Raheem Sterling says Manchester City are motivated by the pursuit of silverware rather than the promise of breaking more records as the Premier League leaders chase another landmark at Crystal Palace this weekend.
Pep Guardiola’s side have already turned the title race into a lengthy coronation party after winning 18th successive league matches to open up a 15-point lead over second placed Manchester United.
A slew of statistical milestones have littered red-hot City’s incredible run and they can finish 2017 by claiming another notable feat.
Just hours before the New Year’s Eve fireworks begin to light up the night sky on Sunday, unbeaten City will be at Selhurst Park looking for a record-equalling 19th consecutive league victory.
The only club in Europe’s five biggest leagues to have had a winning run that long is Bayern Munich under Guardiola in 2013-14.
But, while the historic sub-plots are a welcome bonus, City winger Sterling insists it is the thought of moving another step closer to the Premier League trophy that inspires his side.
“I don’t think everyone is really too focused on records. The most important thing is the three points,” said Sterling, who scored City’s winner at Newcastle on Wednesday.
“Once you win the game and the stats come up, that’s all well and great, but you can’t be thinking about that.
“We’ve just got to have a single focus. At the end of the day, if it happens, it happens, but we need to go there with the mentality to get the job done.”
Carvalhal was sacked by second-tier Sheffield Wednesday on Christmas Eve, but Swansea surprisingly chose the Portuguese coach to replace Paul Clement, who lost his job on December 20 with the club languishing at the bottom of the Premier League.
The Welsh club said Carvalhal’s contract included the option of an extension at the end of the season.
“We felt we needed to get the managerial situation resolved as soon as possible and while the timing is not always perfect, we can look forward to the second half of the campaign with renewed optimism,” Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said.
To convince Swansea to keep him beyond this season, Carvalhal might have to save his new club from relegation.
They sit five points from safety and bottom of the table with no wins in their last four matches after a 5-0 thrashing at Liverpool on Tuesday.
Carvalhal is Swansea’s fifth permanent manager in two years and his move to the Liberty Stadium might not inspire much confidence from the club’s frustrated fans.
He led Wednesday to the Championship play-offs in the last two seasons, but lost his job with the Yorkshire side after an eight-game winless run left them well outside the top six.
Jenkins is confident Carvalhal can rescue Swansea, saying: “We are very pleased with the appointment.
“Carlos’ time at Sheffield Wednesday, which included securing two consecutive play-off places, highlighted that he has great character and personality to lead the squad and the football club, which is vital at such a crucial time,” Jenkins said.
“He has built up a lot of experience over the years which will ensure the team is structured and organised.
“He is driven and ambitious and, while he has a big challenge ahead of him, I know he will tackle it without fear.”
Leon Britton had been working as a player-caretaker manager, but Carvalhal hasn’t announced if the long-serving Swansea midfielder will stay on the coaching staff.
City stretched their commanding advantage at the top to 15 points over Manchester United as Raheem Sterling sealed a 1-0 win at Newcastle to record an 18th consecutive league victory, one short of Bayern Munich’s current best for Europe’s top five leagues of 19 straight wins.
United manager Mourinho attempted to provoke Guardiola on Tuesday after pointing to their rivals’ huge spending power by claiming “City buy full-backs for the price of strikers” and insisting that the £300 million ($402 million) he has spent since taking charge at Old Trafford 18 months ago as “not enough”.
Mourinho paid £93 million to sign France midfielder Paul Pogba, while also recruiting £30 million defender Eric Bailly, and midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan for £26.3 million.
This year, United spent £75 million on striker Romelu Lukaku, as well as £31 million on defender Victor Lindelof and £40 million for midfielder Nemanja Matic.
In comparison, City bought three defenders — Kyle Walker from Tottenham for an initial £45 million, Benjamin Mendy from Monaco for £52 million and Danilo from Real Madrid for £26.5 million as part of a summer outlay that topped £200 million.
When asked about the comments made by the Portuguese, Guardiola said: “I’m so delighted to be here to speak about what happened on the pitch.
“About what happened with my colleague speaking off the pitch in the press conference, I’m not the right guy. You want to talk about what happened today on the pitch, I will answer.”
18 victorias consecutivas//18 wins in a row 🔥🔥🔥 C’mon, City! pic.twitter.com/YPnecDbUtY
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) December 27, 2017
City remain on course to win the title in record time after equalling Chelsea’s English top flight record of 11 consecutive away wins.
But Guardiola will await medical updates on Vincent Kompany, after the injury-prone skipper limped off with a recurrence of a long-term calf problem.
City face a minimum of eight games in 34 days in a hectic start to the New Year, and Guardiola added: “Of course we are happy to break records but when we prepare for games we don’t speak about them. Until now, we have found a way to win.
“I saw the schedule in my office the other day and I wanted to escape, because it’s terrible. The games we are going to play, it’s tough.
“We’ve played all these games in December then in January you have the Carabao Cup and FA Cup and then the return of the Champions League in February.
“It will be tough but it will also be tough for our opponents.”
Guardiola’s opposite number Rafa Benitez hit back at criticism of his negative approach after his team slid to a fifth consecutive home defeat, Newcastle’s worst run at St James’ Park for 64 years to leave them just a point above the bottom three after one win in their last 11 matches.
Substitute Dwight Gayle almost snatched a dramatic late equaliser to in-part justify the manager’s ultra-cautious approach, and the Spaniard said: “We were in the game until the end and very close to getting a point against a very good team.”
Newcastle face the key visit of relegation rivals Brighton before the turn of the year, and Benitez added: “We have a couple of games in the space of a few days against teams near the bottom of the table and hopefully we’ll have some of our injured players back before then.”