Pep Guardiola watched his Manchester City team take a firm stride towards the Premier League title with a 1-0 home win over Chelsea but said they had already given him something more priceless – a remorseless dedication to succeed in every game.
Kevin De Bruyne scored the winning goal with a curler from distance and it meant that City moved 13 points clear of their second-placed opponents. Liverpool are 14 points back in third with two matches in hand and go to the Etihad Stadium on 9 April.
Guardiola was at pains to stress that a fourth title in five seasons was not yet secure but he was delighted at how his team were able to clear the latest obstacle in front of them.
“I don’t know what is going to happen this season,” he said. “I don’t care. What I care about is that after winning what we have won in the last years, still these guys in every single game give everything for this club. This is so difficult to find in modern life, in modern football.
“We are humble enough to run without the ball, to try to do our best in every single game. This is my – and our – biggest achievement as a club and as a team by far. To win and win and win for years and still being there all the time, in this country and in this league. This is the biggest title I have and will have when I leave Manchester.”
Guardiola denied that complacency could become a problem for City. “I know my players, we are together for six seasons – [I know] how they celebrate the good moments and suffer in the bad ones, so they are going to listen that it is not true when the people say it is over. In January it is impossible it is over.”
The Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel, was unhappy at the performance of his attacking players, including the club’s record signing, Romelu Lukaku, who missed a one-on-one chance early in the second half. Chelsea were wasteful with their final pass, particularly in the first quarter of the game.
“Sometimes he needs to do the service,” Tuchel said. “He had many ball losses without any pressure, many ball losses in very promising circumstances, without any pressure. He had a huge chance so he is included in this.
“We want to serve him but he is part of the team and the performance up front. Especially in the first half we can do much, much better and we need to do much, much better. We had a lot of transition chances in the first half.”