Pep Guardiola insists he was not being sarcastic by thanking referee Michael Oliver after Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.
The City boss appeared to thank the official for his performance in a melodramatic fashion when the final whistle sounded at Anfield.
Guardiola had been enraged during the Premier League clash as his side were twice denied penalties for possible handballs against Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The first was the most controversial, coming immediately before Fabinho opened the scoring for Liverpool. The second came late on as City rallied in response to further goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
“It was not sarcastic,” Guardiola said. “I say, ‘Thank you so much’ all the time. I said the same at Tottenham game at home. All the time I go to referees I say thank you so much.”
City’s late rally did produce a reply from Bernardo Silva but Premier League leaders Liverpool did not surrender an advantage that saw them move nine points clear of the champions.
The result left City in fourth place, also behind Leicester and Chelsea, but Guardiola – becalmed by the time he held his post-match press conference – spoke of his pride at the performance.
The Spaniard said: “Today we showed in the most difficult stadium in the world the reasons we are champions, (it was) one of the proudest performances of my career.
“Unfortunately we lost, but congratulations to Jurgen (Klopp) and this fantastic team for the victory. It was a good game for both sides, for the Premier League, for the billions of people who watched this game it was good advertising.
“Maybe you have to buy Jurgen and myself a bottle of wine for that!
“We tried, but we can’t expect not to concede chances at Anfield.
“We created more than ever and I’m so proud to be manager of these players.”
Guardiola’s side have now lost three times this season and he accepts they have a real challenge on their hands to retain their title – and not just from Liverpool.
“We have three teams in front of us, maybe they have more chance to win the Premier League than us but hopefully we can sustain this mentality and try it,” he said.
“In the end, if it’s not enough, we will congratulate Liverpool, Leicester or Chelsea and move forward for the next season.
“Nine points is a lot, they (Liverpool) lost just one game last season. Is it their year? My colleague Jurgen can explain better than me.”