Pep Guardiola cited the introduction of Ilkay Gundogan as the key to securing City’s success in the 177th Manchester Derby.
The Blues triumphed 3-1 over neighbours United, thanks to goals from David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Gundogan – with the German emerging from the bench to seal the points, finishing off a sensational team move – after Anthony Martial had pulled one back for the Reds from the penalty spot.
Guardiola was pleased with his side’s reaction to the setback and the Champions’ defensive performance throughout.
“In the first half, we were not so good,” he admitted. “We played like: ‘I don’t want to lose the ball’ but with no intention to do something.
GALLERY: Action shots | Derby delight
“We felt a bit of pressure – they wanted to do well in a Derby. That’s normal.
“We were stable and scored the first goal, which was so good.
“We changed a little bit the way we should press and the goal from Sergio helped us a lot.
“After that, we conceded and it is inevitable to think about last season – but we didn’t concede another chance and we defended so well.
“It is most satisfying that at 2-1, we reacted well. Step by step, we regained our game again and at 3-1, it was easy.
“Especially in the second half (the starts have been so strong). We spoke at half-time and said that we could play better then we did in the first half. We were much better.
“We didn’t find our normal rhythm but it is difficult – they defend so deep and they are so aggressive. It is not easy to find spaces against them and they have fast players, who want to attack our back four.
“Gundo [came on] and Raheem played like a striker so we had extra passes and in the last 30 minutes, we played a very good game.”
Guardiola also reserved praise for Raheem Sterling, who produced another excellent performance.
The display was capped in injury time with a flurry of showboating step-overs, as City managed possession in the final minutes, but the Catalan boss was more pleased with the winger’s overall contribution.
“I like a lot how he played,” Guardiola added. “The best way is to keep the ball and they did it – they controlled it absolutely.
“He defended back and then he made some movements with his legs, which we can avoid, but he is young!”
The Blues boss also dismissed talk of retaining the Premier League title – with the Blues just two points clear and three teams unbeaten after 12 matches for the first time in English top-flight history.
“City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal – they have numbers to be Champions,” he stated.
“We are just two points ahead – it is nothing.
“When you win (the league) with 100 points, people can think we’ll maintain our level. The key is the depth.
“Everybody knows they have to maintain their level if they want to stay there (in the team). I am so satisfied.
“Three points against a contender is the same as three points against Southampton and it will be the same three points (at stake) against West Ham after the international break.
“The important thing is that we are consistent and that we play well most of the time but I see a lot of things we can improve.”