Pep looks at Manchester United, not title, after Man City wins 21st-straight

The Telegraph

Manchester City march on with Gabriel Jesus scoring two to dispatch dogged Wolves

The thing about this Manchester City team at the moment is that every few weeks another player seems to be spurred on to new heights. For a good while, it was Ilkay Gundogan and, before him, Kevin De Bruyne. Then Phil Foden took over. Thereafter, Raheem Sterling hit the goal trail again and Bernardo Silva’s renaissance gathered pace. Joao Cancelo? How could we forget about him? And that’s just offensively. On Tuesday night, it was the turn of Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus to step it up another notch. Wolverhampton Wanderers, somehow, were actually threatening to steal a point here for all of 18 minutes in the second half but, for the majority of this game, the threats to Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were constant and widespread; so many good players, full of confidence, playing so well within a system that, on occasions such as these, looks almost impossible to stymie. By the end of an exhilarating night at the Etihad Stadium that really did warrant a full house, the scoreline offered a more accurate reflection of City’s dominance over a Wolves side who had equalised with their first shot of the game and first touch inside their opponent’s penalty area just after the hour mark. A combination of Rui Patricio’s brilliance in the Wolves goal and their own wastefulness had conspired against City and ensured the visiting team were still firmly in the mix of things by the time Conor Coady headed home his first Premier League goal but, even as the game entered the 80th minute, it was hard to believe the sheer weight of City pressure would not eventually tell. That Jesus and Mahrez got the goals that would ultimately ensure a comfortable victory – their 21st in succession in all competitions – was fitting reward for their exemplary night’s work. Jonny was withdrawn 10 minutes after half-time and one only has to hope the Wolves left wing-back (a loose description) is not too scarred by the grilling Mahrez gave him. City pillaged Wolves’ left side. No one would run away with the title this season, they said. No one would rack up another points haul in the nineties, they said. So much for that. Should City make it win no. 22 in a row, against Manchester United, their nearest challengers, at the Etihad on Sunday, to move 18 points clear of their derby rivals, the question will inevitably turn to when – not if – Pep Guardiola’s rampant side will wrap up their third title in four seasons. “I did not expect to be in this position two or three months ago and all we have to do is be calm and every game compete like we did today,” Guardiola said. “I had a feeling we’d be good this morning and saw it in the warm up, saw how focused we were. I knew they were ready.” There are many things to admire about this City team but their sheer work rate and hunger stood out against Wolves. Bernardo would rush from midfield to chase down in front. Jesus would chase back from the front. Mahrez may have been a joy to watch in attack but no less striking was his defensive diligence. When Sterling gave possession away cheaply to Pedro Neto in the 36th minute, the speed and determination with which the City forward raced back to atone for his error silenced his irate manager on the touchline. Time and again, Wolves were suffocated and it was a wonder they were still in the game by the time Coady equalised. City’s manipulation of space was superb and Mahrez was the biggest beneficiary. Wolves set up in a 5-4-1 with Jonny very narrow and tucked inside next to Romain Saiss. Wolves seemed to be worried about City’s midfielders, Bernardo particularly, breaking from the second line but it meant Mahrez routinely found himself in bundles of space down the right. City exploited that space for their opening goal. Rodri swept a stunning pass in behind Jonny and Mahrez timed his run perfectly, took a deft first touch and then drilled over a cross that Leander Dendoncker, rushing back to try to thwart Sterling, turned into his own net from close range. “He has special quality,” Guardiola said of Mahrez. City were denied a second goal on the cusp of half-time when Aymeric Laporte’s arm pit was ruled by the video assistant referee, Craig Pawson, to be a fraction offside from the back Dendoncker’s heel and it is in these moments that you really have to wonder what the game’s lawmakers are doing to our beloved game.

Published: 2021-03-02 22:42:06

Tags: #Pep #Manchester #United #title #Man #City #wins #21ststraight


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