The manager singled out our No.7 as the only player who performed to the level he expects in a first half which ended goalless after we failed to hit our usual heights.
Much of City’s best play came down the left flank Sterling occupied in the opening 45 and he was the catalyst for a much improved second half display when he scored within a minute of the restart.
It was his 13th goal in 14 games and Guardiola was particularly impressed that the 24-year-old is refusing to rest on his laurels amidst such fine form.
“Raheem played in the first half to score a goal,” said the boss.
“He showed us the energy we need. The way he played the first half showed us what we should do, where we should go and we did it.
“The only person in the first half who was aggressive was Raheem. In the second half we imitated him.
“What I liked the most is after scoring three goals against Atalanta, everybody talks in the media how good you are.
“Usually the next game you play like ‘how good am I’ (letting the praise go to your head).
“He was the complete opposite. That is our strength as a team in the last years together. I am so proud of Raheem.”
Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan’s goals ensured it was a comfortable victory at the Etihad Stadium, but Aston Villa had their moments.
John McGinn forced Ederson into a good save in the first half and hit the post late on and whilst he was pleased with the second half, Guardiola said his players must ensure they are at their best across the whole 90 minutes if they want to continue to challenge for honours.
"We played good for 45 minutes, but not the other one,” he added.
“Respect and credit for Aston VIlla. We have to play 90 minutes not just 45.
“If we play at the level we did in the second half we will be there until the end of the season, I am sure of that.
“If we play like in the first half we will be near the relegated positions far away from leading the table.”