Pep Guardiola quickly turned his focus towards Manchester United after Manchester City thrashed Fulham 4-0 in the FA Cup fourth round.

The game as a contest was effectively over inside the opening eight minutes, with visiting captain Tim Ream dismissed for a foul on Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan converting the consequent penalty.

Bernardo Silva doubled the hosts' and holders' advantage before the interval at the Etihad Stadium, with Jesus' quickfire second-half double putting the gloss on things.

Next up for City is the visit of bitter rivals United in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final, with Guardiola's side boasting a 3-1 aggregate lead.

Reflecting initially on the clash with Championship promotion hopefuls Fulham, Guardiola said: "For a few moments, I thought it would be a tough game.

"They're a team with a lot of courage but it was a bit different after the red card. They still tried to play but the game was over at 3-0.

"The determination was always there and we will fight to win each competition.

"Always we score goals and have the ability to score. The problem this season has been conceding some goals, but it's always good to score goals."

Casting his mind ahead to Wednesday's derby, he added: "Next is United and a chance to get to the final and that is our next target."

Fulham boss Scott Parker conceded his side's hopes of an upset were dashed by Ream's moment of madness, the skipper left "devastated" by his curtailed afternoon.

"Everything we planned for we had to change after six minutes because of the red card," he told BBC Sport.

"Tim Ream is obviously devastated. He has been immense for us this season. He made a mistake today. In the heat of the moment, you make decisions and sometimes you make the wrong ones."

Manchester City breezed through to the FA Cup fifth round with a 4-0 win over 10-man Fulham at Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the Premier League win at Sheffield United, but the promotion-chasing visitors never threatened to loosen City's grip on the trophy they won emphatically with a 6-0 Wembley triumph over Watford in May.

Fulham's task, already sizeable, was made practically impossible by the early dismissal of captain Tim Ream as he hauled Gabriel Jesus down for a penalty converted by Ilkay Gundogan.

Bernardo Silva doubled the hosts' lead before the break in the first meeting between the sides in this competition since 1914.

The London club may wish to leave it another 106 years before their next clash with City, who added another two with a quickfire second-half double from Jesus.

Any hopes Fulham had of springing a shock were dashed after six minutes, Ream pulling down Jesus and Gundogan confidently slotting in the spot-kick.

City naturally dominated and ​Riyad Mahrez showed great feet before his low shot drew a smart stop from Marek Rodak, while Phil Foden thrashed wide at the end of a swift counter-attack. 

The second soon arrived, Silva twisting and turning on the edge of the box before beating Rodak low to his left to bring up City's 100th goal in all competitions this season.

Raheem Sterling replaced Mahrez eight minutes after the restart and the England star clipped the top of the crossbar with his first attempt at goal. 

Scott Parker's side, who beat Aston Villa in the previous round, sat deep and were compact, making it difficult for City to break them down, but their second-half resistance was ended in the 72nd minute by Jesus' header from Joao Cancelo's cross.

The Brazil striker was then in the right place to nod in the fourth three minutes later after Phil Foden's shot was parried into his path.

 

What does it mean? Cup silverware the tonic for top-flight woes

The title race is now in fact a Liverpool procession, leaving cup silverware as the main goal for Guardiola's side, who should at least be confident of claiming second in the Premier League. With an FA Cup fifth-round spot secured and an EFL Cup final berth likely, what price a City treble, as Real Madrid await in the Champions League?

Patient Jesus gets his reward

After missing a penalty against Sheffield United, Jesus was replaced by Sergio Aguero, who promptly scored the winner. He assuaged any lingering frustration from that goalless outing by producing a patient and, ultimately, clinical display to net with both of his efforts on target.

Nightmare for Ream

Parker is likely to have stressed the importance of keeping it tight early on, holding City at bay and frustrating the home fans. Skipper Ream was quick to thwart those plans, his clumsy foul bringing a deserved red card – his first in 306 appearances in English football – and leaving Fulham to face a long afternoon of toil without reward.

What's next?

City host Manchester United in the EFL Cup semi-final second leg on Wednesday, boasting a 3-1 aggregate lead, with a trip to Tottenham in the Premier League to come next Sunday. Fulham return to the bread and butter of the Championship with the visit of Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

Leeds United have signed 19-year-old Ian Poveda from Premier League champions Manchester City.

The England youth international has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Marcelo Bielsa's side.

Poveda was part of the Arsenal, Barcelona and Brentford academies before joining City in 2016, but he made only one senior appearance for the club, playing in the 1-0 win over Burton Albion in the second leg of last season's EFL Cup semi-final.

The attacking midfielder, who will wear the number seven shirt, is Leeds' second signing of the January transfer window following the arrival of goalkeeper Elia Caprile from Chievo.

Leeds are second in the Championship, a point behind leaders West Brom and three above Fulham in third.

Pep Guardiola does not appear overly concerned by the prospect of Liverpool shattering Manchester City's Premier League benchmarks, saying: "Records are there to be broken".

City have won the Premier League under Guardiola in the past two seasons and, while they were pushed all the way by Liverpool last term, the 2017-18 success was similar to the Reds' current tilt in its dominance.

Guardiola's side finished on a record 100 points, yet Liverpool have dropped only two points all season and look on course to surpass that total, while also troubling Arsenal's 49-match unbeaten run from 2003-04.

Asked about the prospect of Liverpool claiming such records ahead of City's FA Cup tie against Fulham, Guardiola said: "Yes, it can happen.

"Records are there to be broken. We broke it when someone said we couldn't, and sooner or later it will be broken again. History speaks clearly about that.

"To beat Liverpool? It is not easy. They have found a way to win games."

City welcomed back Aymeric Laporte for the first time since his August knee injury in midweek, playing 78 minutes against Sheffield United in the Premier League.

Guardiola is delighted to be able to call on his star centre-back once more but again stated Laporte will not fix all of City's problems.

"He was good [against Sheffield United]," Guardiola said. "He played a little bit more than 70 minutes for the first game.

"He played well, but he is not going to solve all the problems that we have. He is one more player that we have, and if we believe can use him, we will use him.

"He's a guy who helps us to do our build-up easier, and when that happens, we lose less balls, we concede fewer counter-attacks and that's why we are more stable. Basically it is that.

"He is a guy who is strong in the air, is fast, and has a special personality. His attributes help us to become a better team."

Guardiola, who said City would not be training abroad during the upcoming mid-season break, preferring to stay at home, confirmed winger Leroy Sane is now the club's only injury absence.

The return of Laporte would appear to see teenage defenders Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis moved further down the pecking order, but Guardiola does not anticipate either player going out on loan.

"It is impossible, Eric Garcia is not going to move," he said. "Harwood-Bellis, we didn't speak about that, but no. I think he is going to stay until the end of the season.

"Maybe we need him for the second team. I don't know if he has offers. If there came an offer from the Premier League, maybe we could consider it for his development as a player."

Liverpool's march towards the Premier League title shows no sign of slowing down, as the Reds claimed a hard-fought 2-1 win over Wolves.

Manchester United are clinging to a top-six position after they slid to a 2-0 home defeat to Burnley, the latest in a string of wretched results this season that have sparked an angry reaction from supporters.

While United toil, neighbours Manchester City ground out a 1-0 win at Sheffield United that continued their resurgent league form, with a winning combination delivering the goal for Pep Guardiola's side.

Leicester City might have expected a challenge from the big clubs behind them by now, but the Foxes continue to sit pretty in third place, and a 4-1 win over West Ham continued to make them look immovable from the top four this season.

The midweek Opta data offers detailed insights into the stories behind those results, revealing a string of telling trends and match facts.

 

MANE INJURY DOES NOT DERAIL LIVERPOOL'S CHARGE

Liverpool lost Sadio Mane to injury during the first half in Thursday's clash with Wolves, yet Roberto Firmino struck late on to claim the win as the Reds became just the fifth side in English Football League history to go 40 straight matches unbeaten.

Jurgen Klopp's side have amassed 67 points from a possible 69 in the Premier League this season; this is at least five more than any side in English top-flight history has ever previously had after as many games of a campaign.

Raul Jimenez drew Wolves level after Jordan Henderson's opener, and the Mexican's header ended a run of 725 minutes without conceding a Premier League goal for Liverpool since Richarlison scored for Everton at Anfield in December.

Jimenez also became the third Premier League player to net 20+ goals in all competitions this season, after Sergio Aguero (21) and Raheem Sterling (20).

Since the start of last season, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has assisted 22 Premier League goals, at least five more than any other player, with 10 of those coming from dead balls, also a league-high.

Firmino, meanwhile, has scored six goals in his last eight games for Liverpool in all competitions, as many as he had in his previous 32 appearances for the club, and all of his 10 Premier League strikes this season have come away from home.

UNITED IN TURMOIL AS CLARETS PUT NEGATIVE SPIN ON OLE REIN

Manchester United may sit fifth, but in terms of points tallies Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's are closer to 14th-placed Newcastle than they are to fourth-placed Chelsea after 24 games.

The league standing is highly vulnerable, given Tottenham, Wolves and even Sheffield United are breathing down United's necks.

Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Burnley means United now have a negative Premier League win-loss record since manager Solskjaer was given the job on a full-time basis in March.

They had impressed during his caretaker spell, but since Solskjaer went from being a stand-in to the chosen one, their record shows 11 wins and 12 defeats in the Premier League.

United's Old Trafford setback followed their 2-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, meaning they have suffered back-to-back league defeats for the second time under their Norwegian boss.

Burnley looked to be in freefall just days ago and relegation was becoming a serious concern, but wins over United and Leicester City have lifted them to 30 points - just four adrift of the Red Devils.

PASSPORTS AT THE READY, LEICESTER LOOK BOOKED IN FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RETURN

Catch them if you can! Leicester City had a wobble with defeats to Southampton and Burnley, but Brendan Rodgers' men now sit 14 points clear of fifth place and surely their destiny is a second season in the Champions League.

In the absence of anything approaching a charge from teams outside the top four, it would take a spectacular collapse for the Foxes to miss out, with a 4-1 win over West Ham on Wednesday emphasising their quality.

Leicester have racked up eight wins in 12 Premier League home games so far, their best record at this stage of a season, and the 52 goals they have banged in amounts to their most in the top flight from their first 24 games since the achieved the same tally in 1930-31.

Rodgers and West Ham boss David Moyes were once rivals on Merseyside, in charge of Liverpool and Everton respectively.

While Rodgers eyes success towards the top of the table, Moyes has taken on a relegation battle with a West Ham side who are outside the bottom three on goal difference alone.

Since the start of October 2019, no team have gained fewer points (11) or lost more games (11) in the Premier League than West Ham, and it gets no easier: Liverpool are their next opponents.

At least that game is a home fixture for the Hammers. Moyes' away record in matches against teams starting the day in the Premier League top four is diabolical, winning just one of 50 such games.

KEVIN KEEN TO HELP - DE BRUYNE IS KING OF THE ASSISTS

When Sergio Aguero turned in a cross from Kevin De Bruyne to give Manchester City a 1-0 victory at Sheffield United, it was more than merely two Premier League greats combining to deadly effect.

History, in fact, was made in that motion, with De Bruyne becoming the first player in the Premier League era to provide 15 or more assists in three different seasons.

The Belgian had 18 in 2016-17, 16 the following season, and after an injury-wracked 2018-19 campaign he already has 15 from 23 appearances this term.

The scale of De Bruyne's achievement can be better appreciated by considering the likes of Ryan Giggs, Cesc Fabregas, Dennis Bergkamp and his own City colleague David Silva have been unable to produce at that level so consistently.

Former Wolfsburg playmaker De Bruyne has entered the top 20 of all-time assist providers in the Premier League, and there is no keeping Aguero down either.

Aguero has been directly involved in 43 goals in 43 Premier League appearances against newly promoted teams - scoring 35 goals and assisting in eight more.

It took City until the 73rd minute to make their breakthrough at Bramall Lane, and a lot of the credit for the hosts' resilience went to goalkeeper Dean Henderson, whose first-half penalty save from Gabriel Jesus means he has stopped four of the last eight spot-kicks he has faced in English league football.

Have Tottenham finally found an alternative to Harry Kane?

According to reports, Spurs are in talks to sign Real Sociedad's Willian Jose with just over a week to go until the transfer window closes.

But it could take in excess of £50million to finally end their search for a second out-and-out striker.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS TO DIG DEEP FOR SOCIEDAD STRIKER

Krzysztof Piatek, Islam Slimani and Fernando Llorente have all been linked but Tottenham have now set their sights on 28-year-old Willian Jose, reports the Guardian.

The Brazilian was left out of his side's Copa del Rey clash with Espanyol on Wednesday and could now be headed for north London.

Talks are underway, the Guardian states, although Spurs could be forced to contemplate meeting Willian Jose's €70million (£59m) release clause as Sociedad seek adequate compensation.

The one-time Real Madrid man has scored eight LaLiga goals this term after reaching double figures in each of the previous three seasons.

 

ROUND-UP

- Dani Ceballos has asked Real Madrid to terminate his Arsenal loan and find him a move elsewhere, according to Spanish radio station Cadena SER.

- The Gunners are set to suffer another blow as Ligue 1 outfit Lyon prepare to confirm the €25million signing of rumoured Atletico Madrid target Bruno Guimaraes, reports L'Equipe.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich will allow Philippe Coutinho to return to Barcelona at the end of his loan spell if, as desired, the Bundesliga giants land Leroy Sane and Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz, reports Bild.

- After sealing a deal for Reinier Jesus, Madrid could return to raid Flamengo for 19-year-old forward Lincoln, says Mundo Deportivo.

- Leicester City plan to bolster their Champions League ambitions by splashing £15million on Southampton centre-back Jannik Vestergaard, according to The Sun.

- Serie A side Milan have submitted an 18-month loan offer for Manchester City-linked Florentino Luis, claims CalcioMercato. The 20-year-old defensive midfielder plays for Benfica.

Liverpool may be 13 points clear of reigning Premier League champions Manchester City with two games in hand, but Kyle Walker is not giving up hope of a third successive title.

City secured a 1-0 win over Walker's former club Sheffield United on Tuesday night, cutting the gap on leaders Liverpool, who will extend their advantage to a whopping 19 points with wins at Wolves and West Ham over the next week.

Klopp's unbeaten side have only dropped two points across their 22 games this season and it would require an unprecedented and monumental collapse for them not to be crowned top-flight champions for the first time in three decades.

However, Walker insists he will only accept that fact when it has been realised, and he hopes City can retain the other trophies they won in last season's domestic treble too.

"I'm not going to say it [the title race] is over," he said.

"I'm a professional, this is the job I love to do and I'll keep fighting until mathematically it's over.

"It's going to be a tough job, we know that.

"We are alive in all cups, so hopefully we can get some silverware at the end of the season.

"Last year we won the EFL Cup and the FA Cup, so hopefully we can retain the titles as well."

Walker made his 18th Premier League start of the season at Bramall Lane, where substitute Sergio Aguero's second-half strike downed the Blades.

Despite the loss, Chris Wilder's side have had a fantastic campaign so far following promotion from the Championship last season and they sit seventh in the table, above Tottenham and Arsenal.

Sheffield-born Walker, who came through the Blades' academy before making his senior debut with the club, is delighted to see his old team faring so well.

"I have played against them a few times with different clubs, but it's good to have finally met them in the Premier League," Walker added.

"I wanted to get to the Premier League with my hometown club but it didn't happen.

"I think Chris Wilder has done a fantastic job and they have been outstanding this season."

Chelsea failed to make the most of their numerical advantage as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in a thrilling London derby that included a late goal from either side.

Much of the pre-match focus was on the two managers, with Frank Lampard beginning to come in for a bit of criticism after a difficult run, while Mikel Arteta has been accused of doing little to improve Arsenal's fortunes since coming in.

And there were plenty of hints as to why the sides are out of form, with the two sets of defences failing to inspire a great deal of confidence. 

Manchester City avoided dropping points, however, with a substitute sparing their blushes in a 1-0 win at Sheffield United, while there was plenty of drama at the bottom of the table.

DAVID LUIZ SEES RED BUT ARSENAL CLING ON

It was an unhappy return to Stamford Bridge for former Chelsea defender David Luiz, who was given a frosty reception and then sent off for a cynical foul that led to a penalty.

From that spot-kick, Jorginho opened the scoring in the 28th minute, suggesting Chelsea were set to cruise.

But a wonderful solo effort from Gabriel Martinelli restored parity just after the hour, leaving Lampard looking a little nervous.

Chelsea retook the lead with what they thought was a winner from Cesar Azpilicueta, the captain turning in a left-wing cross.

But Hector Bellerin's well-placed left-footed effort from the edge of the box found the bottom-left corner and secured the Gunners a share of the spoils, a commendable achievement given their disadvantage. The draw moves Arsenal up to 10th, while Chelsea go six points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United.

AGUERO THE DIFFERENCE FOR CITY

City handed Aymeric Laporte his first appearance since August at Bramall Lane, the Frenchman having recovered from a serious knee injury.

But he was given some rough treatment by the Blades – with Muhamed Besic catching him with a heavy challenge early on.

City did enough in the first half to take the lead, but Dean Henderson was in excellent form between the United posts, making several impressive saves and keeping out Gabriel Jesus' penalty.

But the visitors' persistence paid off. Sergio Aguero came off the bench to get the winner 17 minutes from time, finishing clinically after a glorious pass from Kevin De Bruyne.

That moves them six clear of Leicester City in third, though the 13-point gap behind leaders Liverpool remains daunting.

CHERRIES STOP THE ROT

After six matches – five of which ended in defeat – without a victory, Bournemouth finally got back to winning ways against Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.

Harry Wilson got the ball rolling with a driven effort from the edge of the box after Dominic Solanke teed him up in the 36th minute.

Pascal Gross then put past his own goalkeeper just before the break, diverting in after a Bournemouth corner caused havoc in the visitors' box.

Callum Wilson then wrapped up a comfortable win 16 minutes from time, rounding Mat Ryan and slotting in unchallenged, with Aaron Mooy's late effort a mere consolation in a 3-1 defeat for the Seagulls.

It was not enough to move Bournemouth out of the bottom three, though – Aston Villa's last-gasp 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Watford decisive in that sense, as Tyrone Mings got the all-important clincher.

NEWCASTLE STUN EVERTON WITH COMEBACK

Everton looked to be easing to a 2-0 win over Newcastle United – but it all went wrong in stoppage time.

Moise Kean initially put Everton in front in the 30th minute with his first Premier League goal, though he required a little luck, as he capitalised on Newcastle's inability to clear the ball and then shot under Martin Dubravka, who probably should have done better.

The in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin got his 10th top-flight goal of the season early in the second half, but that two-goal cushion was insufficient.

Florian Lejeune was Newcastle's hero, first scoring with an acrobatic attempt after a Jordan Pickford error, then restoring parity with a volley that just about found its way over the line amid a scramble in the penalty box, both goals coming in stoppage time.

There was no such drama at Selhurst Park, however, as Southampton managed to hang on to their 2-0 lead in an ill-tempered affair, moving them into the top half of the table.

Palace's Wilfried Zaha might find himself in danger of retrospective action as well, after television cameras caught him poking James Ward-Prowse in the face during a half-time altercation.

Kevin De Bruyne made Premier League history on Tuesday as he became the first player to provide 15 or more assists in three separate seasons.

The brilliant Belgian laid on the winning goal for Sergio Aguero as Manchester City beat Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane.

In doing so, De Bruyne racked up his 15th assist of a typically creative campaign, adding to his playmaking exploits of 2016-17 (18 assists) and 2017-18 (16).

The 28-year-old is also on course to enjoy his most prolific goalscoring season in the English top flight, having netted seven times to move within one of the total of eight he achieved two seasons ago.

Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City's repeated spot-kick failures will force him into a rethink over how penalty takers are picked.

Gabriel Jesus saw his first-half effort repelled by Dean Henderson in City's hard-earned 1-0 Premier League win at Sheffield United on Tuesday.

It was the Brazilian's third miss from five top-flight efforts from 12 yards, but he is not the only guilty party in the City ranks, with Raheem Sterling and even talisman Sergio Aguero - who scored the winner at Bramall Lane - also fluffing their lines.

Asked if it was a cause for concern, Guardiola replied: "Definitely.

"I have to reflect on it. I always have the confidence in the players to take it, but I have to reflect on maybe how they take the decision on who will take it.

"Not [just] for Gabriel today, because Sergio missed two and Raheem missed one and a half against Wolves [a twice-taken, twice-saved penalty, with Sterling netting the rebound from the second].

"We are not safe. In that level it's so important, it makes the difference most of the time.

"I have to take a decision with the guys over who is going to take the penalty."

Asked if he had someone in mind, Guardiola said he did but would not reveal a name, except to jokingly add: "Ederson is the best. Believe me, Eddie is the best taker we have on the penalties.

"He has no blood in his brains, he's so calm, so he could do it."

Pep Guardiola was delighted to see Manchester City overcome a resilient Sheffield United after Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score the only goal of the game.

It had looked set to be an evening of frustration for the Premier League champions at Bramall Lane on Tuesday, with Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson in inspired form.

Gabriel Jesus saw a first-half penalty saved and Raheem Sterling also missed an excellent chance before Aguero sealed the points, converting Kevin De Bruyne's pinpoint cross in the 73rd minute. 

"It's a difficult place to come, they are so physical," Guardiola told BT Sport. "It was a solid performance, we only conceded two chances. In the first half the keeper made two incredible saves.

"I am so happy with the team. I know what it's like to play here, it is a tough, tough place.

"We controlled it well and in the end we created chances to win."

Guardiola was able to hand Aymeric Laporte his first start since August following a knee injury, the Frenchman managing 78 minutes in a system designed partly for his benefit.

"We knew that Aymeric couldn't play for 90 minutes, that's why we played five at the back to to protect him a little bit," said Guardiola. "He's a crucial player for us, we've missed him, it's good for us to have him back."

The winning goal came from the most obvious source, with Aguero quickly to the fore after replacing Jesus, who fluffed his lines after Riyad Mahrez had earned a spot-kick.

Aguero surpassed 250 goals for City in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last Saturday and now has eight in his past five outings in all competitions, leading to warm praise from his manager.

"Sergio is on fire right now," said Guardiola. "Strikers need momentum. It's good for us to have strikers in this form."

Sergio Aguero stepped off the bench to secure a 1-0 win for Manchester City after Dean Henderson had threatened to frustrate the Premier League champions at Bramall Lane. 

Goalkeeper Henderson's stellar showing was highlighted by a superb stop from Gabriel Jesus' first-half penalty, with Raheem Sterling also finding the former Manchester United man in inspired form.

It needed the introduction of Aguero, who surpassed 250 goals for City in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last time out, to get the job done for Pep Guardiola's side, with Kevin De Bruyne once again supplying the ammunition.

Further comfort for the visitors came in seeing the return of Aymeric Laporte to the starting line-up for the first time since August following a knee injury, his presence contributing to a clean sheet that represents somewhat of a rarity for City these days.

The result puts City 13 points behind champions-elect Liverpool, who have two games in hand.

United carved their visitors open early on but Billy Sharp failed to pick out a team-mate after being set free by Oli McBurnie's pass.

There was a moment of concern for Laporte when he went down under a strong challenge from Muhamed Besic, who was booked, although the Frenchman was soon back to his feet. 

He might have been jumping for joy had Henderson not produced a stunning stop to deny a disbelieving Sterling, who really ought to have converted from Riyad Mahrez's pass.

The Blades goalkeeper was alert again to thwart Nicolas Otmanedi, who executed an eye-catching bicycle kick as City stepped up the pressure. 

And after Mahrez had been felled by Chris Basham in the box, Henderson continued his one-man resistance as he leapt to his right to push away Jesus' spot-kick, albeit he had clearly come off his line.

The hosts continued to hold firm in the second half, surviving a scare when Rodri's flicked header from De Bruyne's corner dropped wide of the far post.

It was not all one-way traffic and Lys Mousset's clever back-heel attempt after Ederson had tipped Basham's cross into his path tested the Brazilian's reflexes.

Guardiola hauled off Jesus and threw on Aguero in the 67th minute to show his fellow striker how it is done, with the City legend responding by tapping in De Bruyne's pinpoint delivery six minutes later to seal the points. 

 

What does it mean? Hard work but job done for City

The Premier League title has long since been prized from City's grasp, but Guardiola's high expectations remain and a strong finish to the season will help to alleviate some of the pain of missing out this time around. It was hard work, but Chris Wilder's warriors have proven a tough task for many opponents.

Henderson the hero

Such was the brilliance of Henderson's performance that there was almost an air of inevitability about him saving Jesus' penalty. Then again, the striker has now missed three of his five attempts in the top flight. 

Jesus fluffs his lines

That supposed air of inevitability would surely not have been present had Aguero been the man standing over the penalty. And that may be Jesus' biggest problem – it's not that he isn't good, because he clearly is; it's that he is not Sergio Aguero. When he fails to score, misses a penalty and then comes off and watches on as Aguero promptly finds the net, that fact only becomes more apparent.

What's next?

Knockout competitions take centre stage for City, who continue the defence of their FA Cup and League Cup titles against Fulham and Manchester United respectively, not returning to Premier League action until next month's trip to Tottenham. For the Blades, it is back-to-back trips to south London to face Millwall in the FA Cup and then Palace in the top flight. 

Aymeric Laporte was named in the starting line-up for Manchester City's Premier League trip to Sheffield United on Tuesday, completing his return from a knee injury.

City have been short at centre-back since Laporte sustained cartilage and meniscus damage in a 4-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31, having failed to replace Vincent Kompany.

However, the 25-year-old was handed his first appearance in almost five months as one of seven changes made by Pep Guardiola for the game at Bramall Lane on Tuesday.

Laporte was set to partner Nicolas Otamendi at centre-back, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker taking the full-back positions.

Fernandinho, who has been used in defence for much of the campaign, had an opportunity to return to midfield alongside Rodrigo.

Sergio Aguero started on the bench, with Gabriel Jesus leading the line and flanked by Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling.

Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva dropped to the bench, while David Silva was not included in the matchday squad.

John Stones and Benjamin Mendy sustained muscle injuries in Saturday's 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace on Saturday and were not involved on Tuesday.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes a 400 or 500-day year would be required for Champions League expansion because Premier League clubs already play too many games.

The European Club Association (ECA) and UEFA are said to be in talks about adding another four matchdays to the Champions League schedule, which would result in finalists playing 17 games.

However, with City's trip to Sheffield United on Tuesday their eighth game in the past three and a half weeks, Guardiola is an advocate of taking a scythe to the gruelling schedule in England.

"I think the solution is you have to make a year of 400 days, that is a solution, 400 or 500, more or less. After that we can book another competition. Maybe UEFA or FIFA can talk about it. We have few days a year, that's the problem," said Guardiola.

Champions League expansion would likely have negative ramifications for the EFL Cup.

After stating the EFL Cup "wouldn't be interesting" if Premier League sides withdrew in order to lighten their loads, the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona offered a more ruthless alternative.

"Eliminate competitions. Take them out completely - so less games," he said.

"Less games, less competitions, less teams, more quality, less quantity. The people are going enjoy it. The people are going to go to the theatre, to the cinema, restaurants, to watch the fireworks. That is what they would do."

At the crux of Guardiola's argument is a desire to reduce the physical workload on players.

He said: "There are less games [in Germany in Spain], much less than here. In the Bundesliga there are 18 teams not 20, one cup not two. They have a break, in Spain they have a break.Tthe cup is run with one game, not two. So it's a big difference.

"It's just to protect the players … For them they'd enjoy it more, the people too. People say they can't live without football, they can live without football for a while. It's too much, honestly."

The City boss suggested serious injuries sustained by Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford since the turn of the year were a result of the excessive demands.

Kane's hamstring problem and Rashford's back issue were a blow to Gareth Southgate ahead of Euro 2020, but Guardiola feels those in charge of the game in England cannot be surprised.

"It's a big blow for Gareth, for the national team. Kane and Rashford are incredibly important players for them. Hopefully there isn't another one who does that and they can recover," he said.

"It's an incredible amount of games. Now we're talking about it because they are [injured], but looking back at the injuries Newcastle have had, we have had, all the teams. That is normal. With that number of games, sooner or later the players break down.

"I'm not really surprised. I’m so sorry for them, but with this amount of games it happens. The big administration people cannot complain because it's normal this happens.

"Of course it is [too much to expect]. They arrive in the Euros, playing with the national teams trying their best, then [back here] after no more than 20 days because the business, the show, must go on. It's unsustainable.

"Sooner or later the players fall down. It's too much. I'm so sorry for Kane and Rashford because they are incredible and good for the league, but we demand a lot from the players, it's too much.

"They should reflect [on] it but all the managers complained about it and they don't care. Now Boxing Day is over, another season, and prepare for the next one. A distance of two or three days again and again.

"The players in the end suffer. They want to do well and the clubs have a lot of pressure to win titles or qualify for the Champions League, the players want to do well. We push them and we are being pushed.

"At some moment the body says stop, it's enough."

Pep Guardiola is not surprised by Sheffield United's success in the Premier League this season as the Manchester City manager revealed he learns from watching Chris Wilder's side.

The Blades are seventh in the Premier League - just six points off a Champions League place - in their first campaign back in the top flight.

An expansive brand of football has brought Wilder many admirers, and Guardiola concedes he is among them.

City visit Sheffield United on Tuesday, having been made to work for a 2-0 home win last month.

"I'm incredibly impressed," Guardiola told a pre-match news conference. "When people say you can improve watching other games, other teams, other managers, this is the one.

"I never saw some movements they are doing. That's the reason why they are in the position they are.

"We saw it here [at the Etihad Stadium], we suffered here a few weeks ago. I'm really impressed. I admire them, honestly. I admire how they play and what they are doing.

"It's the same manager and a high percentage of the same players from League One, the Championship, now the Premier League, being near the top of the league up there.

"I like it. As a manager, you see some teams so you can improve - this is the one."

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