Pep Guardiola has no regrets about his decision after Manchester City’s treble pursuit came to an end in the FA Cup semi-finals against rivals Liverpool on Saturday in London.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s team lost 3-2 at Wembley Stadium after making seven changes.
It was the squad that survived a punishing UEFA Champions League match against Atletico Madrid in midweek.
One of those substitutions saw second-choice goalkeeper Zack Steffen replace Ederson.
Manchester City were 3-0 down at the halftime break, with Mane volleying in a second on the stroke of half-time.
Guardiola, however, defended his players and was pleased with their response in the second half.
The Spaniard said: “I have a lot of confidence in my players and selections. I trust a lot of them.
“We had a terrible run of fixtures and travel and a lot of important games. That’s why we needed fresh legs.
“We started well but after one set-piece, where Liverpool are so strong, and the second was an accident, it was tough.
“Then we conceded a third in the last minute of the first half.
“In the first half we were so passive, we were scared to support people when we went there. But in the second half, we had the momentum, we had the clearest chances.”
Guardiola was particularly supportive of Steffen, who dwelt too long on a backpass from Nathan Ake and lost control, allowing Mane to slide in and score.
He said: “It’s an accident, it happens. Edi (Ederson) was close (to making a similar mistake) in the last game (against Liverpool) as well.
“We need that to create our football. Mane was quicker and that’s all.
“I’m pretty sure Zack didn’t want to do it. Sometimes strikers miss chances in front of goalkeepers, but goalkeepers are punished more.”
Injuries, according to Guardiola, limited his selection options.
Substitutes Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan sat out due to injuries, and Kyle Walker did not play at all.
The Spaniard has little time to linger on the subject, as the leaders’ focus returns to their Premier League championship campaign with the visit of Brighton on Wednesday.
Guardiola said: “When you play a lot of games, and you don’t have that big a squad, it is difficult.
“When everybody is fit, it’s OK. But when we have a few injuries, it is not enough.
“We’ve had Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool in a short time.
“We can rotate some players but we know when we arrive at this stage of the season and you are fighting for the titles there is no time to rest.”