Pep Guardiola hailed Gabriel Jesus’ display in Manchester City’s 5-0 win against Norwich City and said he feels fortunate to be able to work with a player as selfless as the Brazilian.
Jesus was brought into City’s starting line-up as one of five changes from last weekend’s defeat to Tottenham as City produced a five-star showing against Norwich.
The Brazil international was fielded to the right of a front three that also contained Ferran Torres and Jack Grealish in Saturday’s Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.
While Jesus did not find the net, he played a game-high three key passes, which included assists for Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling.
He also sent in the ball that led to Grant Hanley and Tim Krul inadvertently combining for City’s opener and was heavily praised by Guardiola after the impressive display.
“If one person deserves respect and man of the match prizes then it’s him. His mum and dad have to be so proud to have someone like him,” Guardiola told BBC Sport.
Speaking at his post-match news conference, the Catalan coach added: “He’s a player who likes to be wider than central position.
“One of the reasons I’m a manager is when you can work with people and humans like Gabriel. He never complains, he plays five minutes, he plays the best five minutes he can.
“He’s happy on left, right or centre and today the connection with Kyle [Walker] was exceptional. I’m pleased with his performance – he was involved in three of our goals and is an incredibly important player for us.
“He made an exceptional performance today, and I repeat, if he plays three minutes he plays the best three minutes for the club and everyone. The more you have in this position the better we are. When someone plays like this they deserve to play.
“He’s so young, big congratulations because he deserves in life the best. He’s so generous and as I say, I’m incredibly satisfied for him.”
Jesus has experience of playing in a wide role with the Brazil national team, whom he helped reach the final of the Copa America last month.
The 24-year-old was given an extended break following his Copa exploits but took little time to find his groove on his first start of the season, having been introduced as a second-half substitute against Tottenham last week.
“I play more on the right for the national team,” Jesus told BBC Sport. “We have a lot of good wingers here and a very good team overall.
“I feel good and I’m getting my confidence and energy back. I like to play all the time, wherever the manager tries to play me, I try to do my best always.
“I was the last one to come back after the holidays. I didn’t lose too much power. I’m a little bit lucky that I can come back, train two days or one week and get back my fitness.”
Grealish, Aymeric Laporte, Sterling and Riyad Mahrez were all on target for City in their routine victory after Krul had opened the scoring win an early own goal.
Since Guardiola arrived in the Premier League at the start of the 2016-17 season, City have now been responsible for 23 of the 49 games won by a five-goal margin (47 per cent).
It was a timely win for City, ending a run of three defeats in a row in competitive games without scoring stretching back into last season.
“This result was the consequence of how many good things we have done,” Guardiola said.
“We are still not at the top – there are still many things to do. We trained, we were refreshed and I’m happy for these first points…. hopefully they will not be the last!”
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Grealish’s goal was his first for City since arriving in a British record £100million deal from Aston Villa this month on what was his home debut and third appearance overall.
The England international knew little about the goal, with Jesus’ powerful cross hitting his thigh before he could react and flying past Krul.
Citing the example of “machine” Sterling, who has built a reputation for being in the right place to finish off moves, Guardiola expects Grealish to become a regular goalscorer.
“If he gets the mentality to score goals like Raheem, yeah [he can score more],” Guardiola said. “When Raheem was here when I first arrived he didn’t have goals in his mind and we immediately changed his arrival.
“Today Raheem scored because he arrives in the centre, he’s a machine there. He changed his mind and decided he was going to score. Jack has this mentality to score goals and win games. If he has the Raheem mentality then he can do it, too.”