Pep Guardiola insists Raheem Sterling alone deserves the credit for his return to form.
The England forward has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes in recent weeks, having scored five goals in his last eight appearances for Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The 27-year-old lost his place as a regular starter towards the end of last season and remained on the fringes at the beginning of the current campaign.
This led to speculation over his future but injuries to others offered Sterling a way back into the side and he has so far made the most of the opportunity.
This could be presented as an example of good man-management by Guardiola but the City boss has been keen to play down his role.
Asked if Sterling’s rejuvenation was down to him, Guardiola said at a press conference: “I would like to say yes for my ego, for a better contract for the next seasons – but I am sorry, that is the most ridiculous thing, with all respect. All the credit is for the player.
“I am going to reveal a secret. The day we played Aston Villa, the day before we had 12 players and he was not selected.
“But the day of the game (Ilkay) Gundogan had a pain in his back and could not travel, and Raheem played. Just look at the first 15-20 minutes he played. It was the best 15-20 minutes I remember for the last month.
“I did something but he did it, so give the credit to the player. I can talk about theories, how good we are, how beautiful the weather in Manchester is, the draw for the Champions League – I can pretend I know everything, but it belongs, absolutely, to the players.
“Of course I want more from him, it is not enough, but I want more from Gundogan, Kevin (De Bruyne), even from Bernardo (Silva) and Rodri, all of them.”
Silva, who wanted to leave the club in the summer, has been outstanding so far this season, playing a key role while chief playmaker De Bruyne has had problems with form and fitness.
After a spell out with coronavirus, De Bruyne is now hoping to get back to his best but Guardiola dismisses the suggestion he and Silva cannot operate effectively together.
He said: “Kevin, come on, is a more-than-important player for us and we need him like, wow, you cannot imagine.
“He struggled in the beginning of the season when he played and when he started to be who he is he got the Covid. We need him, Bernardo needs him.”