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Fernandinho thinks Manchester City showed their desire to retain title

Fernandinho believes Manchester City are showing their champion qualities as they fight “like animals” to retain the Premier League title.

City returned to the top of the table with a vital victory over rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

The 2-0 win, from what was a crucial game in hand, took City a point above Liverpool with three matches remaining for both sides.

It was also their 11th successive league win and came after a similarly important victory over Tottenham, which in turn was a fine response to the disappointment of Champions League elimination.

“We showed the desire in competing for every ball like animals,” said City midfielder Fernandinho. “I think this is the spirit of a team that wants to be champions.

“It was not just Wednesday – in general every game, especially last Saturday, after the ‘defeat’ against Tottenham, in the way we played from the first minute.

“If you look back to January, they (Liverpool) could have been 10 points clear after our game. We didn’t want that.

“We reduced the gap to four points and now we are one point up. That is the way the Premier League is going to be decided and I hope we can do our job and win those three games, and be champions again.”

The derby, settled with second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane, was regarded as the toughest hurdle left facing City in their run-in.

Yet with the lead just a slender one, Fernandinho is aware there is still little room for error.

Liverpool, who face Huddersfield on Friday, could even be back at the summit before City play their next game at Burnley on Sunday.

The Brazilian said: “Burnley are always difficult. They have a specific way to play and it is not easy to go there. They drew with Chelsea last Monday.

“We have to recover as soon as possible and try to be fit and be ready. It is going to be a very important, very difficult game for us.”

Fernandinho is a fitness doubt himself after being withdrawn early in the second half on Wednesday with a knee problem. He was due to have a scan and be assessed ahead of the weekend.

The 33-year-old plays a key role with one of his jobs being to offer the back four protection. He felt the defensive side of the team functioned superbly against United.

He said: “The important thing we talked about before the game was we cannot concede any goals, because we have the players up front who can score the goals for us.

“In any action they can create any chances and score goals, and that is what happened.

“The first half was a little bit weird for us because we couldn’t find the space we find every game but in the second half we found the space and created a lot of chances to score.

“Finally we scored two goals. It was a massive three points.”