Manchester City’s Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure calls for the ball during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Manchester City at Selhurst Park in south London on November 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLLY GREENWOOD
Pep Guardiola declared Yaya Toure is back to stay in the Manchester City squad after the midfielder’s two goals earned a 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.
Guardiola had been scathing about Toure’s fitness levels earlier this season and had not given the Ivory Coast midfielder even one minute on the pitch since a Champions League preliminary round tie in August.
With the likes of David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan returning tired from international duty and with a vital Champions League week coming up, the City boss handed Toure a belated chance in his Premier League line-up on Saturday and he responded in style.
“I would say that Yaya’s performance is not about my decision. It is about his quality,” Guardiola said.
“Yaya’s a normal guy. His emotions are quiet so he was calm before the game.
“Yaya has trained really well for the last month-and-a-half, two months. His physical condition, his weight is better than ever and I’m so happy for him and especially his family.
“I’m so happy because he’s now a real part of the team. He can help us to achieve our targets because we need all our players in order to achieve our targets.
“And now we have Yaya. He was in training every day with us and I’m so happy for that, so glad, not (just) for today’s performance. Now he is ready as the player who can play with us again.
“I am happy that is comfortable for him, and especially his family, his wife. Yaya is a very special player. We are very happy he is staying with us and he can play for us like he did today.”
Toure was applauded back into the City changing room after the match by every member of the squad, a reaction that Guardiola described as normal.
“Yaya is a guy who was here for five or six years. He has a lot of experience and a lot of quality,” he said.
“His teammates and the staff appreciate him a lot. So that’s no doubt why they were so happy.”
While Guardiola relaxed with his team level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League, Palace manager Alan Pardew admitted his side’s fifth consecutive league defeat was worrying.
“The priority for us is getting points on the board. We really gifted Man City two goals today from mistakes that led to the first goal and the second goal,” he said.
“Our set-up at corners wasn’t completed and should have been better.
“We should be a top three place set piece team in both boxes and we’re probably in the bottom three so that’s an area we must improve on.
“The Premier League is unforgiving. We got proof of that today. We made a couple of errors and got punished for it.
“From the sidelines it was a game that was very much in the balance. It really could have gone our way today.
“Obviously it hasn’t and we have to accept that and try and improve. That’s all we can do.”
With Palace dangerously close to the relegation zone, Pardew knows his position will come under scrutiny, but he is confident there is time to steady the ship.
“I’m comfortable that it’s so early in the season and we’ve got a good distance to get this team in a good place. They are not far from it,” he said.
“We have games coming up where we need to take some points. The position in the league will put that little bit of added pressure on us and hopefully doesn’t force mistakes like we have seen in the last two games.”