(Reuters) – Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said it took defender John Stones a lot longer than expected to rediscover his best form but he praised the Englishman’s perseverance after their 2-0 League Cup win over Manchester United on Wednesday.
Centre back Stones has struggled with injuries and poor form in recent campaigns but has found his rhythm this season forging a strong partnership with Portuguese defender Ruben Dias.
Stones opened the scoring in the second half against United – his first goal in three years for the club – before Brazilian Fernandinho added another to send holders City into the League Cup final for the fourth straight year.
“All credit for him (Stones). In a long career, you always have ups and downs. Unfortunately, he struggled longer than we expected and he expected – but his comeback is absolutely down to him,” Guardiola told the British media.
“He made another outstanding performance. But the most important thing he has been able to do – something he has struggled with the past three or four years – is play four, five, six games in a row. This is so important.”
Stones, who faced questions about his future at the club last season, said his resurgence was down to hard work.
“I’m trying to play as many games as I can … give everything for the shirt. Staying true to myself, to what I can do and what I can improve on,” Stones told Sky Sports.
“Playing in these big games is something I thrive off, the team thrives off. I’m trying to improve as much as I can.”
City meet Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in the League Cup final on April 25.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Hogue