Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is not concerned by a dramatic dip in form for Raheem Sterling in recent weeks.
Sterling has not scored in six appearances this year, with his last goals coming in City’s 3-2 defeat by Wolves on 27 December.
Last season’s football writers’ player of the year in England had a great chance to break that duck as City progressed to the League Cup final against Manchester United on Wednesday, but he shot over the bar after rounding goalkeeper David de Gea.
However, Guardiola believes Sterling is still making a contribution with his all-round game.
“Raheem defended incredibly well against (Aaron) Wan-Bissaka in the last game and he had the clearest chances that no other player can create for himself and unfortunately he could not score a goal,” said the Catalan.
“But he was there and so I am more than delighted with the performance he made against United.
“A month ago, people were talking about his statistics, the goals, the assists, but I always said that I was not just judging Raheem on those points. It was important, but not the only one.”
Sterling has already scored 24 goals in 39 games this season for City and England, but he has slowed down after a flying start in which he had 17 by the end of October.
He has only missed two of City’s 24 Premier League games and so far escaped injury, but Guardiola has no plans to take him out of the firing line.
“I don’t think he needs a rest,” added Guardiola.
“He is one of the guys who can recover quickest that I have ever met in my career.
“He is incredible, he could play every two days and of course when he plays regularly, the better he feels, but all the players feel that.”
– Mourinho ‘needs time’ –
Guardiola takes his team to Tottenham on Sunday in the Premier League where he will face old adversary Jose Mourinho for the 23rd time in their managerial careers.
They last met in a Manchester derby in November 2018 as Guardiola’s City ran out convincing 3-1 winners over Mourinho’s United.
The Portuguese had left Old Trafford a month after that defeat and after nearly a year out of the game, he replaced Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs in November.
The 57-year-old has not had the convincing start he would have hoped for, winning just eight out of 17 games in all competitions so far, but Guardiola understands why it has not been smoother.
“I saw the last game against Southampton and I saw a team completely alive,” added Guardiola, who has won 10 and drawn seven of his previous meetings with Mourinho.
“They conceded a goal in the last few minutes but I saw a team that is there.
“Every manager has different ideas. Pochettino was there for five years and Mourinho has been there months, and every manager needs time to make the team try to play in the way you want and maybe it’s still too early for him.”