Guardiola hails De Bruyne as ruthless City rout Rotherham
Relentless display by Belgian delivers highest margin of victory under Pep
Manchester City required only low gear to rout Rotherham United and coast into the fourth round – 7-0 being the highest margin of victory of the Pep Guardiola reign.
Riyad Mahrez’s 73rd-minute finish was indicative of the contest. When Guardiola’s men wanted to they could inject extra quality and score. So it was when City roved forward and split their visitors apart, Ilkay Gündogan’s pass being finished superbly by the Algerian to make it 5-0.
The standout performer was Kevin De Bruyne, who was making a first start in nearly three weeks following injury. It was only a 10th appearance of the season due to two previous serious knee problems. Guardiola indicated that if De Bruyne can remain fit than City will be even stronger in the latter part of the campaign.
“Without him last season would not have been possible,” Guardiola said of the 100-point, record title-triumph. “[Without him] we have done incredible in terms of results. We have an opponent [Liverpool] that has done better than us. That can happen. We were two seasons without [Benjamin] Mendy, we do not have a substitute for the left-back. He [De Bruyne] is going to give us extra, the creativity in the final third.
“He played an incredible game, created a lot of chances and he has the vision to see what other people cannot see. Last season he played an incredible number of minutes and this season it is just 400 minutes when everyone else plays 2,000.”
Guardiola made eight changes from Thursday’s win over Liverpool, retaining only Ederson, John Stones, and Raheem Sterling.
Paul Warne’s adjustments ran to three as he drafted in Zak Vyner, Anthony Forde and Clark Robertson from Rotherham’s New Year’s Day victory over Preston North End.
An early De Bruyne chip should have been headed in by Gabriel Jesus but from near-in the bar was hit. Later, Sterling ran through but Semi Ajayi did enough to end the danger; then Mahrez smacked the ball over from the right but no blue shirt could finish.
Soon City did strike. Sterling passed to De Bruyne along the left and on continuing his run received the ball back: his finish was precise beyond Marek Rodak.
After the half hour a De Bruyne ball came to Jesus but, again, he lacked composure and miskicked. Before this City had a real scare. Nicolás Otamendi sold Ederson short with a back-pass and the goalkeeper sold Stones shorter, the latter scrambling hard to touch the ball to safety. This proved an augury of a late first-half Rotherham flurry of goal-mouth action as Ederson had to punch one high ball away in an action that left Jon Taylor and Stones floored momentarily.
But, then, Phil Foden showed a killer if lucky touch from a neat Gündogan lob, his attempted control proving a stabbed finish that wrong-footed Rodak.
If this made it difficult what occurred in added time put the Millers to bed. Kyle Walker rolled in a cross and, with Sterling pressuring him, the unfortunate Ajayi turned the ball into his own net.
This was two goals in two minutes and as the second half began Rotherham were surely in damage limitation mode. Wil Vaulks did not suggest this would go well. From a Mahrez scuffed cross the visiting captain might have suffered the embarrassment of conceding a needless penalty but David Coote, the referee, was unmoved. A fourth City goal soon arrived, though. This was made by a swift Sterling run that made a mug of Joe Mattock as the former found an equally impressive layoff to Jesus: this time the Brazilian could not miss.
When De Bruyne fashioned the next opportunity from his relentless self Jesus did spurn this – the ball running between his legs. It was the end of the Belgian’s thoroughbred contribution as Guardiola replaced him on 67 minutes with Philippe Sandler, the 21-year-old making his debut.
Late on Otamendi headed home a Gündogan corner and Leroy Sané, on for De Bruyne, hit the seventh. “I’m pleased the final whistle came,” said Warne. – Guardian
Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring Manchester City’s third in their win over Rotherham United at the Etihad Stadium yesterday.