Pep Guardiola praised the “grumpy” Kevin De Bruyne but said Kalvin Phillips’s post-World Cup condition ruled him out of Manchester City’s Carabao Cup victory over Liverpool.
De Bruyne created Erling Haaland’s opener and Nathan Aké’s winner yet Guardiola stated that Phillips had arrived unfit following a break after participating at Qatar 2022 with England.
Of De Bruyne the manager said: “Today he was outstanding. Kevin has had eight years here, you know him like me – he has to find the right fire inside of himself, just to be a little bit, I would say grumpy or upset to play his best. That is his energy inside of him. When this happens, what a player: run, provide assists, score goals, he is more than a player.
“I know it is not easy to find every three days this consistency but today he had something inside that says I am going to it, I want to fight. When this happens it is Mr Kevin De Bruyne, what can I say, eight years he has done everything for this club, an absolute legend. He will be remembered for ever as one of the greatest, greatest, greatest players of this club.”
While Phillips’s fellow England squad members at the World Cup, John Stones, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, were all introduced as replacements against Liverpool, and another, Kyle Walker, was an unused substitute, the holding midfielder was absent. Guardiola said: “He’s not fit – he did not arrive in the best condition to train.”
Riyad Mahrez completed the scoring for City, with Fábio Carvalho and Mo Salah scoring consolations for the visitors. Guardiola, speaking before City were drawn against Southampton in January’s quarter-final, had praise for Rico Lewis, his 18-year-old right-back.
“We had the privilege to announce that this guy will take a big decade, will be an incredible player for Manchester City in the next years because he is so intelligent, so humble, he understands everything in just one second and applies everything. We have an incredible right full-back with us for the next few years.
“He always plays good, but against Liverpool especially, with [Darwin] Núñez, Salah, Thiago and [Andrew] Robertson on his side. He is 18 years old. The way he plays was outstanding. He was man of the match.”
Of Liverpool’s display, Jürgen Klopp said: “We will not play every three days against Manchester City but we can do better and will work on it.”
Source: The Guardian