Pep Guardiola says there is a mutual respect between the City fans and Kevin De Bruyne that will ‘last forever’.

The City boss also said that the supporters are ‘in love with Kevin’ after the reception he was given as he warmed up against Sheffield United proved – and again when he made his long-awaited return against Huddersfield Town.

It took the Belgian just 17 minutes to register his first assist of the season and Guardiola says he couldn’t be happier to have him back – though added his return will be carefully managed.

“He played really good minutes, and we thought it was better in the second-half when there was more space because they defended really, really deep and the spaces were so hard to find,” said Pep.

“But in the second half there were more spaces and we played with good intention, and it was really, really good.

“Now, as I said in the previous press conferences, Kevin needs to accumulate training sessions, training sessions and more training sessions – even more than games.

“Now with Newcastle (next weekend) we have another chance, then we have two weeks to have good training sessions here and in Abu Dhabi, so we are ready for the second part of the season.

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“But I am incredibly happy to have him back because Kevin helps you to win games.

“Kevin, Haaland, Phil… these guys win games - that’s why they’re so important for us.

“I’m pretty sure that in the last game Kevin felt how the people love him and how our people are in love with him, and that mutual respect will be forever.”

The City boss also says he will not put pressure on De Bruyne and that not too much expectation should be placed on his shoulders as he continues his comeback.

“Kevin is not going to solve the problems that we have, and we are not going to have victories unless we are all together,” he said.

“Kevin will help us with his talent and can help us in the things we are getting better at - he can handle the pressure, we know that, but I don’t want to put pressure on Kevin’s shoulders because it’s not fair on him.

“He has a special quality that is difficult to find, and we have known each other a long time - we have players like Erling, Phil, Bobb, Doku and Matheus who love to run in behind and have players find them with passes and Kevin is exceptional at this.

“That’s why first we are pleased he is back after three or four months out with injury and is fresh in his mind and played really good minutes as he showed with the quality of the assist for the fifth goal, so yeah, it’s really good to have him back.”

And asked if De Bruyne’s return would mean Phil Foden not playing as centrally, Guardiola said there was no reason both couldn’t play alongside each other in certain games and situations.

“In some games they can play and in some games we have to struggle a little bit,” he said.

“Always I am a big fan first of the talent, so why can’t their talent be joined together?

“When I was in Barcelona people used to say, ‘no, Xavi and Iniesta - these guys cannot play together’ and I said, why not? Why not? They are good, they are intelligent and smart and normally we associate that talent with they cannot defend - this is not true.

“But at the same time, for our structure, for 4-4-2, we have to change something if we have to defend and need physicality but some games, in the second half we put a lot of talent in the central positions.”

City start the new year in third spot in the Premier League, with a spot booked in the Round of 16 in the Champions League and now a place in the FA Cup fourth round.

Asked if other teams should be afraid with players like De Bruyne and Doku returning and John Stones and Erling Haaland also to come back, Guardiola said: “We are in the Champions League and in Premier League we have one game in hand.

“But our big rival, Liverpool, is back, as well as Arsenal and many, many good teams out there - like Tottenham - but it’s important to be there.

“We know we can’t drop points much, otherwise it will be more difficult – but now we have a final important game to play against Newcastle, then after that we have two weeks to refresh our minds in training and go to Abu Dhabi with better weather conditions.

“What I want is to arrive at that second part with everybody fit - Erling. Kevin, John, Jack, Jeremy back then we have a team that can compete in three competitions.”