No Aguero, no De Bruyne, no problem! Gritty Man City never got out of second gear but were still too much for a gamely Sheffield United as Pep Guardiola’s table-toppers extended their winning run to 12 matches
- Manchester City look unbeatable right now after going clear at the top
- Pep Guardiola’s under-strength City ground out victory against Blades
- City are missing key men but are now on an ominous 12-match winning streak
Manchester City extended their ominous winning run to 12 matches without their best player, the club’s greatest ever striker, most potent winger, first-choice holding midfielder and the division’s in-form full back. Plus John Stones.
Another afternoon spent in second gear, a gritty victory but victory nonetheless. Pep Guardiola told Chris Wilder afterwards that he cannot fathom how Sheffield United are in their perilous state and, on the evidence of the past week, the Blades do not look a side propping up the Premier League table with a meagre eight points.
Yet for all their endeavour, they left the Etihad Stadium having registered only one shot on target. City have given up only 10 of those in their last six home games. They have been so impenetrable that Ruben Dias has said performances are measured on how often keeper Ederson has to work.
Man City showed the character of champions to grind out a victory over Sheffield United
Guardiola was, however, keen to stress this is a team effort, evidenced by their hunger to hunt down opponents.
Just before half-time, when Wilder’s visitors countered from a City corner, eight blue shirts were on the scene when Oliver Burke was robbed of possession seconds later. ‘It is in our DNA,’ Guardiola said. ‘You cannot play for us if you don’t have this behaviour. The players run and fight like animals.’
The nine matches City won in January is an all-time record.
‘To achieve this is quite remarkable, more than any other period from our lives,’ Guardiola said.
Gabriel Jesus’ first-half strike was enough for City to win and extend their lead at the top
Some, like Phil Foden, are on a steep upward trajectory. Others, like Bernardo Silva, are recapturing former glories.
Guardiola reserved special mention for his captain, Fernandinho, who controlled the game on only his fifth league start this season.
‘Always, you can count on him,’ he said. ‘Magnificent. He’s an incredibly good example for Rodri, who will be here for many years.’ Wilder went back over the Pennines trusting that Sheffield United — who have a huge game against West Bromwich on Tuesday — can muster a run of results to at least become competitive.
‘I don’t want us to go out of the back door,’ Wilder said. ‘You’ve got to have balls in this division. Now it’s game on if we want to achieve something.’
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