Raheem Sterling came in for a lot of criticism during the European Championships, much of it uncalled for.
But with the Euros behind us now and the Premier League season back, all eyes were on how Sterling would perform for Manchester City in their first game, or whether he’d start.
Pep Guardiola chose to pick him on the right of a front three, although, given this is a Guardiola side, throughout City’s 2-1 win over Sunderland it wasn’t unusual to see him popping up in the number 10 role, playing as a centre-forward or on the left. Everywhere he appeared, he excelled.
Sterling has been bloody brilliant
— TomMellor (@MellorFootball) August 13, 2016
City saw huge amounts of the ball but much of it was pedestrian, until it came to the likes of Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne.
The 21-year-old won the early penalty from which Sergio Aguero scored, and continued to look forward every time he got the ball – sometimes beating Patrick van Aanholt and Donald Love, sometimes not, but always being direct.
The attacker seemed to look more threatening on the left of the front three, which is where he may end up playing when Leroy Sane is fit enough to make his debut.
Sterling playing well enough today that a The Sun writer will take an extra 5 minutes to think how to bash the player on his report.
— Rafael HernÃ¡ndez (@RafaelH117) August 13, 2016
Guardiola was said to have had words with Sterling during the Euros, letting him know that he’s an important player in City’s future.
Support from a manager like that is the type of thing the England man needs, especially given the stick he receives on social media and from opposition fans, and we may have seen the consequences of that support on Saturday.
In 6 months looking forward to hearing from those who said Sterling was rubbish & would fail under Guardiola.
— Socanalysis (@SocanalysisHQ) August 13, 2016
It’s only the first game of the season but a performance like that will give huge confidence as the season goes on – he could become Guardiola’s most important player.