Pep Guardiola is confident Raheem Sterling will soon get back on the goal trail after a tough run of form at Manchester City.

England forward Sterling enjoyed a prolific start to the campaign that included hat-tricks against West Ham and Atalanta.

However, he is now scoreless in 12 matches, with the last of his 20 goals in all competitions coming when he netted a brace in a 3-2 Premier League defeat to Wolves in December.

A hamstring injury further compromised the 25-year-old and, although he produced a telling cameo from the bench in City's 2-1 Champions League comeback win at Real Madrid last month, his trails in the opposition penalty area were again laid bare during Sunday's 2-0 derby loss at Manchester United.

Nevertheless, much like goalkeeper Ederson – whose two mistakes led to United's goals – manager Guardiola has no fears over Sterling's levels of belief heading into Wednesday's Premier League match against Arsenal.

"He's incredibly positive, especially in the fact that when he misses one chance he tries again," he said.

"He was injured for two or three weeks and sometimes you need a little bit more time, but he's coming back.

"I never was so much worried about these kind of actions, like Ederson last time. It happens.

"These are the guys who suffer the most. When it happens they have been supported and we try to let them feel we are here for them.

"Sometimes you speak with them and sometimes you leave them free. They are so mature to understand what they have to do."

City's attack was unusually toothless in the Old Trafford derby, with a left-sided berth for Gabriel Jesus one option available to Guardiola in terms of freshening things up.

A centre-forward by trade, the Brazil international has played on the flank for his country and excelled out wide before scoring at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Deploying Jesus on the left of a front three could give Sterling a chance to freshen up on the right of City's all-time top scorer Sergio Aguero, although the specific characteristics of opponents and the identity of his full-backs – Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko offering very different interpretations of the left-back role – will also be factored into Guardiola's thinking.

"I think Gabriel can adapt perfectly in that way, especially as he doesn't play wide, wide wide," he explained.

"He can play a little bit more inside like how Arsenal play with Aubameyang. Gabriel can play perfectly in that position and in the games he played he played really well."

Leroy Sane, a specialist on the left wing, could make his long-awaited return from knee ligament surgery against Arsenal and Guardiola added: "Sometimes we need more specific winger in that position, it depends on the quality of our full-backs as well.

"To attack a defence with five players in the back and so deep, you have to make the pitch wide. If you don't it is more difficult."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes the football season should be suspended if the alternative is a raft of games taking place behind closed doors.

Fans are set to be present for City's rescheduled Premier League game against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, but a growing number of fixtures across Europe will be staged before empty stands in response to the outbreak of coronavirus.

All sporting activity in Italy has been suspended until April 3, with Serie A side Atalanta contesting their Tuesday Champions League trip to Valencia in the absence of the paying public.

Manchester United's Europa League visit to LASK in Austria and next week's Barcelona v Napoli and Bayern Munich v Chelsea Champions League encounters are now also behind-closed-doors matches, as are all games in Ligue 1 and LaLiga over the coming weeks.

The Premier League taking similar steps is something Guardiola feels is inevitable but he bridled at the prospects of large chunks of remaining fixtures this season taking place in such circumstances – stating suspending matches altogether would be preferable.

"I understand for a short time, one game, okay. But if it is longer it must be suspended. There is no reason to play without the people," said the City boss, whose team entertain Burnley on Saturday before a sell-out Champions League showdown against Real Madrid next Tuesday.

"This [football] is for the people. It is like an actor going to the theatre to act and nobody being there that night. It's for the people.

"I understand we have to see what happens in the next weeks. Maybe the instances will go down, maybe it will solve the problems. Okay, continue with the games and the competitions.

"But now Barcelona v Napoli will be behind closed doors, Bayern Munich v Chelsea will be behind closed doors. It happened in Germany as well, I think it is going to happen soon here.

"When that happens for a short time it is okay, but for four, five or six games makes no sense."

Guardiola was keen to state the primary concern should go beyond matters of sports scheduling, with the global death toll from COVID-19 having now topped 4,000.

"The first thing is the health of the people. That is the terms of what is best – for humanity and how we take care of ourselves," he added.

"It is not just about one country, one city or one specific place. It is all around the world. There are many cases.

"What speaks for itself is every day [instances of coronavirus] are growing. The same thing happened in China and especially in Italy, where they have absolutely cancelled the league and the people must stay at home.

"Will it happen here? I don't know the way they are going to control it in other places."

Mikel Arteta has hailed Pep Guardiola as the bravest manager in football ahead of his reunion with the Manchester City boss when Arsenal travel to the Etihad Stadium.

Arteta will lead the Gunners for the first time against his former employers on Wednesday, having served as a key member of Guardiola's backroom staff for a decorated three-and-a-half-year period.

The pair have remained in regular contact since Arteta stepped up to succeed Unai Emery at Emirates Stadium last December and he feels the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss stands apart in the modern game.

"For me the first thing is his values as a person, that stands in front of everything," he said.

"The way he treats the players, the way he treats people, the way he looks after the football club when he is there, that's the first one.

"The second one is the clear ideas he has, how he is going to implement them and the plan he puts together to do that.
 
"And after because he is braver than any other manager and wants to take more risks and wants to play the way he wants and it does not matter what, he will maintain that line. 

"I never heard a player doubt, 'can we play like this or should we play like this'. They are all so convinced as he does not leave one drop of a doubt what needs to be done."

Arteta also praised the City hierarchy for backing Guardiola's methods after a trophy-less first season in England in 2016-17, especially given six of the subsequent seven major domestic honours have ended up in east Manchester.

"After the first season I think the process was really good but we did not win any trophies. And instead of anybody above - owners, sporting directors, or anyone who were involved - doubting that [playing Guardiola's style] was possible to do in England, they were all in," he explained.

"This is the way that we want to do it. So that is good, your idea is good, but you need the backing of the football club to support your ideas and get your backing and put that plan to support and be successful. And look what happened after."

Nevertheless, Arteta was keen to assert the side he is beginning to build at Arsenal will not simply amount to Guardiola-lite.

“If you copy paste it is always bad," he added. "You have to be around every character and person. Everyone feels thing in different way.

"It is a completely different context with the situations at City and Arsenal. Different context and players. So I think it would be a bad thing to do from my side."

Pep Guardiola claims Leroy Sane was fit to make his Manchester City first-team return "weeks ago" but remains short of rhythm.

Sane suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during last August's Community Shield triumph against Liverpool, scuppering both his season and a purported switch to Bayern Munich.

The Germany winger resumed full training last month, when he featured for City's under-23 team against Arsenal.

However, he has not featured in one of Guardiola's matchday squads during a run of games that has included a Champions League trip to Real Madrid, the EFL Cup final and a Manchester derby.

"He is getting better week by week," the City manager said of Sane's fitness, while not ruling out the prospect of the 24-year-old featuring when his team host Arsenal in the Premier League on Wednesday.

"He is training, he is not injured. He can play. Another issue is a lack of rhythm, the tempo, the moment of the season. We are going to decide.

"But yes, he was ready weeks ago."

Guardiola again backed first-choice goalkeeper Ederson, who was culpable for both goals conceded as Manchester United claimed the local bragging rights with a 2-0 win over their neighbours at Old Trafford on Sunday.

"He's an extraordinary keeper. You and me [the reporter], we cannot make mistakes because we are sitting," he said. "The players can make mistakes wherever they want. It is how they react and he always reacts good."

Guardiola confirmed he has remained in regular contact with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, his former assistant who left City to take charge of the Gunners in December.

Raheem Sterling previously cited Arteta's nurturing influence as a factor in his improvement over recent seasons but Guardiola doubts the England forward's ongoing 12-match goal drought can be attributed to the ex-Everton midfielder no longer being part of the Premier League champions' coaching staff.

"You have to ask Raheem," he said. "Raheem has scored goals and is going to score goals. The talent is there.

"Of course, Mikel helped all of us as much as possible. Not just Raheem, all the players.

"My assistant coaches are free to do what they think to help the team. We try to do our best for the club we defend, and the people we work with, to do as well as possible on the pitch."

Influential duo Kevin De Bruyne (shoulder) and Aymeric Laporte (hamstring) will be assessed ahead of the Arsenal game after their absences were keenly felt last weekend.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola does not believe playing games behind closed doors is a viable long-term move as the football world seeks to address the spread of coronavirus.

All sporting activity in Italy has been suspended until April 3, while Ligue 1 and LaLiga have moved to keep spectators away from games over the coming weeks.

The forthcoming Champions League matches where Barcelona host Napoli and Chelsea travel to Bayern Munich will also take place without fans in the ground.

No such action has reached English football as yet, although Guardiola feels it is inevitable given mounting fears in Europe over the virus that has now claimed in excess of 4,000 lives worldwide.

Nevertheless, as City prepare for three matches at the Etihad Stadium in the space of seven days – starting with Wednesday's rearranged Premier League clash against Arsenal – Guardiola stated he would sooner have games suspended if the alternative is empty stands for the foreseeable future.

"We are conscious of it because it happened already in Italy," he told a pre-match news conference.

"The league is suspended, in Spain they start the next two weeks behind closed doors and I think it is going to happen here because the tendency [instances of coronavirus] rises in the same level as in Italy before and Spain right now.

"The other thing we have to ask is whether it works to play football without the spectators. They are the reason why we do our job, for the people. If the people cannot come to the games there is no sense.

"I would not love to play football games in the Champions League, in the Premier League or in the cups or whatever without the people.

"We are going to follow the instructions from the governments. Everyone around the world is involved in that and just follow what they have to do and follow the instructions."

Guardiola went on to underline his belief that football derives meaning from being played in front of the paying public.

"I would prefer not to play than without people, definitely," he said. "We are here for the people. Of course, if it is for one game or two games I can understand it. But longer…

"The reason why you are a journalist is to write for the people. I play, we play for the people. If the people cannot be there, what sense? No sense."

He added: "If UEFA and the governments say you have to play without spectators we are going to play without spectators.

"But I am going to say I would love to play with spectators, with our fans. For one game it can happen, for a long time there is no sense.

"But the health is the most important thing right now, not the competitions. It is how to take care of this situation, which is getting worse country by country, day by day."

Real Madrid could be without Thibaut Courtois and Marcelo for the second leg of their Champions League tie with Manchester City.

The Spanish club revealed on Tuesday that goalkeeper Courtois has an injury to his left adductor muscle, while left-back Marcelo is dealing with a left hamstring issue.

Madrid - who host Eibar on Friday before the trip to the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday - offered no indication as to how long the duo will be out.

Both played in Sunday's 2-1 LaLiga defeat away to Real Betis, though Marcelo was replaced by Ferland Mendy before the hour mark.

Zinedine Zidane's side have won just once in their last five outings in all competitions. 

They took the lead against last-16 opponents City at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26, Vinicius Junior opening the scoring after 60 minutes.

However, Gabriel Jesus equalised before a Kevin De Bruyne penalty sealed a crucial away victory for Pep Guardiola's side.

Timo Werner is considering the prospect of joining Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United - but could yet stay at RB Leipzig.

The striker has been most frequently linked with Liverpool and has previously expressed his admiration for Jurgen Klopp.

The 24-year-old believes joining the Premier League leaders or City would represent a good opportunity to play for a strong side under a "great" coach, although he appears tempted by the idea of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's project to turn United back into England's dominant force.

However, Werner has not ruled out staying at Leipzig, where he thinks he could "make something great".

Speaking ahead of his side's Champions League last-16 second leg against Tottenham, he told Sky Sports: "At this time in professional soccer, there are two different variations.

"The first is to be part of a team like Liverpool or Manchester City. They have a good working team. The teams have also great coaches.

"But this is the question: do you want to go to that kind of team, because the situation is already that hard for each member and you want to be a part of it? That's one point you have to look at.

"The other side are teams which need some big changes, because they just won a few big titles, but they are not able to compete on the highest level anymore. For me, Manchester United is one of these teams.

"So at this point of my career I'm asking myself: do I want to be part of a new team, to build up something new, or do I want to stay at my team and make something great?"

Werner has scored 27 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions this season.

He is second only to Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga goalscoring charts this season and converted the second-half penalty at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to secure Leipzig's first-leg lead over Spurs.

Daniel Levy is known as a difficult negotiator.

The Tottenham chairman squeezed every penny out of United when the Red Devils turned to Dimitar Berbatov in 2008.

United also reportedly pulled out of the running for Luka Modric, who joined Real Madrid in 2012, as they did not want to haggle with Levy.

However, United could be ready to lock horns with Levy over Harry Kane's signature.

 

TOP STORY – WOODWARD READY TO BATTLE LEVY FOR KANE

Manchester United and Ed Woodward are ready to battle for the signing of Tottenham star Harry Kane, according to the Evening Standard.

Kane is reportedly considering his future at Tottenham and the England international striker is believed to be open to a switch to United at the end of the season.

United are yet to permanently replace Romelu Lukaku and Red Devils executive vice-chairman Woodward reportedly wants to lock horns with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could United beat Borussia Dortmund to Jude Bellingham? Birmingham City's 16-year-old sensation Bellingham visited United's training ground on Monday and reportedly spoke to former manager Alex Ferguson as the Red Devils ramp up their interest. Bellingham is valued at around £30million.

- David Beckham's Inter Miami want to sign Manchester City star David Silva, reports The Mirror. Silva, out of contract at the end of the season, has been linked to fellow MLS franchise New York City – who are the sister club of Manchester City and part of the City Football Group.

- Tuttosport claims Juventus are targeting Valencia attacker Ferran Torres. The 20-year-old has also been linked to LaLiga champions Barcelona, Real Madrid and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

United are prepared to pay £70m for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, says The Mirror. Grealish has emerged as one of United's prime transfer targets and the Red Devils are ready to test Villa's resolve as the Premier League strugglers face relegation.

Paris Saint-Germain continue to target Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. PSG have identified Koulibaly as Thiago Silva's replacement but Calciomercato says it will be difficult for the Ligue 1 holders to lower Napoli's demands. Koulibaly – also linked to the likes of United, Madrid, Tottenham and Manchester City – reportedly has a €150m termination clause.

- Kicker says Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are considering signing on-loan Inter winger Ivan Perisic at season's end.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta insists Manchester City have been "very unlucky" this season and expects to face a fearsome response to their Manchester derby defeat.

Pep Guardiola's side lost 2-0 at Manchester United on Sunday to leave Premier League leaders Liverpool needing just six points to win the title.

Indeed, Jurgen Klopp's men could become champions before their next match if City lose their back-to-back home games against Arsenal and Burnley this week. 

City been beaten twice by United and once by Tottenham since Arteta left his post as assistant to take charge at Emirates Stadium, leading to scrutiny over the state of the team under Guardiola, despite winning the EFL Cup final and recording an impressive 2-1 victory at Real Madrid in the past two weeks.

Arteta believes fortune has not been on their side and is in no doubt that Arsenal must be at their best to get a result at the Etihad Stadium.

"Sometimes small details make the difference. I think they've been very unlucky," he said on Monday. "This is football. It can happen.

"We have to be at our best, that's for sure, to have any chance of winning the game."

Arteta is nonetheless looking forward to returning to the club where he learned much of his coaching craft under Guardiola after retiring from playing in 2016.

"It's going to be a very special night. I'm very excited to get back there," he said.

"Now, I'm in a different position on a different bench. I will defend my club as well as I can."

Arsenal battled to a 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday that keeps them in the hunt for a Champions League place with 10 games to go.

The Gunners are eight points behind fourth-place Chelsea and just five adrift of United in fifth, a position that could be enough to qualify for Europe's elite competition if City's ban due to Financial Fair Play irregularities is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"It's still a long way to go. We want to go game by game," Arteta said. "Three weeks ago, it was impossible [to secure Champions League qualification]. Now, it looks a bit more possible."

Arteta added he is hopeful the club will agree a new contract with Bukayo Saka, who has impressed this season.

"The club is doing what it has to do and holding conversations. Hopefully, we'll get a result," he said of talks over a new deal.

Ilkay Gundogan insists it was wrong to award the free-kick that led to Manchester United's opening goal in the derby and has accused Bruno Fernandes of play-acting.

City midfielder Gundogan was penalised when he prodded the ball away from Fernandes while making minimal contact with the United star 29 minutes into the match at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side took the lead from the resulting set-piece, Fernandes chipping a clever pass that Anthony Martial volleyed past Ederson.

United withstood City pressure in the second half before Scott McTominay pounced on another Ederson error to secure a 2-0 victory in second-half injury time.

"There was frustration about the free-kick before the goal," Gundogan admitted. "It was not a foul at all. I just touched the ball and he goes on the floor shouting.

"I don't even know if the referee saw it or just had a feeling that it was a foul. That was very disappointing for me, to be honest, because I was involved in the action and conceding the goal straight afterwards hurt very much. We tried hard after conceding the first one but it just wasn't enough."

Gundogan refused to pin blame for the defeat onto Ederson, who also nearly allowed Martial to score a second with uncharacteristically careless control.

"Eddy has been crucial in so many games for us, and he is allowed to make mistakes. Unfortunately, this time they were punished, very crucially for us," he said.

"We win together and lose together. That's why we play football; that's why we're a team. He will deal with that situation very well. He's angry, disappointed and frustrated, but it's always about how you get out of it. He has all of our support and I'm sure he will do much better in the next games."

City could not match United's intensity in the first half and were short on creativity in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, managing only four shots on target throughout.

"It hurts a lot," said Gundogan. "Not really the result but that we didn't play our best game, especially creating in the last third. This game is always big, one of the biggest derbies in the world. That's why we wanted to perform and play well.

"United were much more aggressive, especially after scoring the first goal. They tried to press very high for 10 minutes afterwards. Missing Kevin is crucial in these kind of games.

"But we still have some very important games, big games. We play Arsenal now and Burnley. Then obviously a vital game against [Real] Madrid at home [in the Champions League] and another crucial game in the FA Cup.

"So we still have the possibility to win silverware. We will try to achieve that and do better than we did on Sunday."

Liverpool are reportedly considering their plans for Timo Werner should they land the RB Leipzig forward this close season.

Werner, 24, has been linked with a move to the Premier League leaders after a prolific campaign with the Bundesliga side.

But if the Germany international does sign for Liverpool ahead of 2020-21, he may not be in their initial plans.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL COULD LOAN WERNER BACK TO RB LEIPZIG IF FORWARD JOINS

Liverpool could loan Werner back to RB Leipzig for next season if they get a deal done ahead of 2020-21, according to Bild.

Werner has scored 27 goals in 35 games this season, leading to interest from across Europe.

The Germany international, capped 29 times by his country, said last month he was proud to be linked to Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paulo Dybala is close to signing a five-year contract with Juventus, according to CalcioMercato, which reports only a late phone call from the attacker to his agent scuppered a move to Manchester United last year.

- Alexis Sanchez's future is unclear, but it appears it will not be at Inter. The Daily Mail reports the Serie A side have no interest in keeping the Chile international, who is on a season-long loan from Manchester United and has made just seven starts this campaign.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Willian appears set for a Chelsea exit. Le 10 Sport reports Paris Saint-Germain are interested in the attacker, while Arsenal and Manchester United are their main rivals for the Brazil international's signature.

- Arsenal are lining up a move for Manchester City defender John Stones in the close season, according to TEAMtalk.

- Tahith Chong is yet to re-sign with Manchester United despite being out of contract at the end of the season. The Sun reports the Premier League club are confident they can convince the attacker to re-sign amid interest from the likes of Inter.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lauded Bruno Fernandes' impact at Manchester United after a 2-0 derby win over Manchester City on Sunday.

Fernandes' impressive start to his career at Old Trafford continued with a brilliant quick free-kick to set up Anthony Martial's opener, while Scott McTominay sealed United's win late on.

The Portugal international arrived at United in January and already has two goals and three assists in five Premier League games.

Solskjaer praised the 25-year-old for his performances at United so far, as his side moved within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

"He works hard, he's humble enough, he's got the desire, commitment, but he's also got the X-factor," the United manager told a news conference.

"He's a risk taker, he's got courage, he's brave enough to make mistakes and if you make enough mistakes they'll be corrected into fantastic assists or goals."

United are on a 10-game unbeaten run and completed a league double over City for the first time since 2009-10.

Solskjaer is happy with his team's growth but believes they are still a few signings away from being Premier League contenders.

"We feel we're improving all the time and we know that we lack one or two, three players and some experience to be considered a title contender, we know that and we're not going to start talking about that now," he said.

"We're just going to start talking about getting up the table, getting more points, challenging for that top four because Chelsea and Leicester are too far ahead of us for my liking still."

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva believes the comfort zone of their Premier League position may have contributed to a derby defeat against Manchester United that was "not acceptable".

Goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay saw City suffer a 2-0 loss to rivals United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

It ensured United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed home and away league victories over City counterpart Pep Guardiola – the first time the Red Devils have done the double over their Manchester rivals for 10 years.

Second-placed City are 25 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool but have a seven-point cushion over Leicester City in third.

"The reality is the pressure is not on in the Premier League," Silva told Sky Sports.

"We don't have much pressure because we know that our position is not changing a lot because we will not get to the title.

"I think we will be second to qualify for the Champions League. So maybe that is a thing."

After picking up 100 and 98 points in each of the last two seasons, City have suffered seven defeats this term and have just 57 points with 10 matches still to play.

"A team like ours cannot lose as many games in the Premier League as we have this season," Silva added. "So, we need to check what is not going right and try to not make the mistakes.

"We have to watch the game back and listen to what Pep has to say.

"It was a bad game for us and, in my opinion, not acceptable.

"It's a derby, it's an important game for our fans, and it is not acceptable to play the way we did and lose 2-0."

However, Silva felt the awarding of a free-kick that led to United's opening goal, after Ilkay Gundogan was deemed to have fouled Bruno Fernandes, was an incorrect decision made by referee Mike Dean.

He added: "From my point of view, and from where I was, it was clear it was not a foul. I don't know if on the television it is a foul or not.

"The referees like us, like all the players, can make mistakes. It's football."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described it as "a privilege" to be Manchester United manager after watching his side's 2-0 derby victory over Manchester City.

The Red Devils struck a potentially fatal blow to City's title defence at Old Trafford as goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay maintained their charge for the Champions League places.

United were deservedly ahead at half-time after Martial's volley went through the grasp of Ederson, and they defended stoutly against a blunt City until McTominay struck with seconds remaining after he pounced on a poor throw from the visiting goalkeeper.

The performance and result highlighted the progress of Solskjaer's rebuilding work at United, coming 11 months on from a 4-0 defeat at Everton that left the manager apologising to fans and making it clear some players would be moved on.

Speaking to Sky Sports on Sunday, Solskjaer could not fault the effort of his players, even though he can see the need for some improvements.

"The desire, attitude, commitment, the connection between fans and the team. What a day they've had today, both the players and the fans," he said.

"Of course, they make us defend - that's just the type of team they are - but our fans could see players with commitment and attitude and desire. We've done our job then.

"I think we at times pressed them and pushed them back. We tried to be aggressive with the wing-backs and three up front, so we ended up with three at the back. When we hit the press, we made them make mistakes and we're happy with the result.

"I can't put a finger on anything [that was a negative] but, at times, you'd like to defend with the ball in the team sometimes, but I'm not going to complain!

"It's a privilege to be a manager of a squad and players with this attitude. They give us absolutely everything they've got, every time they play, and you can't ask for more.

"We're gonna improve as a team; they're gonna improve as players. There were two or three times today: head up, and we score goals. Twice, Dan James could just square it, once for Bruno [Fernandes] and once for Anthony; Anthony should square it for Bruno.

"Those little things will come, but it's a privilege. They want to learn, and they listen to the advice we give them.

"It's a derby: the fans love it, the players love it. Sometimes, you can say it's only three points, but for our players to beat a team like Man City, with the problems that we've had as well, is fantastic. I'm just delighted for them.

"We played against an absolute top, top team and, of course, we had to defend, and they had possession, but we're delighted with the outcome."

Solskjaer also highlighted a growing understanding between January signing Fernandes and Martial, the Portugal midfielder having set up the opening goal with a clever chipped free-kick.

"They've hit it off, Anthony and Bruno," Solskjaer added. "Bruno is that type of player. I've seen them do it before."

Pep Guardiola backed Ederson as an exceptional goalkeeper after the Brazil international's errors led to Manchester City's 2-0 derby defeat at Manchester United.

Following a period of early control from City, Anthony Martial's volley squirmed through Ederson's grasp to give United an advantage they did not relinquish in the face of second-half pressure.

Ederson also lackadaisically missed his touch to almost allow Martial a second, and his ill-advised throw as the visitors chased an equaliser allowed Scott McTominay to seal the points in stoppage time.

"He saved one or two, so… he is an exceptional goalkeeper," Guardiola told Sky Sports after suffering a third defeat to his local rivals this term.

"I'm not here to come to judge my players if they make mistakes. It's part of the game.

"He will recover and he is an exceptional goalkeeper."

City remain 25 points shy of champions-elect Liverpool and still comfortably ensconced in the top four - a fact in itself that remains somewhat academic as their two-season ban from UEFA competition awaits an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

This season's Champions League remains a live ambition, with a 2-1 advantage held over Real Madrid before a return last-16 encounter at the Etihad Stadium later this month, while City travel to Newcastle United in the FA Cup quarter-finals after already winning a third EFL Cup in succession.

Despite this cup-heavy feel to the season run-in, Guardiola baulked at the suggestion his team lacked motivation or underperformed in their Premier League assignment at Old Trafford.

"We played so good. Even when we win 5-0, we can play better," he added.

"The schedule we know. Liverpool are far away and we have to play the game for ourselves. Today we did it."

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