x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Milner's education continuing under wily O'Neill

The Aston Villa manager recently moved Milner into a more central midfield role. It has been a masterstroke.

Seven years ago today James Milner wrote his name in the Premier League's record books. At 16 years and 357 days, he finished a low cross from Jason Wilcox with aplomb to help Leeds win 2-1 at Sunderland. With it, he broke by four days Wayne Rooney's record as the league's youngest scorer. James Vaughan, the Everton striker, eclipsed him three years later, but it is Milner and Rooney who have made the lasting impression.

Rooney's title-winning exploits for Manchester United have given him more prominence, but Milner, a year younger at 23, is now making the impact many felt was inevitable. In the game after Sunderland, just two days later, he outwitted the French World Cup winner Marcel Desailly to score against Chelsea. "He was more like a 30-year-old than 16," said the then Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri. "He only left school three months ago? I wish he had stayed there."

His education has continued under Martin O'Neill who has recently moved Milner into a more central midfield role. It has been a masterstroke. "I always felt he was capable of doing that. It is a different game when you move inside. You see a different game," said O'Neill. Arsenal will be aware of Milner's threat when they meet Villa today and will be hoping Cesc Fabregas can recover from a hamstring strain.

@Email:akhan@thenational.ae Arsenal v Aston Villa,KO 5.30pm, Showsports 1&2