The England international also fears he or a City team-mate could miss the World Cup if stronger action is not taken to prevent potentially damaging challenges.
A number of the Premier League leaders’ players have been on the receiving end of controversial tackles in recent months, with manager Pep Guardiola repeatedly calling for referees to provide better protection.
Last weekend Leroy Sane was caught by a late studs-up slide from Cardiff’s Joe Bennett and now faces up to seven weeks out with ankle ligament damage.
In midweek Brahim Diaz escaped injury after being hit high by West Brom’s Matt Phillips while, in the same game, James McClean also made a cynical attempt to foul Kevin De Bruyne before a goal.
Guardiola has made his point often enough that he did not feel the need to revisit the issue as he held a press conference on Friday, but that did not stop one of his key players speaking out.
Sterling, himself hit by a bad tackle from Tottenham’s Harry Kane in December, said: “I find it a bit unfair at times.
“I feel that we haven’t been protected enough in certain situations. I think some of the challenges have been awful.
“It’s not what I expect to see in a top-flight football match, especially when teams are losing and just go out to kick players. I don’t think that’s right.
“I do think we need to cut down on that because we’ve got a World Cup at the end of the year and majority of the players in the top flight, and in our team, will be playing in it and it would be sad to see someone miss the tournament due to a silly tackle and someone get away with it.
“There are going to be challenges that are badly timed and probably not all of them are intentional but at the same time if it’s a dangerous tackle, it’s a dangerous tackle and I think the referees and officials need to cut these tackles out because, as you can see, some of the players are getting butchered, butchered out there and it’s sad to see.”
In terms of his own game, Sterling is enjoying the best season of his career having scored 19 goals and laid on six assists for quadruple-challenging City.
The 23-year-old said: “It’s the environment I’m in. I’m just loving it and hopefully that can keep happening.”
Guardiola said of Sterling’s form: “He’s a young player but I think he has shown amazing things at difficult stages this season.”
City face Burnley on Saturday but then do not play again until hosting Leicester the following Saturday, their longest gap between games since the November international break.
Guardiola will give his players a break.
He said: “From Saturday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon the doors of the CFA (City football Academy) will be closed. We need to not see each other! They can travel, they can do whatever they want. For three days they have to forget a little bit about football.”
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The German World Cup winner is reportedly being paid £350,000-a-week at the Emirates Stadium – a record wage for an Arsenal player.
He is expected to line up with Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who joined from Manchester United in a swap deal for Sanchez – and summer signing Alexandre Lacazette when Everton visit on Saturday.
There could also be space in the side for club-record acquisition Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who came in on deadline day from Borussia Dortmund.
Aubameyang is more likely to start on the bench given his recent arrival and a bout of illness but Wenger – despite seeing his top goalscorers from the past five seasons depart – maintains an embarrassment of attacking riches.
Now the Frenchman wants to see Ozil, signed from Real Madrid for a fee now eclipsed by both Lacazette and Aubameyang, take control of the group.
“Many predicted that he will not commit and not sign for us,” Wenger said of Ozil signing a new deal.
“When you look at the transfer market today, the fact that you can keep a player of that calibre is of course good news.
“The fact that he committed for a longer period shows as well that he will have to do that as well on the pitch and lead the team.
“It means he will be the technical leader of the team. Physically he is much stronger than people think. His distances are quite good. He can run. He is not a tackler. When he is angry he can.”
Ozil could have left for free in the summer as his previous deal expired but, unlike Sanchez who was in the same position, he has stayed put.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 3, 2018
Despite a seemingly huge leap in what Arsenal will now pay in wages, Wenger believes Ozil was the “cheapest” option as he would have had to spend a big fee, and a large wage, to sign a suitable replacement if the 29-year-old walked away for nothing.
“When you let a player go you have to buy somebody of the same calibre and if you add the transfer needed and the wages will be similar,” he added.
“On top of that we have to pay a transfer. So overall I think Mesut for us was the cheapest option. On the other side all of our players are well paid. Very well paid. To feel sorry for them – I’m not sure that it’s the most objective assessment.”
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This is comfortably Manchester United‘s best league campaign since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as a champion in 2013, yet Pep Guardiola‘s swashbuckling side boast an eye-watering 15-point cushion at the summit.
The Reds Devils have been City’s nearest rivals throughout the campaign but Mourinho concedes the gap is almost certainly insurmountable with 13 games remaining, saying United “need points to be the first of the last”.
It was a surprise admission – albeit a realistic one – from the Portuguese, who is focused on cup glory and runners-up spot in a bid to help propel his side to a better challenge next year.
“I always remember when Sir Alex said in 2005-06, when we won the second title with Chelsea, ‘we need to improve a lot because they raised the bar to such a level’,” Mourinho said.
“‘They won two titles in a row, the second title was easier than the first’ and then the biggest manager in the Premier League said ‘we need to improve a lot’. He felt that moment as a click for the improvement of the team.
“In 2006-07, Manchester United wins the title back. It has to be like that.
“We’re doing better than last season and it’s very important for us to do better than last season,” Jose says. “We are trying to win something this season, and if not, we will try to be stronger for next season.” #MUFC pic.twitter.com/cvKdHvAMjn
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 2, 2018
“That’s why I think every match until the end of the season is an important match for us because it is not just about the points and finishing in the top four, which is important.
“But try to finish second, try to play the best we can, try to improve the players individually the best we can, try to be the best possible team in the end of the season.
“And then try to start the Premier League in a good way, like we did this season, but try to be consistent and try not to lose points like we did this season in some matches where we shouldn’t.”
By contrast, City have eked out fortuitous victories thanks to a mixture of skill and determination – attributes Mourinho admires.
But there are aspects about Guardiola’s side that grate on the Portuguese, such as what he feels is a proclivity to go down.
City have not needed any help going to deck recently having been on the end of some nasty challenges that have understandably angered Guardiola and his players, but Mourinho believes refereeing standards are just fine.
“If I was top of the league, you would immediately say I am saying it because I am top of the league and I am very happy,” the United boss said.
“I am not top of the league and I have to say I am happy with the level of performance I am having the season with the referees team.
“Yes, they made mistakes, but I am happy with the level I am having.”
A mistake is what Mourinho believes Maroaune Fellaini could be making if the Belgian does not put pen to paper quickly.
The Belgium international has so far resisted the offer to stay beyond the end of the season and hobbled off with another knee injury shortly after coming on in the midweek loss at Tottenham.
“I told him yesterday ‘sign the contract and shut up’,” Mourinho said with a laugh.
“I told him ‘don’t gamble too much, sign the contract before you know the extent of the injury’.”
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