Manchester City's English Duo Impress in Victory over Sunderland

Ieuan BeynonCorrespondent IIIOctober 9, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  James Milner of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's third goal with team-mate Micah Richards (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester City got their first real convincing win of the season this weekend, with a 3-0 defeat of a Sunderland side that had started the season in solid style.

The performance had glimpses of the City side that we saw winning the title in such dramatic fashion last term.

Two players were of real note for City as they made their way back into Roberto Mancini’s lineup, one after returning from injury and one returning from the wilderness after struggling to get a chance in recent weeks.

I am, of course, talking about Micah Richards and James Milner.

Richards, making his long awaited return after suffering an ankle injury while training with Team GB in the run-up to the Olympics, played in the centre of defence in place of captain Vincent Kompany who was out due to a calf strain.

His presence, particularly at set plays was a massive boost for City, as the athletic Richards was denied a goal on more than one occasion by some last-ditch Sunderland defending.

But it was having Richards pace back in defence that made all the difference. Gael Clichy apart, the Blues back line didn’t really have a naturally quick player without the England international.


The question now is: In what position will Mancini chose to play Richards?

He did a more than adequate job at centre-back on Saturday, and Pablo Zabaleta seems to be a clutch player for City at right-back at the moment.

Could he be paired alongside Kompany and the foundations of a new partnership be built upon? Or will Mancini keep his faith with Joleon Lescott and Matija Nastasic?

If anything, Micah Richards gives you options, and with the defence looking shaky in the opening weeks of the season, it was no fluke that Richards' return coincided with City’s first clean sheet of the season.

Then there is James Milner, Milner has been very unlucky this season not to see more playing time at the Etihad.

Saturday he started alongside Gareth Barry in the centre of midfield for City with Yaya Toure pushed further forward.

This is where I believe Milner, with his all-action style, is at his best. His energy and tackling are suited to the centre, where he can win more of the ball and play it forward to City’s more skilled assets.

His display against Sunderland was even topped off with a goal as his free-kick skimmed the top of Craig Gardener’s head and into the net in the last minute of the game.

There could be a real chance for Milner to stake a claim to become a permanent fixture within the middle of the park for City, Javi Garcia has made a poor start to his career in a City shirt and looks lost in the frenetic pace of the Premier League.

City cannot afford to be light in midfield with the attacking style that they play and Milner will bring you a presence, with Barry acting as City’s security policy.

With Garcia struggling to adapt, although given time he will, and Jack Rodwell, who is raw but very talented, City have good options in midfield.

So City impress for the first time probably since the Newcastle victory at the back end of last season and it is largely thanks to the influence of two young English players…what was that you were saying again, Adam Johnson?


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