Pep Guardiola insisted he was not being sarcastic when he shook the hand of the referee after Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.
The City boss appeared to thank Michael Oliver for his performance in a theatrical way after the final whistle at Anfield.
Guardiola had been enraged during the Premier League clash as his side were twice denied penalties for possible handballs against Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The first was the most controversial, coming immediately before Fabinho opened the scoring. The second came late on as City rallied in response to further goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
“It was not sarcastic,” Guardiola said. “I say, ‘Thank you so much’ all the time. I said the same at Tottenham game at home. All the time I go to referees I say thank you so much.”
City’s late rally did produce a reply from Bernardo Silva but Premier League leaders Liverpool did not surrender an advantage that saw them move nine points clear of the champions.
The result left City in fourth place, also behind Leicester and Chelsea, but Guardiola – becalmed by the time he held his post-match press conference – spoke of his pride at the performance.
The Spaniard said: “Today we showed in the most difficult stadium in the world the reasons we are champions, (it was) one of the proudest performances of my career.
“Unfortunately we lost, but congratulations to Jurgen (Klopp) and this fantastic team for the victory. It was a good game for both sides, for the Premier League, for the billions of people who watched this game it was good advertising.
“Maybe you have to buy Jurgen and myself a bottle of wine for that!
“We tried, but we can’t expect not to concede chances at Anfield.
“We created more than ever and I’m so proud to be manager of these players.”
Guardiola refused to be drawn when asked about the controversial refereeing decisions.
He said: “You’ll have to ask (referees chief) Mike Riley and the big bosses about that. I’m not here to talk about the decisions over the referees or VAR. Don’t ask me, ask them.”
Guardiola will not give up on a third successive title and hopes his players learn from the experience.
He said: “There are three teams in front of us who have more of a chance to win the Premier League but hopefully we can sustain this mentality and try.
“If in the end it’s not enough we’ll congratulate Liverpool, Leicester or Chelsea.
“How we react is the process we have to learn. I don’t have regrets.”