Rio Ferdinand says he is “baffled” by the form of Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, believing he is struggling after being dropped by Pep Guardiola.

The 26-year-old started on Saturday as Man City were held to a goalless draw by Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.

He thought he had snatched victory with a last-gasp strike but the flag was raised for offside and VAR confirmed the decision.

Guardiola concocts distraction in season requiring laser focus

Saturday’s match was the first time this season Sterling played a full 90 minutes. He has one goal – which came against Norwich – in six appearances so far.

And Manchester United legend Ferdinand has expressed sympathy with Sterling as he goes through a rough patch at club level.

“It’s only because he’s been taken out of the team that he’s lost confidence,” he said on Vibe with Five. “He was on fire. He was producing.

“This guy was the go-to guy when they needed a goal for so many years. All of a sudden, he’s in the wilderness. I’m just baffled by it; I don’t understand it.

“But this is the thing with Pep [Guardiola], he gets it right more often than not, but with this one with Sterling… there must be clubs sitting there going, ‘boy, let me see how this situation pans out because I will take Sterling all day.’

“If I’m Liverpool, I’m buying Sterling tomorrow.”

Sterling enjoyed a wonderful summer with England, helping them reach the final of Euro 2020 by scoring three goals in seven games.

Ferran Torres has been leading the line for Guardiola this season after the club failed to sign a striker in the summer transfer window.

And pundit Tony Cascarino claims City will be ‘hurt’ by their failure to sign a No.9 after Sergio Aguero left the club.

When asked about City’s title chances on talkSPORTCascarino said: “We can only make a judgement really at the end of the season, but I’ve said all along, if you were prepared to pay £100million and a bit more for Harry Kane you definitely wanted a striker.

“You think you need one, because you made a bid for a striker that didn’t go over the line.

“The fact that you didn’t get that striker, now ‘it’s not a problem’, but it was a problem.

“Pep recognised he needed a centre-forward of a certain type. I think by the end of the season it will cost City the title.”

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