Kevin de Bruyne: I need time to get my rhythm back for Manchester City
Belgian midfielder confesses to doubts and worries as he returns to action following knee injury for the Premier League champions
Kevin de Bruyne admitted he struggled mentally after suffering a second knee injury in three months.
And while the Manchester City midfielder is a month into his latest comeback, he feels is not yet ready to start a game every three days.
De Bruyne, who was first hurt in training in August, began a Premier League game for just the second time this season in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
While he helped set up City’s second goal, which was scored by Raheem Sterling, he accepts he is yet to touch the heights he reached last season.
He said: “I try to do my best and try to come back in the form I was in last year. But if you play every three days, I’m not used to it for the moment, and I just need the time to get used to it and get in my rhythm.
“It’s more difficult if you play a week, then it’s seven or eight days you don’t play and then you play again. You get the rhythm, but not the rhythm you need to play every three days.
"You need a run of games where you play a lot. I’m getting better. I’m happy with the way I’m performing. It’s not the same record as last year, but you can expect that because I’ve been out since the World Cup.”
De Bruyne, who was an unused substitute in the victory over Liverpool and only came on for the final half-hour of Monday’s 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, has been eased back into the team by Pep Guardiola.
If the City manager is taking precautions, De Bruyne has revealed he struggled after he was hurt in November’s League Cup tie against Fulham.
“I’ve been out for nearly six months so I think the second time was more difficult mentally because I was really ready to perform well,” he said.
“I was doing well, I think, then somebody [Fulham’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah] fell on my knee and you have to restart again. To come back twice is not mentally not that easy, but I’m happy to be back playing again.”
Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final second leg against Burton could give De Bruyne another chance to build up his fitness. He scored the first of City’s nine goals in the first leg, and Guardiola is expected to make changes.
Aided by the nine against Burton, City brought up a century of goals in all competitions against Huddersfield as well as registering an 18th win in 23 league games. It still left them four points behind leaders Liverpool.
“It’s quite remarkable because in a lot of seasons you would already be 10 or 12 points ahead, but this season is tight,” noted De Bruyne.
City are on course to get 93 points, a total topped by only two Premier League champions, and which would be a record for runners-up.
It could give them a unique distinction, but De Bruyne said: “Then you would just have to take it and say ‘we had a good season, but someone was better’ and congratulate someone else.
"We try to do the best as possible and but in the end if Liverpool get more points it is because they deserve it. Obviously you always want to win it, but if you get a season where you’re runners-up with 90 points there’s not a lot you can say afterwards.”
City were training on Saturday when Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 4-3 and De Bruyne explained: “We follow it a little bit, but you can’t follow it all because we have a life besides that.
"We try to do everything we can on the pitch but after that, everyone has families, so you just have to live with whatever comes.”
Updated: January 22, 2019 08:12 AM