he Premier League Champions fielded a side buzzing with youthful exuberance at MetLife Stadium, and the Blues held last season’s Champions League finalists to stalemate until injury time, when Sadio Mane snatched victory with an injury time penalty.
Half-time substitute Leroy Sane had opened the scoring before the hour mark, only for Mo Salah to level ten minutes later and the Reds to steal a last-gasp win. It was a bitter pill to swallow for City – but Guardiola expressed his pride for the way his side battled against Jurgen Klopp’s experienced outfit.
“It is incredible, what we have done,” he reflected. “For 75 minutes, it was incredible what we did with the players we have against that team – finalists of the Champions League, who have amazing players.
GALLERY: City v Liverpool
“Our personality was incredible. The average age of our players in the first half was very young. I am so proud and I am so happy to be manager of these guys for that reason.
“For the last 15 minutes, we were so tired. We made some changes and in the last few minutes, Liverpool deserved to score goals.”
Guardiola was also pleased to see Sane open his account for the 2018/19 campaign with an expertly-taken drilled finish, and hopes last season’s Young Player of the Year will take his form into the upcoming season. The Catalan did add however that the German winger still has work to do to rekindle that sparkling form.
“It depends on him,” Guardiola continued. “He needs more minutes and he needs to regain his principles in terms of playing without the ball.
“He has the talent to do that and we are happy that he scored. Still, he is far away from his best.”
With the MetLife Stadium pitch in poor condition, there were concerns on both sides regarding the potential for injuries. However, Guardiola happily reported his side emerged unscathed – a relief with so many senior stars still holidaying after the World Cup, with the new season approaching fast.
“It is what it is,” he stated. “I learned that when I was a little boy in Barcelona – an Academy player – that you don’t find excuses and you don’t complain.
“In that first season in Barcelona, I was so angry and upset (with the state of a pitch) but it’s business. We have played similar games before with no injuries and that’s what happened.
“We now know what we have to do every day in this kind of situation.
“We are happy as a Club to have had 16 players at the World Cup with their national teams. It’s a good sign for the Club. In the past, that didn’t happen.
“We are going to adapt and see which players we will have available against Chelsea and what conditions they will be in. We’ll see.
“We are late (returning) – we know that – but we must play as we did (against Liverpool), with the spirit we showed against an amazing team.
“The young players will never forget that experience and for the future, it’s so good.”
One player who did miss out through injury is Aymeric Laporte. However, Guardiola explained his absence was merely a precaution, based on the pitch conditions.
“On his second day in Manchester, he had a problem,” the manager revealed. “Now, he is in perfect condition but we didn’t want to take a risk with the pitch.
“We need players for the beginning of the season.”