Pep Guardiola felt Raheem Sterling delivered a timely reminder of his abilities after scoring in Manchester City’s convincing 3-0 win over Everton on Sunday.
The England forward bagged the opening goal in what proved to be a comfortable afternoon job for the champions at the Etihad Stadium.
It was the 26-year-old’s first strike in the Premier League since August in a frustrating start to the season at club level.
Sterling has been unable to secure a regular starting spot and as his contract expires at the end of next season, there is speculation about his future.
City boss Guardiola said: “He needed that and in the first half he was an important player.
“He scored another brilliant goal, from an exceptional pass by Joao (Cancelo). He played a good game in a difficult one, because they defended very well.”
Guardiola also had praise for 19-year-old Cole Palmer, who shone on his first Premier League start and played in the false nine position for most of the game.
Guardiola said: “The striker’s position is the most difficult, but as the game went on he felt more at ease.
“He gave a good assist, it was a good performance.
“He already has 90 minutes in the Premier League in mind (now). It’s an incredible investment for the future.”
City were dominant throughout, with further goals from Rodri and Bernardo Silva.
Guardiola said: “It was really good, we are very happy. The last times we played against Rafa Benitez in Newcastle, we always had a hard time.
“We were better today, had few chances and were patient.”
Everton offered little in terms of attack, but manager Benitez took positives from the way his side maintained their organization throughout the period.
Benitez said: “Of course you have to be disappointed at the end, but in terms of performance we were well organized and defended intensely.
“We weren’t a threat on the counter that we expected. We had two or three situations where we weren’t doing enough.
“The first goal changed everything. We had chances on the counter, but we didn’t create well. It wasn’t easy. You can pay for every mistake.”