Pep Guardiola insisted Leroy Sane’s omission from Manchester City’s matchday 18 for the 2-1 win over Newcastle United was purely a tactical decision.
Sane was named PFA Young Player of the Year last season as City stormed to the Premier League title with a 100-point haul.
He was surprisingly cut from Germany’s World Cup squad and found himself restricted to substitute cameos in City’s opening three Premier League games – with his brief outing in the 1-1 draw at Wolves last weekend particularly error-strewn.
The former Schalke youngster was consigned to the stands, alongside long-term injury victim Kevin De Bruyne, at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker got City back to winning ways.
Guardiola felt Sane’s performances in pre-season training were sub-standard but, amid suggestions of a him being unhappy with the winger’s attitude, the City manager told BT Sport there was no need for alarm and later claimed to be “sad” for the player at his post-match news conference.
“Another day it will maybe by Rash [Sterling] out or Riyad [Mahrez] or Bernardo [Silva] or Sergio [Aguero] or Gabriel [Jesus],” Guardiola said.
“We have six strikers. We have many and we have to take those decisions for the way the opponents play and what I see every day. That is the reason why.
“Leroy was so important for us last season and hopefully this season he will be important.”
Speaking at his media briefing, Guardiola added: “Last game Phil Foden was not in the squad and it was so sad for Phil, and I’m so sad for Leroy now.
“In the next games he will be ready to play.”
Newcastle have taken one point from their opening four fixtures, although a trio of 2-1 defeats to Tottenham, Chelsea and City could leave Rafael Benitez ruing his luck.
The Magpies boss told BT Sport his team’s display gave him cause for optimism.
“The main thing was the mentality of the team. We were working so hard and that is something to be positive about for the future,” Benitez said.
“We were close to getting something and that has to be a good thing. For me, as a manager, I am really proud of my players.”