A spiky Pep Guardiola refused to talk about the refereeing decisions which had him careering along the touchline in rage during Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday – but said he was proud of an “incredible” performance.
Guardiola was left fuming as City were denied two penalties for hand-ball shouts against Trent Alexander-Arnold, with the first leading to Fabinho’s superb opening goal.
The City boss was seen firmly shaking Michael Oliver’s hand and twice saying “Thank you so much” to the match referee after the game, though he wasn’t drawn in by questions on his sarcastic exchange.
“Ask the referees,” he told Sky Sports. “Ask Mike Riley and the guys with the VAR, don't ask me. We tried to do our job – I would like to talk about our performance. It was so good. The way we played was awesome.
"What happened today is we showed that we are the champions.
“At this stadium, the way we played was incredible. I'm so proud of my team more than ever. We played against the strongest team in Europe, I'm so proud. We played so good.
“It's one of the best performances we have played.
“We played in a way that showed why we are back-to-back champions. After seven months, if Liverpool win, I will be the first to congratulate them because we cannot deny how good they are.”
While there wasn’t a huge gulf in quality between the two sides, City’s deficiencies in defence were badly exposed and their attack was unusually profligate.
There were elements of his side’s performance for Guardiola to take positives from, and on another day chances which fell to Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus may well have seen them come away with a point.
But, nine points off the top and finding themselves in fourth, a third consecutive league title looks a long way off for City.
“I am the first to congratulate Liverpool,” Guardiola added. “At the end, the boxes, it is similar like the Champions League [when Liverpool beat City in 2017-18].
“That’s part of the game. We lost because they scored three goals and we scored one. We need to grow and play away on big stages. The last 10, 15 minutes of the first half we played so good. The performance was so good.
“We tried. We never give up. That’s why we won back-to-back. We want to fight to the end. We drop points for our fault. It is what it is. Important to grow as a team, a club, as opposition."