Raheem Sterling’s improvement at Manchester City since Pep Guardiola took the reins at the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2016 has been remarkable.
A different manager may have decided to recoup some of the £49 million that City had paid Liverpool for the England international after his frustrating debut season followed by a disastrous Euro 2016 campaign.
However, amid all of the heavy criticism, Guardiola sent Sterling a reassuring text message: “Don't worry, I know you're a good player. As long as you work for me, I'll fight for you.”
Fast-forward almost two-and-a-half years and Sterling is now a key player for Man City and England, and widely regarded as one of the Premier League’s best forwards, thanks largely to Guardiola’s influence.
The 23-year-old scored a magnificent 23 goals in 46 games last season and has seven goals in 14 appearances so far this term.
Sterling failed to add to his tally during Sunday’s Manchester derby against United - which City won 3-1 - but he still worked hard and lasted the full 90 minutes as a result.
Towards the end of the game, though, Sterling found himself involved in a spat with United playmaker Juan Mata.
Mata took it upon himself to give Sterling a dressing down for showboating (which the video HERE) in front of Marouane Fellaini and Alexis Sanchez moments earlier.
Guardiola also had a word with Sterling for the same reasons as soon as the full-time whistle went.
“I like a lot when he played [but] the best way to defend a result is to keep the ball,” Guardiola was quoted as saying by the Mirror. “He made some movements with the legs, we can avoid it but he is young, he can improve.”
However, Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer - writing in his latest column for The Sun - believes Mata was wrong to berate Sterling for using skill to retain possession.
“As for the incident with Red Devils’ sub Juan Mata not being happy with Raheem Sterling for showboating at the end... deal with it,” Shearer wrote.
“Sterling has earned it with his and City’s performance.
“You’ve just played them off the park so why not enjoy yourself?
“Just avoid being booted up in the air for it!”
It’s hard to disagree with Shearer, even though Mata is one of the nicest and most down-to-earth footballers around.
Sterling has every right to use skill at any point during a football match.
Football is all about entertainment and the City fans loved seeing their No. 7 showing off his skills when the team were 3-1 up and seconds away from full-time.
It’s not as if he lost the ball, either; he won a corner for his team.
When Mata looks back and reflects on what happened, he might feel he overstepped the mark by ordering Sterling to show United more respect.