Belfast Telegraph

Keep calm and title is ours, says Pep

Guardiola stays cool as derby win puts City in pole position

City slicker: Bernardo Silva sends Pep Guardiola and his team on their way to victory at Old Trafford last night
City slicker: Bernardo Silva sends Pep Guardiola and his team on their way to victory at Old Trafford last night

By Graham Luney

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has backed his players to hold their nerve in the title race after striking a crucial blow last night.

City swept aside derby rivals Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford to reclaim top spot in the Premier League - one point ahead of Liverpool. With only three games left, Liverpool must now respond at home to relegated Huddersfield Town at Anfield tomorrow, while City travel to Burnley on Sunday.

After goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane sank United, Guardiola said: "Now we go to Burnley and we know how tough it will be. It's important to be calm.

"Both teams deserve the title but it can be just one.

"The team that is going to lose can't have regrets because they have given everything. What Liverpool have done is incredible but it's in our hands. We play with a lot of pressure but the players have been incredible. I told the players don't read tomorrow, don't watch the television, just rest and sleep a lot and go in there against Burnley."

United's seventh defeat in nine games in all competitions sees them without a clean sheet in 12 matches - their worst record since August, 1971.

Silva’s low drive went inside United keeper David de Gea’s near post after 54 minutes and the keeper was at fault again when Sane’s drive went straight through him.

Guardiola added: “I understand the pressure we have and obviously here at Old Trafford with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard running behind. I told them we needed to play to win, it doesn’t matter if we concede.

“We knew without Romelu Lukaku they would try more run in behind. The chances we lost came from us losing simple balls in the middle and we changed things in the second half, with Ilkay Gundogan in the middle and with Leroy Sane on we were more dynamic.

“Normally with this kind of victory you can it enjoy it the most but we have to be calm.

“Thank you (to the fans) for support in the last two games. Our supporters are amazing away. I feel it more away than at home sometimes. The players deserve that.”

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted the gulf in quality on show was obvious.

“We got a reaction and in the end we were beaten by a better team,” he said. “But we got a reaction from fans and players and had a go. You can see the work-rate was there, it wasn’t good enough.

“There is a difference in quality. That is why they are top and we are where we are. They have set the standard. Living in Manchester we cannot be happy with that. It is up to us to close that gap and overtake them.

“Today you can’t say that any of them didn’t run. You could see clearly an intent and focus. We just need to keep working on it.

“City want to win it back and by their aggression to win it back there will be fouls. They keep the ball high and are hungry to win it back. They stopped us very well.

“David (De Gea) made some terrific saves as well today. It is every day work for everyone. He has high standards. When we are having a time like this we need to stick together, batten the hatches down and keep working. We have to come back fighting on Sunday.”

Meanwhile, former United captain Roy Keane hit out at the club’s players and said they will throw Solskjaer “under the bus”.

“These are the same players who threw (former boss Jose) Mourinho under the bus and they will do exactly the same to Ole,” Keane said.

“Leopards don’t change their spots. There’s too many bluffers at this club to get United back to the very top. Even the point that we’re talking about Man United trying to finish fourth tells you how the standards have dropped over the last few years — both on and off the pitch.”

On midfielder Paul Pogba, Keane added: “I wouldn’t believe a word he says. There’s no meaning behind it, I don’t even think he believed what he was saying there. He’s on about being a team-mate, well if you want to be a good team-mate you’ve got to run back. He is a big problem for United.”

Following the match, Keane said: “I reckon the City players couldn’t believe how easy it was tonight, in a derby game.”

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