Pep Guardiola has praised Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Raheem Sterling for their reaction to being left out of the starting XI to face Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Guardiola sprang a surprise with his team selection at the Santiago Bernabeu, as Manchester City came from behind to win 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Sterling entered the fray as a second-half substitute, winning the penalty that Kevin De Bruyne converted to complete the visitors' comeback.
Aguero and Silva were not involved at all in Madrid, with Guardiola reserving special praise for the Argentina international.
"In these three guys, the behaviour in the locker room was an incredible exception, specifically these three players," he said.
"It was exceptional. I'm so proud about the reaction they had, knowing they wanted to play, of course, I understand that.
"Sergio was incredible, honestly, I never could express my gratitude and my thanks to him, to understand me a little bit and to help the team, being a legend as he is for what he has done for this club.
"I need him; we need him. I know he is ready to help us, and David as well, and even John [Stones], and Oleks [Zinchenko], and Eric [Garcia] as well, on the bench. My complete gratitude. I would love all the players to be like them."
City will be looking to win their first piece of silverware of the season when they take on Aston Villa in the League Cup final on Sunday.
"Of course, it's better, it's much better to go to play a final after a good result in Madrid but we cannot live a final thinking how good we were," Guardiola continued.
"[The tie] is not done, first of all. Always I thought that it's incredibly difficult to win at big, big clubs, but it's an incredible challenge, more difficult to beat them twice.
"Normally, it doesn't happen. The big clubs can lose one game, but two? Rarely, it's not often. But it helps. "In football, teams are a state of emotion. It's better to go to play a final not just with results but with the character, the way we played."
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