Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne thrill Pep Guardiola as Man City rout Rotherham in FA Cup
Guardiola left happy as Sterling, De Bruyne and Foden all excel in 7-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium
The similarities were there. FA Cup opponents, who were in League One last season, with a manager called Paul? How very Wigan Athletic.
A manager in the dugout, fashionably dressed in a turtle-neck jumper and a flat cap. “We’ve got Guardiola,” chorused the Rotherham fans.
Yet if Paul Warne resembled Pep Guardiola and Rotherham had certain common denominators with the Wigan side, managed by Paul Cook, who ejected Manchester City from last season’s FA Cup, there was no second such shock as they cruised to a 7-0 win in an one-sided third-round clash.
“Premier League teams come here and get a good licking,” said Warne. So did his side as City recorded their biggest win under Guardiola to exorcise some ghosts. “Wigan brought us out of this competition last season and we spoke about that,” said the Catalan.
His team registered seven goals on a day when they could easily have mustered 10. If another outstanding display from Raheem Sterling felt familiar, the welcome element was supplied by Kevin de Bruyne who was in sublime form on just the fifth start of an injury-interrupted campaign.
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“Last season, he played an incredible number of minutes and this season it is just 400 minutes when everyone else plays 2000,” noted Guardiola.
“We have done incredible [without him] but he is going to give us extra: the creativity in the final third, the fight. He has the vision to see what other people cannot see.”
It felt unfair to Rotherham to unleash De Bruyne against them but, restored to the side as captain, he flourished with a trademark combination of urgency and quality, of delicate touches and lung-busting runs.
Sterling, meanwhile, offered another illustration of how productive he has become: his 12th goal of the season came in the 12th minute with an assured finish after he was found by De Bruyne.
It was his 55th of a City career that is only in its fourth campaign and he ended the day on 46 assists, meaning he has already been involved in more than a century of goals.
“I am pretty sure when he is 26 or 27 he will be a much better player,” said Guardiola.
City accumulated quite a haul themselves, but it could have been bigger. They might have been two goals up inside three minutes and four ahead after 10.
Had Gabriel Jesus been more clinical – and Guardiola defended his striker by saying he “made a good, good, good job” – Rotherham’s fate would have been sealed far sooner.
Instead, there was an accidental element as, in Warne’s words “two quick goals finished the tie”. Phil Foden sprang Rotherham’s offside trap to meet Ilkay Gundogan’s chipped pass, but a technician’s poor piece of control deceived goalkeeper Marek Rodak and sent the ball rolling over the line for his first goal at the Etihad Stadium.
“It was fortunate,” said Guardiola. “He wants to control the ball and it touches his knee and goes in. But the pass from Gundogan is incredible.”
Another goal soon followed in inadvertent fashion as Semi Ajayi, under pressure from Sterling, turned Kyle Walker’s cross into his own net.
Jesus eventually found the net after Sterling, with a driving run, afforded him an open goal, which he accepted. Gundogan set up Riyad Mahrez for the fifth and Nicolas Otamendi added an emphatic sixth with a forceful header.
The substitute Leroy Sane’s seventh took a sizeable deflection and, but the overworked Rodak’s fine saves from Mahrez, Jesus and Walker, City may have rewritten more records.
Guardiola was less concerned with distant history than a week that included a seismic win over Liverpool in the Premier League.
“We did amazingly again,” he said. “We had eight new players and they saw what their mates had done last Thursday. Everyone was really, really good.”
Updated: January 7, 2019 11:07 AM