The Spaniard evaded a number of questions about the future of the England international but did suggest he could force his way back into the reckoning at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola was keen to avoid discussing his decision to drop Joe Hart for his first game as Manchester City manager, but did offer the goalkeeper hope that he can win back his place from Willy Caballero.
Hart’s place as City No.1 came under threat back in April when the club’s interest in Barcelona’s Marc Andre Ter Stegen first came to light, and it is understood there is still an intention to bring in a new signing capable of nailing down a place between the posts.
The decision to use Caballero rather than Hart on Saturday, however, was taken badly by a number of City fans who believe that the Argentine keeper is not noticeably better than the England international with the ball at his feet.
But Guardiola, speaking in his post-match press conference, explained why he plumped for Caballero, even though he was asked directly why Hart was not called upon.
“I think Willy made a very good pre-season, really really good,” he said, clearly in little mood to discuss Hart’s personal situation. “He gave me for today a lot of confidence, with his build-up play, his personality, and that’s why I chose him.”
The Catalan was determined not be lured into discussing whether Hart will make his way back into the line-up in the future, least of all for next week’s Champions League play-off against Steaua Bucharest.
“Of course he can play,” he replied. But when asked if he will definitely start, Guardiola responded: “No. He can play. If he will I don’t know. All the players in the squad can play.
“Normally when we have a game I am just focused on this game. I have never seen one game by Steaua. Until now it’s Sunderland, Sunderland, Sunderland and what we have to do. Now, tomorrow morning I’m going to start to see and decide what is best for the team. That’s all.”
The new City boss did open up slightly, however, when it was put to him that he used to rotate his goalkeepers during his time at Barcelona.
“Yes at Barcelona it was like this and in Bayern Munich it was not like this,” he interjected, midway through the question. “It was always Manuel Neuer playing. I didn’t think about that.”
On Friday, Guardiola admitted that Hart was not yet up to scratch, but suggested that with time he may be able to adapt his game.
The suspicion, however, is that Hart does not have sufficient time to work his way into Guardiola’s plans, even if the manager once again hinted that it could be a matter of time before he returns.
“Today I needed it because I thought Sunderland would play high pressing, and Willy had more training sessions than Joe about our build-up,” he continued.
“We spent a lot, a lot of time working two-against-one, three-against-two, four-against-three, using the goalkeeper, but it doesn’t mean that Joe cannot do that. No. I’m not talking about that. Just today, I decide for that reason.
“I have a lot of respect for Joe, I have a lot of respect for his career, I know how good a goalkeeper he is, but today I decide for Willy, that’s all.”