City show their class as Millers suf­fer Cup thrash­ing


Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Leon Wobschall AT ETI­HAD STA­DIUM [email protected]­me­ @LeonWobYP

RECOG­NISED in the re­cent New Year’s Hon­ours list, Rother­ham United chair­man Tony Ste­wart ad­mit­ted to al­most ‘fall­ing off his chair’ af­ter be­ing in­formed by his wife Joan about his OBE award.

Po­si­tioned in the di­rec­tors box at the Eti­had, he will have re­mained glumly rooted in his seat yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, while those with Lan­cas­trian blood around him were on their feet at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals as City ef­fort­lessly cruised into round four.

The blue aris­to­crats of Manch­ester may have slipped on a Cup ba­nana-skin or two in pre­vi­ous years against lower-divi­sion opp­po­nents in the shape of Wi­gan and Mid­dles­brough, but this was an Eti­had af­ter­noon very much in keep­ing with a num­ber of vis­its from White Rose sides in the cur­rent decade.

Barns­ley, Sh­effield Wednes­day, Hull City and Leeds United have all been on the re­ceiv­ing end of cup beat­ings at the hands of City and the mauled Millers, whose play­ers’ minds were fraz­zled long be­fore the end, were the lat­est un­wanted en­try.

The speed of thought and cute­ness on the ball in terms of move­ment and close con­trol of those in sky blue was some­thing that Rother­ham’s brow­beaten play­ers will have never ex­pe­ri­enced in their ca­reers to date.

The gulf in class be­tween a side who named just six sub­sti­tutes and one who could af­ford to give the likes of David Silva and Ser­gio Aguero the day off and still stack their bench with the likes of Leroy Sane and Fer­nand­inho was a wide chasm.

Per­haps with mem­o­ries of his side’s hu­mil­i­at­ing cup exit to Wi­gan last term firmly at the fore­front of their minds too, City and their man­ager Pep Guardi­ola were deadly se­ri­ous about yes­ter­day’s date – and it was the Millers’ mis­for­tune to cross their path.

Granted, the Cup can do funny things, with the last Millers side to visit City in this com­pe­ti­tion back in the win­ter of dis­con­tent of early 1979 fa­mously se­cur­ing a re­play fol­low­ing a 0-0 draw against the top-flight Blues at their old Maine Road home be­fore bow­ing out 4-2 in a Mill­moor re­play.

But City were in no mood for up­sets or an ex­tra game to add to their itin­er­ary. Less so Guardi­ola, with the FA Cup be­ing the one do­mes­tic prize he has not pock­eted af­ter swap­ping Mu­nich for Manch­ester.

What truly stuck out re­gard­ing the hosts was their re­lent­less at­ti­tude and work-rate, with their in­ten­sity lev­els – even with pro­gres­sion to round four pretty much in the bag af­ter Ra­heem Ster­ling’s early opener.

It spoke vol­umes about Guardi­ola’s fe­ro­cious pur­suit of ex­cel­lence across the board, no mat­ter what the com­pe­ti­tion.

No sec­ond-tier side – and a fair few in the Premier League – would have surely lived with City in this mood, with Warne’s side likely to af­ford them­selves with that sense of per­spec­tive when the dust quickly set­tles.

That was some­thing duly ac­knowl­edged by the Millers’ 6,200 con­tin­gent too, with their non­stop sup­port, warm ap­plause and pick-me-up to the chas­tened away play­ers at the fi­nal whis­tle not the sort usu­ally re­served for a side who had just lost 7-0.

But this was an af­ter­noon apart, with Rother­ham’s ap­point­ment at Port­man Road on Sat­ur­day be­ing of more con­se­quence than yes­ter­day’s cup date in the grander scheme of things. This was a day out, al­beit a bloody one.

It was soon ev­i­dent that City were highly charged in their quest to light up a typ­i­cally murky Manch­ester af­ter­noon.

Gabriel Je­sus nod­ded an early ‘gimme’ against the cross­bar, but it was not long be­fore cap­tain­for-the-day Kevin de Bruyne and Ster­ling be­witched the Millers down their right – with the lat­ter fir­ing home em­phat­i­cally af­ter cut­ting in­side Semi Ajayi.

To their credit, the Millers dug in for a spell and some ca­sual play at the back in­volv­ing Ni­co­las Ota­mendi and Eder­son al­most let in Jon Tay­lor for a tap-in, only for a York­shire­man in John Stones to be alert to the dan­ger.

Any fleet­ing hope soon dis­si­pated as the hosts struck like a vi- per in quick suc­ces­sion.

Ilkay Gun­do­gan started his med­ley of four as­sists by pick­ing out Phil Fo­den af­ter Ryan Williams switched off, with the home­grown teenager – la­belled the ‘Stock­port Ini­esta’ by the City faith­ful – bundling in his first goal at the Eti­had off his knee.

It was a scruffy mo­ment in iso- la­tion, given such an el­e­gant dis­play from City, who added a third when Ajayi rammed Kyle Walker’s cross into his own net.

Strug­gling with a cold for the past week, Paul Warne – who donned a natty Peaky Blin­ders style flat cap on the touch­line for the oc­ca­sion – elected to wear a coat to pro­tect him from the ele- ments in the sec­ond half. But it could not shield him or his side from a sus­tained cool City blast.

Ster­ling bam­boo­zled Zac Vyner be­fore set­ting up Gabriel Je­sus for a tap-in, with the Millers avoid­ing fur­ther pain be­fore the hosts’ on­slaught in the fi­nal quar­ter of the game.

Ex­hi­bi­tion play saw Riyad Mahrez and Gun­do­gan ex­change passes be­fore the for­mer steered the ball home be­fore a tough af­ter­noon got a whole lot worse.

City’s sixth was a mo­ment Warne will not have es­pe­cially liked with Ota­mendi ris­ing above Clark Robert­son to power home Gun­do­gan’s outswing­ing cor­ner.

There was still time for Ger- man in­ter­na­tional Leroy Sane – a half-de­cent re­place­ment for Ster­ling – to fire in a de­flected sev­enth fol­low­ing an­other as­sist from his in­ter­na­tional and club team-mate Gun­do­gan be­fore time was mer­ci­fully called.

There was no in­jury time played, a rare mo­ment of clemency for the Millers.

MAG­NIF­I­CENT SEVEN: Manch­ester City’s Phil Fo­den cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing one of his side’s goals in their 7-0 FA Cup vic­tory over Rother­ham United. Man­agers Paul Warne and Pep Guardi­ola shake hands, left, while Leroy Sane and Zak Vyner com­pete, right.

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