Carlo Ancelotti described Pep Guardiola as "a genius" - despite admitting Manchester City's levels have dropped since last season - as he prepares to take his Everton side to the Etihad Stadium.

Former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss Ancelotti has overseen victories in both of his matches in charge of the Toffees since taking over from caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson, but he said facing the champions on New Year's Day would be a stern test.

Third-placed City are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool after suffering two defeats in their last five league outings, but Ancelotti said he still regards Guardiola as a master of the game.

"Pep is a fantastic manager," Ancelotti told reporters. "I have a good relationship with him. 

"We met some times, not a lot in games, but at some conferences in Italy. I have a good relationship with him and a lot of respect for his job.

"He is, at a certain point, a genius because he has always tried to do something special on the pitch.

"City are maybe not on the level of last year but they remain a fantastic team with fantastic players and a fantastic manager, so for us it will be really, really tough to compete with them but we need to have the confidence and focus on our football.

"Against City will be a fantastic test for us to see where we are in the sense that it's a really strong team but we have confidence to do our best. It's good to have this kind of test. We have to be happy to compete with the best teams in England and in Europe."

Everton beat Burnley 1-0 at Goodison Park in Ancelotti's first game in charge and then won 2-1 at Newcastle United, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring all three of the Toffees' goals under the Italian.

Asked whether he would seek to improve his squad when the transfer window opens in January, Ancelotti said he would wait until after Everton's FA Cup clash with Liverpool on January 5 before speaking to the club's board.

"The market is not open yet," said the 60-year-old.

"There are a lot of rumours, that is normal. Everywhere in the world is like this, Italy is the same. We are not looking in this moment.

"After the fifth of January I'm going to have a meeting with the club and we can talk about if it's possible to try to improve the squad. In my opinion it's a good squad.

"Some players I didn't know very well but we've started training together and I know them better."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will target the Champions League as Liverpool run away with the Premier League title, according to Xavi.

City are eyeing a third consecutive Premier League crown under Guardiola, however, the defending champions are third and 14 points adrift of unbeaten rivals Liverpool – who have a game in hand – after 20 matches.

Amid doubts over Guardiola's long-term future in Manchester, former Barcelona star Xavi believes the Spaniard will prioritise the Champions League ahead of a blockbuster last-16 showdown against Real Madrid.

"Pep is a born winner," Al Sadd head coach Xavi, who played under Guardiola at Camp Nou, told The Mirror. "It will hurt him that Manchester City are so far behind Liverpool in the league - and he won't give up.

"He will be realistic though. The gap is a big one and at the moment it doesn't look likely that they can make it three titles in a row.

"With that in mind, I think there's a big chance Pep will prioritise the Champions League.

"They will be two big games coming up against Real Madrid - and maybe there will be a chance to rest players before these games that they wouldn't have if they were in a title race.

"Pep will want to win every trophy that he can - but if you'd asked him at the start of the season what he would prefer, I'm sure he would have said the Champions League.

"He joked with Klopp that maybe Manchester City and Liverpool should swap trophies this year - but there was some truth in that joke, I think.

"He's won every trophy in England with Manchester City and he knows that winning the Champions League with them would take them to the next level as a club."

Guardiola's City will kick off the New Year with a clash against Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Somewhat fittingly for the week between Christmas and New Year, when excess chocolate and cheese can easily become a meal, the Premier League looks to have overindulged.

The newest gadgets can become tiresome through overuse at this time of year and the most recent rounds of fixtures in England's top flight might come to be seen as the moment when VAR ate itself.

Teemu Pukki, Wilfried Zaha, Dan Burn, Neto and Lys Mousset all had goals disallowed over the weekend when either themselves or team-mates were shown to be offside by the barest of margins.

Video Assistant Referees were rolled out in the A-League, MLS, the Bundesliga and Serie A before their largely acclaimed use at the 2018 World Cup.

All the while, the Premier League watched and waited, observed trials in domestic cup competitions and came up with its method of operating VAR. "Maximum interference – maximum benefit" was the self-announced "philosophy" of the league back in July.

The reality could not be further from the truth. So how did we get to a situation where even demonstrably correct decisions using VAR are derided and how can it be fixed?

Armpit offsides

For VAR evangelists and members of the "game's gone" brigade alike, this unwanted entry into the footballing lexicon is an absurdity that must be swiftly banished.

Where the intention of VAR – and, it must be said, it's regular benefit – is to stop incorrect calls affecting the destiny of games, its implementation for offsides in the Premier League is too frequently adjudicating upon something no one thought was a problem in the first place.

Raheem Sterling and Roberto Firmino are among the players to have had goals ruled out for the positioning of their armpit in relation to the last defender, elevating a part of the anatomy previously irrelevant to football conversation.

"Armpit offsides" have best highlighted the problem of interpreting as absolutes the rules of a sport that have always contained huge scope for interpretation and subjectivity. When fans used to talk of the striker being "about level" or giving "the benefit of the doubt to the attacker" no one was looking at anybody's armpit.

Therefore, the whole thing feels alien. These infringements, if you can even call them that, are not what the offside rule was designed to prevent.

Things need to change quickly in this regard and waiting until 2020-21 feels far too late, considering the potential for weekend-to-weekend moaning and articles like this one in the meantime.

Graeme Souness' suggestion that any part of a player being level with the last defender should mean the attacker is onside could be the way to go. Even though this would simply shift magnified millimetre calls back a metre or so, it would bring most decisions into line with what most fans perceive to be onside and offside.

Another alternative would be a version of cricket's "umpire's call", where the assistant's onfield decision – Mousset being onside, for example – would be allowed to stand within a defined margin of error.

Using the Monitor

Remember the old riddle of what goes to every FA Cup final but is never used? Well, the pitchside monitor is the Premier League's modern-day equivalent of the losing team's ribbons.

From its pre-VAR ivory tower, the Premier League decided it disliked the spectacle of referees trotting over to the halfway line to pore over television replays.

That conclusion was not unreasonable. But referees standing with their finger pressed to their ear, while minimal information is presented to jeering and confused fans is worse.

There is no indication the Premier League's time-saving ploy of avoiding the monitor is saving any time. A referee contacting their video assistant and being seen to review the monitor before settling on their final decision is a more transparent process.

The omnipresent murmurs of "what's going on?" means many do not trust a system that might never be fully trusted.

Before Champions League games – where VAR has also been far from perfect – a video is played inside the stadium outlining which decisions might be subjected to review.

The Premier League should consider something similar, while also making good on its guidance that allows a "definitive video clip to help explain what has happened" in the event of a changed decision to be shown on stadium screens.

"It's not football anymore"

The Sheffield United fans were the latest supporters to break into this chant at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, a few moments before Manchester City fans – who had, of course, benefitted from Mousset being given offside – joined them in a more explicit chant at VAR's expense.

Phantom offsides and the various flaws in the Premier League's video assistants project mean such supporter anger is completely understandable. But the complaints from players, managers, pundits and others have become increasingly scattergun. Correct decisions are now also causing fury.

Take Sadio Mane disallowed and subsequently allowed goal for Liverpool against Wolves on Sunday. Anthony Taylor felt Adam Lallana handled in the build-up, while the replay showed the ball clearly struck the midfielder's shoulder. No handball, goal, job done.

Or - and we should sympathise with a Wolves team that must have walked under various ladders across broken mirrors this month -  the penalty incident in Manchester City's game at Molineux.

Referee Martin Atkinson rightly ruled Leander Dendoncker's upper-body contact on Riyad Mahrez did not constitute a foul. However, he did not see the Belgium international stand on the City winger's foot. The video official did, so a penalty was awarded. The system works!

Sterling's saved penalty was booted behind by Conor Coady, but the Wolves captain was within 10 yards of the ball when the kick was taken. That amounted to clear encroachment and an unfair advantage when it came to making the clearance. A VAR intervention meant another chance for Sterling.

After the Liverpool game, a justifiably frustrated Nuno Espirito Santo bemoaned a video official "miles away" who "does not feel the game". With the greatest respect, this is nonsense. When has emotional investment ever been a desirable quality for an impartial adjudicator?

Support for introducing VAR grew out of persistent complaints about decisions from fans, coaches and the media, along with exhaustive frame-by-frame analysis of perceived injustices from any given weekend. Anyone claiming they enjoyed being repeatedly whipped up into that lather is being more than a little disingenuous.

Proclaiming the death of football every time a decision is reviewed and framing clearly explicable calls as the latest huge controversy is a waste of everyone's time and energy. As is using VAR problems as fuel for your latest conspiracy theory.

The Premier League must do away with trial by geometric microscope quickly and bring greater transparency into its VAR process. However, fans, professionals and those of us in the media need to meet the authorities halfway and raise the level of conversation above frothing outrage towards something more constructive.

Erling Haaland's decision to join Borussia Dortmund brought an end to one of Europe's most fascinating transfer stories.

Manchester United had been in the frame for his signature but were reportedly put off by a key demand from the striker's representatives.

As often seems to be the case for the Red Devils, Mino Raiola's involvement led to complications.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED PULLED PLUG ON HAALAND BID

According to The Guardian, United abandoned their bid for the highly sought-after Haaland after learning of a request from his agent, Raiola, and father Alf-Inge Haaland.

The pair reportedly asked for a share of any future transfer fee for the 19-year-old, a stipulation the Old Trafford outfit were unwilling to meet despite their firm interest.

Haaland settled on Dortmund after the Bundesliga side activated his Salzburg buyout clause.

He had been linked to RB Leipzig, Juventus and several more top European clubs after emerging as a Champions League star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Haaland's arrival at Dortmund could lead LaLiga side  Atletico Madrid to narrow the transfer focus on Spanish striker Paco Alcacer, according to Marca. The former Barcelona player has struggled to cement a place in BVB's starting XI and represents a cheaper option in terms of wages than Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani, an apparent favourite of Diego Simeone.

- AS, meanwhile, reports on potential movements elsewhere in the Spanish capital. The newspaper claims Real Madrid are preparing to recall Jesus Vallejo from his loan spell at Wolves, with a view to finding him more playing time. That could lead to a short-term switch to Leganes or Eintracht Frankfurt.

- Juventus are close to extending Wojciech Szczesny's contract yet the Serie A champions remain admirers of Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma and Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen, according to CalcioMercato.

- Tammy Abraham wants a better deal at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea are not yet prepared to accept his demand for parity with Callum Hudson-Odoi's £180,000 per week salary, reports The Athletic.

- Manchester City are set to beat Premier League rivals United, Arsenal and Liverpool to the January signing of Barcelona's teenage left-back Juan Larios, says the Daily Star.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the 2010s in terms of individual awards and moments of pure inspiration.

Future generations will look back on this past decade as a period obsessed with the two generational talents - their often-exaggerated rivalry exacerbated by spending such a long time on opposite sides of the Clasico divide.

But, while Ronaldo and Messi have filled more column inches than any other player on the planet, there are plenty of others who have been world leaders in their respective positions.

Having looked back over the last 10 years, using Opta data for inspiration, we have selected a Team of the Decade. But who makes the cut?

Is David de Gea selected in goal? Does Luis Suarez join Messi in attack? Has Virgil van Dijk done enough for inclusion? Find out below...

OMNISPORT TEAM OF THE DECADE

Manuel Neuer

There is not much more Manuel Neuer could have achieved over the past 10 years. For much of that time he has been one of the globe's most dependable goalkeepers, even if he has shown signs of decline since a spate of foot injuries. A veteran of seven Bundesliga title triumphs and a World Cup winner with Germany, Neuer boasts a save percentage of 74.2 per cent and has comfortably the most clean sheets (139) this decade in the German top flight.

Dani Alves

Has there ever been a better right-back than Dani Alves? The Brazilian stands to leave an impressive legacy, not just through his thrilling style of play, but with his record-breaking trophy haul of 43 after captaining Brazil to Copa America success this year. Despite being a right-back, he claimed 67 assists in league action through the 2010s, though his greatest contribution came in LaLiga with Barcelona, for whom he set up 51 goals. Marcelo (48) is the closest to him, but he has played 77 times more than the current Sao Paulo star.

Vincent Kompany

Although a brilliant player at his best, it is understandable to suggest Vincent Kompany never reached his ceiling due to injuries. Nevertheless, the Belgian will go down as a Premier League great such has been his impact with Manchester City, with whom he enjoyed four title wins. Kompany recorded 83 Premier League clean sheets in the 2010s, just 10 fewer than record-setter Kyle Walker, who has played 57 more matches. His leadership qualities have been missed by City this season.

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is a player who often polarises opinion, but he's one of only three players to have been at Madrid for the entire decade, so he must be doing something right. An undisputed leader and fierce competitor, Ramos is a big-game player like few others and boasts a goal-scoring record even many midfielders would be happy with, having netted 43 times in LaLiga since the start of 2010, more than any other defender. Over the past 10 years, he's helped Los Blancos to a remarkable four Champions League titles, while he won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with Spain.

Jordi Alba

At his best, Jordi Alba was almost unstoppable. The flying left-back became a staple and key outlet for one of the great Barcelona teams, with his driving runs – on or off the ball – often creating havoc. A master at making a darting run into the box before cutting a pass back to create a chance, Alba has 38 LaLiga assists to his name for Barca, a record bettered by only Dani Alves and Marcelo among defenders. He gets the nod ahead of his Madrid counterpart as his assist haul is from 72 fewer matches.

Luka Modric

The only player to break the Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi Ballon d'Or duopoly, Luka Modric has enjoyed a wonderful decade. A vital part of the Croatia team that enjoyed an historic run to the 2018 World Cup final, Modric also played a big role in Madrid's incredible Champions League domination. Toni Kroos (11,260) is the only midfielder to have completed more passes in LaLiga than Modric (10,759), while he laid on 42 assists and created 522 chances.

N'Golo Kante

If there was an award for the most likeable player of the decade, N'Golo Kante would surely be a frontrunner. Sadly there is no such thing, so he'll have to contend with inclusion in this team. Arguably the key cog in Leicester City's remarkable Premier League title win, Kante followed that up with similarly impressive form at Chelsea and with France, winning the World Cup with Les Bleus last year. He has made 912 tackles and interceptions in the Premier League, putting him fifth among players with 200 appearances or fewer this decade, and each of those who rank higher have played at least 20 matches more.

David Silva

When David Silva leaves Man City at the end of the season, there will inevitably be a debate as to whether he can be regarded the Premier League's greatest 'import'. That this will even be suggested tells you the impact he has had. No one gets close to Silva's record of 89 Premier League assists in the 2010s, with the Spaniard almost certainly the most consistent creator the division has seen in the past 10 years. He was similarly important for Spain until his post-World Cup retirement last year, having previously lifted the trophy in South Africa in 2010 and at Euro 2012, eventually accumulating 125 caps.

Lionel Messi

Where does one even begin with Lionel Messi? If any single player has defined the 2010s – from an individual perspective – in world football, it is surely the Barcelona talisman. In LaLiga, Messi has amassed 505 goal involvements (369 goals, 136 assist) in 343 matches since the start of the decade, routinely carrying Barca to victory. He has won every trophy possible with the Blaugrana over the past 10 years and claimed five Ballons d'Or, with his 2019 victory giving him a record-breaking sixth. Although now 32, he remains frighteningly decisive – all that eludes him is international success with Argentina.

Robert Lewandowski

A long list of immense strikers have starred throughout the 2010s, but arguably chief among them – Ronaldo aside – is Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski. Having moved from Borussia Dortmund, whom he helped turn into Champions League contenders, the Poland international has developed into a remarkable all-round striker. In 307 Bundesliga games he has 221 goals from 1,163 attempts, meaning he scores every 5.2 shots – by contrast, Ronaldo needs 6.4 efforts per goal. Although he is yet to win Europe's elite club competition, there is little doubt the Pole appears to be getting better with age having already notched 19 league goals this term, just three short of his total for 2018-19.

Cristiano Ronaldo

In the somewhat tiresome 'Ronaldo or Messi' debate about which superstar is "better", the former can at least point to his international successes with Portugal as something that sets him apart, having lifted Euro 2016 and the 2018-19 Nations League. That is just the tip of the iceberg for his brilliance in the 2010s, however. Across spells with Real Madrid and Juventus, Ronaldo has scored 335 league goals and laid on 95 assists. With Los Blancos he helped inspire four Champions League successes, also winning a couple of LaLiga titles. What a privilege it has been to see Ronaldo and Messi in the same era.

Pep Guardiola believes VAR in the Premier League has been a mess, despite seeing his Manchester City side benefit from the video technology against Sheffield United.

City got lucky when Blades forward Lys Mousset had a first-half strike harshly disallowed for offside by the video review system, which then allowed Sergio Aguero's opener to stand despite referee Chris Kavanagh inadvertently blocking off John Fleck in the build-up.

There was no doubt over City's second goal, with Kevin De Bruyne tucking home to secure an unconvincing win - Guardiola's 100th in the Premier League.

Video assistant referee controversy has ruled in the Premier League this weekend, with Norwich City's Teemu Pukki having a goal harshly ruled out, while at Anfield, Wolves had a strike disallowed for a marginal offside.

With the officials coming under even greater scrutiny after more debatable decisions, Guardiola has weighed in.

"I said many times I have a huge list for VAR. Every weekend is a big mess," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"In other games it was a big mess. Hopefully next season it can do better."

However, Guardiola's counterpart Chris Wilder - whose side suffered their first away defeat of the season - was left much more frustrated.

"Yet again we had another goal disallowed by VAR, that's about eight or nine over the weekend. This is not a situation helping the game and the small margins," Wilder told BBC Sport.

"But I will leave that for everyone else to talk about because I have said too much about it."

Wilder said of City's opening goal: "I've been to see the referee and he has been honest about it. We make mistakes and I believe he made one too.

"It happened that quick and I thought he could have been helped by his colleagues a little bit.

"We talk about the new rule where if the referee touches the ball then he has to blow up, so surely if he is in the way and hinders us then he makes a sensible decision.

"If he made the sensible decision then I don't think anyone in the ground would have said anything about it."

Pep Guardiola indicated Manchester City are already focusing on next season after accepting there is no longer a title race in the Premier League.

Guardiola claimed his 100th league win as City boss on Sunday, as goals from Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne secured a 2-0 triumph over resilient Sheffield United.

The win took City back to within a point of Leicester City, though they are still 14 behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who overcame Wolves 1-0 at Anfield.

With the gap so large, Guardiola has accepted City are no longer realistic contenders for the title, which they have won for the last two seasons, and instead said the main focus is on ensuring they improve ahead of the 2020-21 season while targeting success in the cup competitions.

"No. It's unrealistic to think about that," Guardiola said in a news conference when asked if Liverpool could be caught.

His side were swiftly back in action after a 3-2 defeat to Wolves on Friday, meaning they had under 48 hours between the two matches.

Guardiola said: "A team which has the numbers of Liverpool, why should we think about that? It's just preparing, play good and better to be as close to the top of the league as we can, prepare for the knockout competitions and for the next season.

"Every game helps us to improve for next season. Hopefully we can do better.

"The motivation is to improve because when we improve we win games and that is the way to live better. That is the best motivation for all of us. Even in the past.

"Now we recover for three days, thank you for three days to recover, and prepare for the next game against Everton. That is what you have to do."

Despite accepting the title race is all but over, Guardiola insists it should not take anything away from what his City squad have achieved.

"The fans can say or do whatever they want but they cannot deny that the team in the last three years was incredible in every single competition," he added.

"Football you can lose or you can win. We have injuries in very important positions but always we tried, even in the games we lost.

"It was a tough game especially because of the opponent, because of the 48 hours, and two hours after the Wolves game on the bus back.

"It's not the best for recovery against one of the most physical teams in the Premier League and we won it, so full compliments to the team."

Pep Guardiola has usurped Jose Mourinho as the quickest Premier League boss to reach 100 victories in the competition.

Goals from Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne secured a 2-0 win for City over Sheffield United on Sunday, though it was not without controversy.

VAR harshly disallowed a would-be opener from Lys Mousset, while referee Chris Kavanagh seemed to inadvertently block John Fleck in the lead up to Aguero's 52nd-minute strike.

The triumph brought up a century of Premier League wins for Guardiola in his 134th top-flight match in charge of City.

Current Spurs boss Mourinho had previously held the record, having achieved 100 wins in 142 games, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp managed to do so in 159 matches earlier this month.

Manchester City were on the right side of some contentious decisions as Sergio Aguero's controversial goal and a late Kevin De Bruyne effort earned a 2-0 win over Sheffield United, Pep Guardiola's 100th in the Premier League.

With leaders Liverpool having extended the gap at the top with a win over Wolves, City were fortunate not to fall behind in the first half when Lys Mousset had a goal harshly disallowed by VAR.

However, there was more controversy to follow, with the visitors incensed after referee Chris Kavanagh failed to stop the play despite accidentally blocking off John Fleck in the build-up to Sergio Aguero's opener.

VAR did come to the Blades' assistance when it deemed John Egan had not deliberately handled a Riyad Mahrez shot, though City had the points wrapped up when De Bruyne lashed in with eight minutes remaining, as Guardiola reached 100 wins in 134 matches to break Jose Mourinho's record.

With Mousset having squandered an early header, United thought they had the lead when the striker kept his cool to slot beyond Claudio Bravo, who was starting in place of the suspended Ederson, only for VAR to disallow the goal for a marginal offside call.

Mousset got the better of City's defence again prior to half-time, yet sliced his effort into the side-netting after latching onto Oliver Norwood's pass.

Despite their poor display, City took the lead six minutes into the second half - Aguero clinically drilling in his 10th league goal of the season.

United were adamant the goal should not have stood due to the referee's accidental interference, but VAR once more went against them.

City then wanted a penalty when Egan blocked Mahrez's shot, though their claims were rejected despite the ball hitting the defender's arm.

Any hopes of a comeback were ended soon after as De Bruyne calmly swept home, though Billy Sharp went agonisingly close to setting up a grandstand finish with a looping header which hit the upright and rolled across the line as United's unbeaten run on the road came to an end at nine.

 

What does it mean? City give themselves breathing room

With Liverpool so far ahead, the title race seems all but over, though City could have been looking over their shoulder had they failed to win, with Chelsea coming from behind to beat Arsenal earlier on Sunday. 

As it is, the champions have restored the six-point gap between themselves and Frank Lampard's side, though they still sit a point behind Leicester City in second.

Aguero rediscovers his home comforts

It was a far from a vintage all-round display from Aguero, but when he was put through by De Bruyne's pass, he never looked likely to fluff his lines to score his first home league goal since November 2.

City's ramshackle defence get lucky thanks to VAR

Hindered by a lack of options, Guardiola handed a first Premier League start to 18-year-old Eric Garcia, though the youngster - alongside Fernandinho - was often caught out by the pace of Mousset and the speed of United's counters. 

Indeed, only a marginal offside decision sparred City's blushes. They will surely look to bring in defensive reinforcements in January.

What's next?

Carlo Ancelotti's Everton visit the Etihad Stadium on New Year's Day, while the Blades visit runaway leaders Liverpool on Thursday.

Manchester City were on the right side of some contentious decisions as Sergio Aguero's controversial goal and a late Kevin De Bruyne effort earned a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Sunday.

With Premier League leaders Liverpool having extended the gap at the top with a win over Wolves, City were fortunate not to fall behind in the first half when Lys Mousset had a goal harshly disallowed by VAR.

However, there was more controversy to follow, with the visitors incensed after referee Chris Kavanagh failed to stop the play despite accidentally blocking off John Fleck in the build-up to Sergio Aguero's opener.

VAR did come to the Blades' assistance when it deemed John Egan had not deliberately handled a Riyad Mahrez shot, though City had the points wrapped up when De Bruyne lashed in with eight minutes remaining.

With Mousset having squandered an early header, United thought they had the lead when the striker kept his cool to slot beyond Claudio Bravo, who was starting in place of the suspended Ederson, only for VAR to disallow the goal for a marginal offside call.

Mousset got the better of City's defence again prior to half-time, yet sliced his effort into the side-netting after latching onto Oliver Norwood's pass.

Despite their poor display, City took the lead six minutes into the second half - Aguero clinically drilling in his 10th league goal of the season.

United were adamant the goal should not have stood due to the referee's accidental interference, but VAR once more went against them.

City then wanted a penalty when Egan blocked Mahrez's shot, though their claims were rejected despite the ball hitting the defender's arm.

Any hopes of a comeback were ended soon after as De Bruyne calmly swept home, though Billy Sharp went agonisingly close to setting up a grandstand finish with a looping header which hit the upright and rolled across the line as United's unbeaten run on the road came to an end at nine.

 

What does it mean? City give themselves breathing room

With Liverpool so far ahead, the title race seems all but over, though City could have been looking over their shoulder had they failed to win, with Chelsea coming from behind to beat Arsenal earlier on Sunday. 

As it is, the champions have restored the six-point gap between themselves and Frank Lampard's side, though they still sit a point behind Leicester City in second.

Aguero rediscovers his home comforts

It was a far from a vintage all-round display from Aguero, but when he was put through by De Bruyne's pass, he never looked likely to fluff his lines to score his first home league goal since November 2.

City's ramshackle defence get lucky thanks to VAR

Hindered by a lack of options, Pep Guardiola handed a first Premier League start to 18-year-old Eric Garcia, though the youngster - alongside Fernandinho - was often caught out by the pace of Mousset and the speed of United's counters. 

Indeed, only a marginal offside decision sparred City's blushes. They will surely look to bring in defensive reinforcements in January.

What's next?

Carlo Ancelotti's Everton visit the Etihad Stadium on New Year's Day, while the Blades visit runaway leaders Liverpool on Thursday.

Pep Guardiola will stay at Manchester City and see out his contract, according to chief executive Ferran Soriano.

Guardiola is contracted to City until 2021, however, there are doubts over the Spaniard's future in Manchester following back-to-back Premier League titles.

Reports – which Guardiola has denied – have claimed there is a clause which would allow the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss to leave at the end of the current campaign.

However, Soriano is confident Guardiola will stay and honour his deal amid speculation he wants to return to Barcelona.

"Pep has said so many times that he has a contract that covers this year, plus next year too," Soriano said at the Dubai International Sports Conference. "There is no discussion about this.

"Pep will stay and he'll leave at the right time one day – and the club is strong enough to survive any change. But as Pep said many times, he's not leaving."

Guardiola moved to City in 2016 and his side have dominated English football up until this season.

City have won seven trophies since the 2017-18 campaign, however, Guardiola's men are third and 14 points adrift of Premier League leaders Liverpool this term.

Sunday will see City host Sheffield United at the Etihad Stadium following Friday's stunning 3-2 loss away to Wolves.

 

Pep Guardiola acknowledged Manchester City will need to change if they are to return to the top of the Premier League, though he again ruled out making January signings.

The reigning champions suffered their fifth defeat of the season at Wolves on Friday to leave them 14 points adrift of runaway leaders Liverpool, who also have a game in hand on City.

It means City are highly unlikely to start the new decade by adding to the four domestic titles they have won in the 2010s, during which time they also won the FA Cup twice and lifted the EFL Cup on four occasions.

Such success has transformed City but Guardiola knows the club cannot afford to stand still if they are to win more trophies.

"The club in the last decade make an incredible step with different managers, different players and sustain that," Guardiola said at a news conference.

"I think in 10 years [City] won four Premier Leagues so it's not bad considering this league.

"There are periods. Football is not all the time being up there. We were incredible for two seasons and in this competition, the Premier League, we lost more games [this season] than the previous two seasons and you have to adapt.

"You have to analyse and move forward."

That adaptation process is likely to take place after the season, though, when it has already been confirmed that David Silva is leaving and Fernandinho may follow him out of the exit door.

City seemingly have issues to address now, yet when asked whether that would result in incomings next month, Guardiola replied: "Nope."

Guardiola's side had to play with 10 men for 78 minutes of a 3-2 loss against Wolves after goalkeeper Ederson was sent off.

They are next in action on Sunday against Sheffield United, with Guardiola, like many of his counterparts, not a fan of the quick turnaround.

"All the managers, everybody agrees about that," he said.

"Every season is the same. The first season was the same – I played at Anfield and two days later with Burnley at home we played 75 minutes 10 against 11 as well.

"My words are not going to change. I think Jose Mourinho said the same and Jurgen [Klopp]. Every season is the same. TVs decide and we have to adapt.

"I don't have any confidence about that [changing long term], they don't care."

Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano believes Pep Guardiola is the best coach in world football, but admits it is hard to argue with Zinedine Zidane's record at Real Madrid.

Guardiola won five major trophies in his first three full campaigns at the Etihad Stadium, including a clean sweep of domestic honours last season.

City look unlikely to retain their Premier League title, trailing leaders Liverpool by 14 points after a dramatic 3-2 defeat to Wolves on Friday.

Zidane has come under scrutiny since returning to Madrid, despite an incredible first stint at the club that saw him win three successive Champions League trophies.

And while Soriano agrees with Zidane's recent sentiment that Guardiola is the finest coach around, the City CEO has spoken of his admiration for the France legend.

 

"In the case of Zidane, the results speak for themselves, as in the case of Pep," he said at the the Globe Soccer Awards event. 

"There are all the titles he has won in LaLiga, the Bundesliga, the Premier League. For me, Guardiola is the best coach in the world because he is our [coach]."

City have never won the Champions League and face a huge challenge to be crowned European champions this season, having been drawn against Madrid at the last-16 stage.

The first leg is to be held at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26 and Soriano believes there is very little between the two teams.

"You look at them and wherever you look - the quality of the players, the money invested, the salaries we pay - these are two great teams that are very even," he said. 

"It is unlikely that one team is far superior to the other - it will depend on how these two games take place.

"As usually happens in the Champions League, the tie can depend on a small detail, a defensive mistake or a referee error, which can be decisive."

Asked how the sides compare in terms of style of play, Soriano added: "You usually insist on the importance of City's style of play, while Real Madrid's style is usually winning no matter how.

"With Zidane they have won three Champions Leagues in a row. That's the reality. They have won three Champions Leagues in a row with Zidane and four in five years. Discussions about the style of play die when the data is exposed.

"I talk about what concerns Manchester City, where we play a certain style of football, but we do it because we believe in it and also because we are doing well, because when we don't play well we usually lose. 

"Ours is a way of looking at simple football: we have to play our way, and we can execute it in different ways, but the style, the fundamentals, have to be the same so that we do well.

"We can never lose that essence. Maybe other teams can play in several different ways, but not us."

Manchester City fans are in need of some good news after Friday's loss to Wolves, and they might have thought they had it when Real Sociedad announced Martin Odegaard would be joining on loan.

The reigning Premier League champions threw away a 2-0 lead at Molineux as Wolves fought back against 10 men to win 3-2 and leave City 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool, who also have a game in hand.

With City offering up a limp title defence, the club may be forced into action when the transfer window reopens next month – despite Pep Guardiola's insistence they will not be – and they have been linked with Norway international Odegaard.

The 21-year-old joined Sociedad from Real Madrid on an initial season-long loan back in July and he has shone for a side who are challenging for a Champions League place.

On Saturday, though, Sociedad curiously said Odegaard had been offloaded to City.

"Real Sociedad have reached an agreement with Manchester City over the loan of Martin Odegaard," a club statement read.

"The player is set to stay at Manchester City until the end of the season.

"The txuri urdin club wants to thank and offer recognition for the job done by Martin. He has shown great professionalism, dedication and loyalty to this club and we wish him well for the future."

However, Odegaard is highly unlikely to be turning out for City against Sheffield United on Sunday – or indeed at all – as the announcement came on Spain's 'Holy Innocents Day', when practical jokes and fake news are commonplace.

"We are forced to take this difficult decision in order to avoid possible media comments for the next six months," the Sociedad statement added. "What a relief!"

Raul Jimenez hopes Wolves can repeat their upset win over Manchester City when they visit Liverpool on Sunday.

Wolves stunned City 3-2 in the Premier League on Friday, denting the champions' title chances while moving up to fifth in the table.

Jimenez, who scored the equaliser as Wolves came from 2-0 down, hopes his team can deliver again when they make the trip to Anfield.

"Why not?" the forward said, via the club's website, about repeating the result.

"It will be a tough game, but we know that."

Trailing 2-0 and playing against 10 men, Wolves scored through Adama Traore before Jimenez's equaliser and Matt Doherty's 89th-minute winner.

Jimenez praised his team, who also recorded a 2-0 win over City in October.

"It's never easy to come back from two goals, especially against a team like Manchester City," he said.

"It's difficult, but with our heart and our football, we knew this was a very good opportunity for us to win this game.

"It wasn't a perfect match, but we played very well against a very good team in Manchester City. It's difficult to win or even draw against them, but we've won both games.

"So, we are very excited, very happy, and we will enjoy this."

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