Pep Guardiola was delighted with his side’s second-half display in the 3-1 win against Watford at the Etihad.

Goals from Raheem Sterling, Christian Kabasele (og) and Sergio Aguero saw off the Hornets with Andre Gray grabbing a late consolation for Marco Silva’s side.

“It was the first time we dropped points in 18 games and the reaction you saw, except 15 minutes in the first half when we were not good enough. We lose simple balls. They create two or three chances. In the second half, when we could be tired, it was completely the opposite. We could have scored more,” said Guardiola.

Kevin De Bruyne started for City just two days after being stretchered off with a leg injury against Crystal Palace, and Guardiola was full of praise for the Belgian’s attitude.

The manager said: “De Bruyne went out in the afternoon. He said ‘I want to play’. He was in pain because it was a kick [against Palace] but if he wants to play I want him to play. Nothing will change my opinion about his quality, everyone knows about his quality. Kevin wanted to play. Everyone will try to follow his desire.”

Kyle Walker limped down the tunnel at full-time, and Guardiola expressed with frustration with the workload placed on players over the festive period.

“What I saw in the last weeks, how many injuries the players have,” he said. “We are going to kill them. The federation needs to reflect. I know the show must go on but this is not normal. They make a lot of control anti-dopings and control us - but we don’t protect the players.

“The people come here to watch the players and enjoy their performances. Not the managers in the press conferences or journalists. In England, you don’t protect the players. You can’t play every two days.

“The tradition is the tradition, we have to think about it a little bit. The players are artists and they are the reason we are here.”

David Silva returned to the side after an absence for personal reasons, and while the manager admitted that he may have to go without the midfielder’s services again, he will not put pressure on him to play.

“We are very happy he is back with us. We don’t know how long he will be with us but you saw again today he essential player with us. He showed how important he is for us,” Guardiola said.

“He is free to stay or to leave. It depends. He wants to stay but family is the most important thing in life. The family is most important, I would never push him. If we drop points.”