feat of the sea­son, one short of their to­tal num­ber of de­feats in the pre­vi­ous two cam­paigns com­bined.

Each one has come at a time when they looked to be re­gain­ing some form in the league and Guardi­ola has been happy with the re­sponse to the set­backs, but ad­mits the league po­si­tion – 14 points adrift of Liver­pool, who have a game in hand – is a new chal­lenge for his side to face.

“I think ev­ery de­feat you should talk dif­fer­ently, today we played an in­cred­i­ble team, they play in Europe, we played 80 min­utes [with 10 men],” he said.

“The re­sponse of the team al­ways was good, the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons we are used to winning games, be­ing at the top fight­ing, now we are far away, so we have to ad­just men­tally to the sit­u­a­tion and pre­pare for the next games.” Guardi­ola also hailed the ‘courage’ of Ra­heem Ster­ling for de­mand­ing to re­take the penalty he missed at Wolves – de­spite see­ing his sec­ond ef­fort saved as well. Ster­ling scored the re­bound from his sec­ond spot-kick to give City the lead af­ter a bizarre pe­riod of play.

The winger had seen his ini­tial penalty saved by Rui Pa­tri­cio, but was handed another op­por­tu­nity when Connor Coady was pe­nalised for en­croach­ment.

At this point Guardi­ola tried to get a mes­sage on to get some­one else to take the spot-kick, but Ster­ling stood up again and while it was deja vu with Pa­tri­cio mak­ing the save, Ster­ling buried the re­bound to put City ahead.

“I like the courage,” Guardi­ola said.

“I said in the last ac­tion [some­one else should take it], but he (Ster­ling)

We didn’t want two hold­ing mid­field­ers ex­pend­ing all their en­ergy

Pep Guardi­ola

de­cided to do it. The men­tal­ity of Ra­heem is ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

Ster­ling added a sec­ond shortly af­ter half-time but to no avail.

The Blues bring the cur­tain down on a re­mark­able decade of suc­cess against Sh­effield United at the Eti­had today, and Guardi­ola ad­mits they have to adapt to a new chal­lenge af­ter the glo­ries of the pre­vi­ous 10 years.

“Well, the club in the last decade has made in­cred­i­ble steps with dif­fer­ent man­agers and play­ers to sus­tain that,” he said.

“In ten years, they have won four Premier Leagues, so it is not bad con­sid­er­ing this league. But there are pe­ri­ods – football isn’t all the time be­ing up there.

“We were in­cred­i­ble for two sea­sons but now in this com­pe­ti­tion, the Premier League, we have lost more games than the last pre­vi­ous two sea­sons.

“You have to adapt.”

Ra­heem Ster­ling cel­e­brates – fi­nally – scor­ing his spot-kick in the de­feat at Wolves

City boss Pep Guardi­ola has ex­plained his rea­sons for tak­ing off Kevin de Bruyne at Mo­lineux on Fri­day, be­low

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