Pep Guardiola said his Manchester City players were “fighting like animals” after the Premier League leaders beat bottom club Sheffield United to record a club-record 12th successive victory.
Aside from Gabriel Jesus’ close-range strike from a Ferran Torres cross, an instinctive header from Bernardo Silva – created by a stray Oliver Norwood header – was City’s only effort on target until Aaron Ramsdale denied Oleksandr Zinchenko and then Aymeric Laporte from the corner that followed.
But the Blues’ defensive strength was again on show. Guardiola’s side have now kept five clean sheets in a row in the Premier League, and an impressive 11 out of 13.
The last team in England’s top flight to register 12 consecutive wins in all competitions were Arsenal, who did so between August and October 2007.
“In December and January to show this consistency is amazing,” Guardiola told BBC Sport. “In this league every game is so difficult.
“It was an incredible performance. We played incredibly well in many areas. We conceded few chances. We didn’t create much, but enough to win the game.
“We will drop points, it’s about how we overcome it. Hopefully we react good in the bad moments, which for sure are coming.”
It was certainly far too strong for a visiting team who never looked like emulating their victory at Manchester United three days ago and remain rooted to the foot of the table, 10 points adrift of fourth-bottom Brighton.
For Guardiola, this was a staggering 500th win of a managerial career of 673 games.
Manchester United’s goalless draw at Arsenal on Saturday evening leaves City three points clear of their neighbours at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand.
Jesus back to form
It has been a strange season so far for Gabriel Jesus.
Given Sergio Aguero has been missing virtually all season, the Brazilian should have been the focal point of City’s attack.
But Jesus suffered a thigh injury at Wolves in the opening game of the season, then missed a game against Southampton with a tooth problem before returning a positive coronavirus test at Christmas.
The stop-start nature of his season has prevented Jesus getting the flow of games he needs to make the scoring contribution Guardiola would have hoped for after goals in both his first two league matches of the season and nothing in the nine that followed.
His third was clinical enough, although the visitors’ defence helped him by not getting near enough to prevent him controlling and driving home Torres’ cross from the edge of the six-yard box. However, as they had already allowed Torres to recover his position after finding himself on the ground in the build-up, it was not their worst error collectively.
After that though, Jesus was relatively quiet and only burst into life in the final minute, when he did the right thing in opening his body up to shoot at Ramsdale, only to steer his effort straight at the Blades keeper.
Another shock like Sheffield United’s victory at Manchester United three days ago was probably too much to expect of them.
After all, they have only beaten both Manchester clubs away from home in a single season three times in their entire history.
It is now 20 years since they last scored in an away game against City and there were not many occasions when it appeared they might break that barren sequence.
Club record £23.5m signing Rhian Brewster did turn sharply on the edge of the box in the opening period, only to shoot straight at Ederson. Jayden Bogle had a better shooting opportunity from a similar distance after the break, only to snatch at the effort and send it way off target.
The nearest they came to an equaliser was at the end when John Fleck fired narrowly wide from the edge of the area. But even that was not close enough to give City any real scare.
Concussion subs are coming
A clash of heads between City midfielder Phil Foden and Blades counterpart John Lundstram at the start of the second half and another between Aymeric Laporte and Oli McBurnie later in the game brought medical staff from both teams on to the field.
Thankfully, there was no major damage and all four were able to continue after treatment. However, it was a reminder of the physical nature of the game, which is why, should such incidents occur from 6 February, two additional ‘concussion substitutes’ will be available after a trial for the remainder of the season was confirmed on Friday.
‘This is not a fairytale’ – what the managers said
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola to BBC Sport: “People think if we won the last one 5-0, we will win this one 5-0. This is the real world, not a fairytale.
“You see Sheffield United are bottom of the table and realise how tough is the Premier League. We always struggle to beat them every season.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder to BBC Sport: “We’re playing a world-class team who are on an incredible run. It’s a long way back when you fall behind to Manchester City early on, but we gave ourselves a chance to get something out of the game at the end. Unfortunately we didn’t.
“We’ve won a couple of games and had a couple of tight games against Spurs and City. From my point of view, we’re alive.
“I’m scratching my head at times to understand the position we’re in, but we have a belief, fight and togetherness that we can pick up a couple of wins before the end of the season.
City set new club record – the stats
- Sheffield United have scored just one goal in their 10 Premier League matches against City (D3 L7), the fewest goals ever scored by a team in their first 10 Premier League games against an opponent.
- Manchester City have won all nine matches in all competitions in January, the most they have ever won in a single month in their entire history.
- Sheffield United have now lost 20 of their past 24 Premier League matches (W2 D2), seven more than any other side in this timeframe (since July 16 last year).
- Only James Milner (54) and Darius Vassell (46) have scored in more Premier League games without ending on the losing side than City forward Gabriel Jesus (37 – W35 D2).
- Manchester City have kept 20 clean sheets in all competitions this season – at least five more than any other side in the top-five European leagues.
- This was Sheffield United’s eighth 1-0 defeat in the Premier League this season, the joint-most ever by a side at this stage (after 21 matches) of a top-flight season, along with Ipswich Town in 1985-86.
Manchester City’s next game is at Burnley on Wednesday, 3 February (18:00 GMT). Sheffield United have a crucial encounter with West Brom at Bramall Lane on Tuesday, 2 February (18:00 GMT).
- 3Rúben Dias
- 20Bernardo Silva
- 21TorresSubstituted forRodriat 90′minutes
- 9Gabriel Jesus
- 2BaldockBooked at 82mins
- 6BashamSubstituted forMcBurnieat 78′minutes
- 12EganBooked at 84mins
- 16NorwoodBooked at 24mins
- 14BurkeSubstituted forSharpat 77′minutes
- 24BrewsterSubstituted forMcGoldrickat 62′minutes
Match ends, Manchester City 1, Sheffield United 0.
Second Half ends, Manchester City 1, Sheffield United 0.
Rodrigo (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by David McGoldrick (Sheffield United).
Attempt blocked. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Gabriel Jesus.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Oliver Norwood.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Aaron Ramsdale.
Attempt saved. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Phil Foden.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by George Baldock.
Substitution, Manchester City. Rodrigo replaces Ferran Torres.
Attempt blocked. Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by John Fleck.
Foul by Kyle Walker (Manchester City).
Billy Sharp (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. John Fleck (Sheffield United) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Billy Sharp.
John Egan (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Fernandinho (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by John Egan (Sheffield United).
George Baldock (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Phil Foden (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by George Baldock (Sheffield United).