John Stones targeted by Pep Guardiola as Man City beat Manchester United – Simon Bajkowski

Guardiola turns to Stones

For a man whose team were ahead on the scoreboard for 84 of the 90 minutes, Pep Guardiola spent large chunks of this derby win agitated on the touchline. Even when they were 2-1 up in the second half, it required the fourth official to pull him away from the pitch more than once as he tried to get his message across.

Those are just the standards set by the Manchester City manager, yet it was telling that so often he went to John Stones to get his instructions across. That was less to do with Stones being at fault for anything and more about his importance to the build-up play.

City may be weaker without Ruben Dias, who is out for at least a month, but there can be no doubting the strength of Stones to cause it. As well as his contribution to the defence, the England man was key in putting his team on the front foot.

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Grealish rises to the occasion

Fresh from his goal at Peterborough, Jack Grealish may have been a surprise starter ahead of Raheem Sterling but looked like a man with newfound confidence. This was his best performance by him in a City shirt, combining with Bernardo Silva to set up the opening goal and giving Aaron Wan-Bissaka a torrid time all afternoon.

If the former Villa man can harness what he has managed this week, he will be a different proposition for opponents for the remaining months of the season.

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Sterling right to bid his time

Sterling understandably wasn’t so sure about his future at the club earlier in the season when he wasn’t starting the big games, and he understandably wasn’t overly keen to commit when that began to change. Despite the buzz around his return to the team, he has been in the game long enough to know how quickly things can change in football.

Not starting the derby doesn’t mean that he needs to start looking for a new club on Monday, but it justifies his thinking that contract talks can wait until the end of the season. He has been and will be a very important player in Guardiola’s squad, but how important for the rest of the season remains to be seen so it makes sense to wait.

City role in the top-four race

City completed a double over United for only the second time under Guardiola, and in doing so weakened Red hopes of making the top four. And while they would much rather have taken six points against Spurs, those two defeats to the North London side could prove crucial to deciding who gets the final Champions League qualification spot come the end of the season.

Across the campaign, City certainly found it tougher in their matches with Arsenal and Spurs than they did United.

Sancho exposes City weakness

City do not have many weaknesses but they are vulnerable to quality and pace on the counter-attack. Having been found in space, Jadon Sancho punished them after Bruno Fernandes cleverly drew Kyle Walker away from the danger.

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Not many teams have players of the caliber to do this, but Liverpool are one that do and will have noted the manner of the goal as they build up to coming here in the league next month. When City come to prepare for that game and upcoming Champions League fixtures, they will want to review what they could have done better for this goal.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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