Manuel Pellegrini hailed his team’s “important achievement” in qualifying for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League… but has called on his players not to stop there.
An Alvaro Negredo hat-trick and a Sergio Aguero brace helped his side to a scintillating 5-2 win over CSKA Moscow and ensured that City will be in the draw for the knockout stages of the competition for the first time on December 16.
“I’m very happy because this is an achievement the club didn’t do in the last two years – it’s not easy to do it,” Pellegrini smiled.
“Two games before the group is finished and we are now in the last 16. It’s important for the fans, the staff, the players – everyone connected with the club.
“I don’t know if it’s a relief but it’s our first target for the year and I think to be in that stage is important for the club. I had a lot of trust that we could do it.
“We have a strong team so the minimum target was to qualify for the last 16 but it’s not our only target.
“I think that we have a strong squad and we’ll see where we can go in this Champions League.
“We will see what happens in the draw, we don’t know who we’ll play – but I am sure whoever we play won’t be happy to play against us.”
Pellegrini was effusive in his praise for the goalscorers on the night but reminded journalists not to forget about the more unsung contributors to the victory.
David Silva, Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho were all name checked by the Chilean in the post-match press conference but the whole squad played a part, according to the 60-year old.
“I think that both of the strikers played really well, not just today, but all of the season – Sergio is in a great moment, not only is he scoring but he’s also working well without the ball and Alvaro is the same,” Pellegrini declared.
“They are both important players but it’s more important the way the team is playing as a whole.
“The whole team is playing offensively which is great – we scored five goals today and we had at least five or six other chances to score.
“It’s more important to score five goals – in three days we scored 12 goals here at home and that’s very important.
“David and Samir are two very important creative midfielders who are playing really well – both of them have the freedom to play the way they want.
“We always try to be in the opposition half and this allows both of them to play really well.
“We shouldn’t forget about Yaya and Fernandinho either – they both help David and Samir to play well also.”
Although City were beaten comprehensively at home to group leaders Bayern Munich, Manuel also revealed that he hasn’t given up hopes of topping the table after the final two games of Group D.
“Of course we are going to try and finish first in the group," he said, "It will be very difficult but Munich have to go to Russia next which will be tough for them, so you never know what could happen.
“Then we just have to wait and see what happens in the last game of the group in Munich.”
Pellegrini’s Russian counterpart Leonid Slutsky felt that his team didn’t give a true account of themselves and gifted City too much in the match.
“Before the match we planned something to try and rebuff their attacks but we failed.
...Leonid Slutsky - CSKA Manager...
“It’s obvious, we made a lot of mistakes and there was a lot of freedom to attack but we were unbalanced in defence and when we had chances, we scored, but we should be alert because against such a good team you need to be – to lose concentration for a moment is fatal.
“Today we made a lot of mistakes, obviously we were playing against players of a high level but those were our faults.”