Manuel Pellegrini gave Raheem Sterling a very specific target for City’s final UEFA Champions League Group D clash against Borussia Monchengladbach.
On the occasion of his 21st birthday, the City boss actually told the England international to score at least two goals before the game.
Sterling obliged to turn a 2-1 deficit around into a 3-2 lead in two thrilling minutes at the Etihad Stadium.
Manuel revealed: “It was his birthday – I told him before the game that the minimum he had to do today was score two goals.
“I’m not joking – I told him that.
"I think it’s important for him to score those goals tonight.”
Most pleasing for the City boss, over any individual performances, was the way the team performed in a collective context, making up for a slipshod first-half display with a breathtaking, sweeping second half showing.
“If we play the way we did in the second half we can play against any team. It’s the way we normally work – it’s the way I like us to play.
“It seems like it’s faster but it’s slower.
“For me, the most important thing tonight, above finishing top of the group, is that we returned to being the team we normally are.
“We improved a lot in the second half – we arranged it and once we were losing 2-1, we didn’t concede one chance. They haven’t lost since they lost to us and they beat Bayern Munich so it wasn’t easy.”
City will avoid Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 but Pellegrini warned that the team will still be in for a tough draw whoever they meet.
However, the City boss was still delighted to top what was seen as the tournament’s “Group of Death” when the draw was made in August after one of the team’s greatest Champions League nights to date.
“I think the hard work we did already – I always said the most important thing was to qualify and it’s not easy to do it,” Manuel asserted.
“After that it was important to finish in the top spot and we did it tonight.
“It’s better to finish first but all important teams will be in Round of 16 – if you want to win the title you have to play against the biggest teams.
“I always use the example of when I was at Malaga - everyone wanted Malaga but we did very well – we won’t have an easy match.
“Of course it’s better not to draw Barcelona or Real Madrid at this stage but it’s only one round we avoid them.”
Pellegrini added: “Last year we played very well against Bayern and Roma but this is one of the best nights we’ve had in Europe. We did very well against Sevilla, the whole game but tonight we were excellent in the second half.”