Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City are no longer good enough to take on the best teams in the world.
City's chances of defending their Premier League title and making it a historic hat-trick of wins were left in ruins following Saturday's shock derby defeat at the Etihad.
Manchester United ripped the champions to pieces to secure a deserved 2-1 win thanks to first half goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
Guardiola's men now trail league leaders Liverpool by a staggering 14 points before Christmas and face a desperate battle to finish in the top four – let alone be crowned kings of English football again.
City could still go on to win the Champions League to make it a successful campaign and have cruised into the knockout stages as group winners with a game to spare.
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But Guardiola has delivered a damning assessment of his struggling side that will stun his Etihad bosses, by insisting City cannot compete with the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid and Juventus.
The Spaniard said: "The reality is we are 14 points behind because of the mistakes we have done. So we need to live that as a club, to be better.
"We are not able to be consistent like we were in the last two seasons, so that is the reality and you have to help the players. But that is the level we face against Liverpool, United, Barcelona, (Real) Madrid, Juventus.
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"These are the teams we have to face and the reality is that maybe we are not able to compete with them, so we have to improve and accept it and move forward."
United exposed City on the counter-attack and Guardiola reckons this has become his team's biggest weakness following a summer in which he failed to sign a new centre back.
But he is refusing to change his philosophy and added: "When I ask the players to try to play this way, it is the way we played all last season and this season as well, so I am not new to knowing when you play this way you have to avoid the counter-attacks.
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"We were so good in that in the recent past and this season sometimes we have struggled a little bit.
"I like the approach we have to the game, as a team. We try to play, we try to arrive in the final third, how many times we arrive at the edge of the box with one against one or one against two.
"United have the quality to defend and the quality to attack on the counter-attack – and you have to accept that. But that is the level we face. Maybe we need to live that as a club to improve, to accept the reality now and improve. That is all."
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