Pep Guardiola aimed at dig at Rafa Benitez as Manchester City made it 18 Premier League wins in a row with a 1-0 victory at Newcastle.
Sterling’s 31st-minute strike was all the leaders had to show for a dominant display in front of a crowd of 52,311 at St James’ Park as the Magpies’ ultra-conservative approach frustrated them despite their wealth of possession.
But ultimately it was enough on a night when Rafael Benitez’s men slipped to a fifth successive home defeat for the first time since 1953, and it might have been worse had referee Andre Marriner taken a dimmer view of Jacob Murphy’s fist-half challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.
“We did absolutely everything but it is difficult to play when the other team doesn’t want to play,” Guardiola told Sky Sports.
“In the last minutes we played in their rhythm and then it was not easy because it is not over at 1-0 – we created enough chances to win 2-0, 3-0, 4-0.
“Always you have to expect this kind of situation – and it is not always easy to maintain that level.
“But we have more points and we are now 15 in front and we can now focus on our next game.
“Any manager can decide what he wants – I prefer to try to play but I respect a lot what opponents do and we have to try to discover how to attack against them.
“Raheem Sterling is scoring a lot and is playing good – so we are happy with that.”