Pep Guardiola was delighted to name Kevin De Bruyne on the bench this weekend as the midfield playmaker enters ‘the last stages, the last steps’ before playing for City again.

Guardiola said he included KDB in the squad for the Sheffield United game so he could ‘feel and smell’ competitive football again after four months on the sidelines.

He insisted he wasn’t tempted to bring him on in the 2-0 win but that he’s not far away now from seeing action.

“He’s close. We asked each other to come and be on the bench and to start to be in the locker room,” said the boss.

“It’s a lot of time he’s been out. But he’s close and training good and he will start to get minutes to get to his best.

“It’s incredible news. It’s so important.

“I felt with the warm-up, the standing ovation was the people waiting for him to be back. Like all of us. It’s been a long injury. But it’s the last stages, the last steps to start to take minutes.

“He’s been training good the last week. Today he came for the picture with the five trophies, to be on the bench and to feel and to smell a little bit.

“But I think after, I don’t know, Huddersfield, Newcastle or maybe the next games he will be ready.

“We are waiting for Jeremy [Doku], Erling [Haaland], John [Stones] because the second half of the season is already here.

“So January will come soon and then it will disappear soon because we have three, potentially four, games and after February the Champions League is here and in the last part of the season we need everyone.

“It’s incredible news that Kevin is back.”

The boss also gave an update on Jeremy Doku, who’s been absent since limping off in the 3-3 draw with Tottenham at the start of this month.

The flying winger has missed the past eight games across all competitions, including our triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup.

But Guardiola is hopeful of seeing the pacey 21-year-old return soon.

“Soon I think he is back,” the manager continued.

“We have to be cautious because one against one, he’s explosive and it’s [a] muscular [injury].

“But I think for the next weeks he will be ready. I hope so.”

After an action-packed start to the 2023/24 campaign, City now have just three games scheduled for January, with the home match against Brentford also potentially on the horizon after being postponed due to our involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup.

It’s Huddersfield in the FA Cup on Sunday, followed by a Premier League trip to Newcastle the next Saturday.

Then there’s a break in the calendar and Guardiola says he’s thinking about taking the squad to Abu Dhabi for some warm weather training to ready them for the vital second half of the season.

“After Newcastle, if it’s possible, we will go to Abu Dhabi all together again,” the boss added.

“Last season we were there in the World Cup and it was an incredible impact for staff and everyone, the five titles prove it.

“We go there for training and better weather, to be together and training, training and training to prepare the second part of the season.

“That is today the plan but maybe it will change.”