Raheem Sterling fails to take his opportunity in Man City’s win over Burnley

In the end, Raheem Sterling was granted his wish. In the same week the England international floated the possibility of leaving Man City amid a lack of game time, Pep Guardiola handed him a start against Burnley.

Although not overtly, Guardiola will have viewed this game as one in which his team could fill their pockets. City had netted 27 goals in their last six games against the Clarets, winning 5-0 in each of their last four meetings at the Etihad Stadium.

Those statistics meant it was an opportunity for many to impress. John Stones came back into the side for his first start to the season, but the biggest storyline was Sterling’s inclusion as a centre forward.

Raheem SterlingRaheem Sterling

Sterling says he needs game time to enjoy his football / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Phil Foden seemed the natural replacement for Ferran Torres – the Spain international is set to miss two to three months with an injury – given his ability to operate in tight areas inside the penalty box. As a consequence, it seemed a huge leap of faith from Guardiola to start with the Englishman in the forward line.

That trust was not repaid.

Sterling struggled to influence the game as Man City controlled proceedings – albeit in a laboured fashion. He fired over from a Riyad Mahrez cross in the closest he came to threatening the Burnley goal all afternoon.

It spoke volumes when City re-emerged for the second half with Sterling occupying a left wing role while Foden was entrusted to replace the England international as the central striker. Guardiola felt he could gain greater thrust in the attacking third if his side were able to pivot around the technical excellence of Foden, instead of persisting with Sterling in one of those performances where the ball seemed to move everywhere he wasn’t.

Many will rightly underline that the Englishman was playing out of position, and that when he revealed earlier this week that he was disappointed at his lack of game time he was referring to operating as a true winger. However, Sterling knows the terrain at Man City; to play in a Guardiola side, especially in the absence of a true number nine to pivot around, you have to be comfortable in an array of positions.

The brutal reality is that City have surpassed the need for Sterling. The Englishman is at his best running onto play, often popping up in dangerous positions at the far post to score. It explains why his best moments in Manchester came when he was operating in tandem with Leroy Sane, often adding the finishing touch to the perfect City cut-back goal. In the absence of a centre forward in this current City side, Sterling’s weaknesses are magnified.

An interesting comparison can be found within the City squad currently. Bernardo Silva was reportedly casting his eye towards the exit door in the summer, coming off a slightly disappointing campaign last time out as the Citizens suffered heartbreak in the Champions League. However, few will now challenge the assertion that the Portugal international has been City’s best player this campaign, and he was the standout performer for the home side again in the 2-0 victory over Burnley.

Bernardo SilvaBernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva was the standout for Man City once again / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages

Silva’s technical excellence, and his improvement in ball retention this season, means he’s now an indispensable figure under Guardiola. Sterling, meanwhile, feels like an awkward fit.

“If I want happiness at a certain level I need to be playing football. I need to be scoring goals and enjoying myself,” Sterling remarked this week. Given an opportunity against a vulnerable opponent, the Englishman fluffed his lines.

Aston Villa 2-3 Wolves: Player ratings as Wolves win thrilling West Midlands derby

Wolverhampton Wanderers won a dramatic West Midlands derby in thrilling fashion after a deflected goal from Ruben Neves gave them a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa in stoppage time.

The Villans found themselves 2-0 up in the second half and will be wondering how they let their lead slip.

Despite the score at the break being 0-0, the opening 45 minutes between the two sides was entertaining. Both goalkeepers were called into action to prevent their teams from going behind.

Danny Ings had Villa’s best chance in the first half after being put through on goal by Emiliano Buendía. The striker looked set to score but Jose Sa was on hand to save his subsequent effort on goal.

Wolves’ best chance of the half came from the brilliance of Adama Traore, who dribbled through four or five Villa players before shooting straight at Emiliano Martinez.

The breakthrough came in the second half for the Villans as Ings nodded home John McGinn’s cross – the Scot showing his strength after he rolled Romain Saïss before putting in the delivery.

Both teams began to get sloppy and give the ball away cheaply for spells in the second half. McGinn capitalised on this to make it 2-0 with a great effort from just outside the area after Hwang Hee-chan lost possession.

A goal from Romain Saïss pulled one back for Wolves after good work from both Ruben Neves and substitute Daniel Podence. The cross from the winger poked home by the centre-back.

Adama Traore did well following a scrappy passage of play to dink a cross into the back post and the header back across goal was perfect for Conor Coady to just head in the equaliser.

Just when you thought it was all over, Ruben Neves scored a dramatic late winner after his free-kick was deflected off of Matt Targett, wrong-footing Sa.

Here’s how the players from both sides rated.


Tuanzebe struggled against the Wolves attack / ADRIAN DENNIS/GettyImages

Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 6/10 – Didn’t have too much to do other than pick the ball out of his net, but did well to deny Adama in the first half at least.

Ezri Konsa (CB) – 6/10 – Was the best defender out of the three on the pitch – nowhere to be seen for the second goal however.

Axel Tuanzebe (CB) – 5/10 – Should have done better for Wolves’ first goal.

Tyrone Mings (CB) – 4/10 – Not a 90 minutes to remember for the England international, was sloppy throughout.

John McGinnJohn McGinn

Super John McGinn / Dan Mullan/GettyImages

Matty Cash (RWB) 6/10 – Was a threat down the right, had a few half-chances that he failed to make the most of.

John McGinn (CM) – 8/10 – Covered every blade of grass, did excellently for both his goal and an assist.

Douglas Luiz (CM) – 7/10 – Did very well in the first half, began to fade before being brought off but overall a solid showing.

Emi Buendia (CM) – 6/10 – Was quality on the ball and looked comfortable in possession, perhaps should have stayed on to keep Villa on the front foot.

Matt Targett (LWB) – 3/10 – Another weekend to forget with yet another own goal, doesn’t look anywhere near his best in the back 5.

Danny IngsDanny Ings

Ings back on the scoresheet / Dan Mullan/GettyImages

Danny Ings (ST) 7/10 – Took his goal well, could have had another had it not been for Jose Sa’s great save.

Ollie Watkins (ST) – 6/10 – Lively in periods as he looked to make things happen but again failing to have a real impact on proceedings.

Jacob RamseyJacob Ramsey

Lesson to learn for the young midfielder / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Marvelous Nakamba (CM) – 5/10 – A substitution that made sense at the time, but just felt like it dropped Villa a couple yards deeper when he came on.

Ashley Young (RB) – 4/10 – Came on and conceded three goals.

Jacob Ramsey (CM) – 5/10 – Showed his inexperience by giving away the cheap free-kick late on that resulted in the winner.


Assured performance from Sa / ADRIAN DENNIS/GettyImages

Jose Sa (GK) – 7/10 – Did well to deny Danny Ings in the first half and looked assured throughout.

Max Kilman (CB) – 6/10 – Solid showing from the young defender, could add more to his game in the opposition box however.

Conor Coady (CB) – 7/10 – Best defensively out of the three and scored the equaliser.

Romain Saiss (CB) – 6/10 – Allowed McGinn to pin and roll him far too easily for the opener, made amends by pulling a goal back.

Ruben NevesRuben Neves

Neves’ deflected strike the difference / Alex Morton/GettyImages

Nelson Semedo (RWB) – 6/10 – Got into good positions going forward but lacked the quality to make things happen.

Ruben Neves (CM) – 8/10 – Played a part in two out of the three goals. Always provides when it matters most.

Joao Moutinho (CM) 7/10 – A typically calm performance we’ve come to expect from the veteran, even after going two down.

Fernando Marcal (LWB) – 5/10 – Another week to forget for the wing-back, didn’t offer much offensively and struggled to contain Cash.

Adama Traore, Jose SaAdama Traore, Jose Sa

Adama proved to be a real handful / Dan Mullan/GettyImages

Adama Traore (ST) – 7/10 – Brightest spark for the away side, could have had a goal and did well in the build-up to the second.

Hwang Hee-chan (ST) – 6/10 – Was at fault for Villa’s second and didn’t have many chances at the other end.

Daniel PodenceDaniel Podence

Podence made an impact off the bench / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Daniel Podence (LW) – 7/10– Came on and made a difference, did well to get a crucial assist.

Fabio Silva (ST) – 6/10– Brought on to boost attacking options.

Raul Jimenez (ST) – N/A

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer accepts blame for Manchester United defeat to Leicester City

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has accepted the blame for Manchester United’s disappointing 4-2 defeat to Leicester City on Saturday afternoon, admitting that he got his team selection wrong, while confessing that ‘something has got to give.’

The Red Devils recovered from a setback to pull level with eight minutes to play, but Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka struck soon after to sink the visitors to a disappointing loss, piling the pressure on their Norwegian coach.

And speaking to the BBC after the match, Solskjaer admitted that Man Utd ‘deserved’ to lose against the Foxes, who ended the Premier League giants’ record-breaking 29 match unbeaten run away from home.

The coach also took the blame for the visitors’ shambolic defensive display, suggesting that he shouldn’t have rushed captain Harry Maguire back into the starting lineup, as he recovered from his own injury issues.

“When you look at the game after, the four goals we conceded were poor,” Solskjaer said. “The way we played we don’t deserve to continue that (away unbeaten) run.

“I pick the team, Harry Maguire showed no reaction and I hold my hand up if that does not work out. If we concede four, I probably made a bad decision.

“Lately we have not been in great form, lost too many points and that is something we have to look at. We might have to change, do we need more legs in there? What do we need?

“Over the international break we have had a good look to see what has gone wrong lately but we need to look at the whole set up and balance of the team and maybe something has to give.

“We were not good enough with and without the ball. You have to run, block and tackle and we didn’t do that enough.”

Solskjaer also pointed to the absence of South American stars Fred and Edinson Cavani as a factor for their loss, but insisted that he wasn’t ‘making excuses’ after such a terrible performance.

“I have got many good players. Fred, Edinson Cavani, you miss them. I am not making excuses for the team I put out there, they are top footballers and we have not produced.”

Man Utd sit fifth in the Premier League table after that abysmal display and defeat, and there will be serious concerns over whether Solskjaer is the right man for the job. The Red Devils were extremely disjointed and lacked any real cohesion, leading to the second half collapse.

Marcus Rashford’s return from injury and onto the scoresheet will act as a crumb of consolation for supporters, who will also be fearing the worst ahead of Man Utd’s next Premier League tie – a home clash with Liverpool.

Don Garber insists MLS deserves voice in biennial World Cup talks

MLS commissioner Don Garber claims domestic leagues deserve a greater voice in determining whether FIFA’s proposal to shift to a biennial World Cup becomes reality, adding it is ‘stakeholders that are really affected’ by these events.

At this moment, FIFA is simply conducting a feasibility study into the practicalities of staging a World Cup every two years, a campaign that many have reacted to with criticism and dislike.

While speaking to the Financial Times during their inaugural Business of Sport U.S. Summit Garber revealed that leagues are being communicated with, but not taken into serious consideration when it comes to making any high-ranking decision that would greatly affect schedules.

“At the end of the day we don’t really have a vote,” Garber told the virtual summit. “There is not a representative on the FIFA council from the leagues, there’s not a representative of the clubs.

“The stakeholders that are really affected by the decisions that would be made here don’t have a real say outside of being communicated with as to whether or not this is something that would support the investment we are making in those players.”

Garber added that it is too soon to say whether FIFA has made any type of decision, but urges stakeholders and league leaders to speak up with their concerns.

“Our hope is that those various stakeholders that are affected by that change, should they decide to do that, would be in a position to actually weigh in as to whether it becomes a formal decision on behalf of FIFA and its council. It’s premature to go down that route. Right now we are collectively as a sport, globally, in a phase of trying to understand what is FIFA’s rationale.”

Many who are against the project have pointed out that a biennially-held tournament would negatively impact an already-packed annual football schedule. Critiques signal the possibility of greater injuries, less domestic tournaments and more international struggle.

The most popular argument, however, seems to be that adding more versions of a World Cup would dilute the  historical and traditional aspect of it.

Man Utd have great individuals but are still far from being a cohesive team

Manchester United were too passive in their Premier League defeat to Leicester on Saturday, while it is becoming increasingly clear that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still unsure of his best XI or how to make his team greater than the sum of their individual parts.

For the third Premier League game in a row, United as a team ended up being considerably less than the sum of their individual parts. They arguably haven’t played well since the opening day of the season six long weeks ago against a very open Leeds side at Old Trafford.

On the face of it, United should be doing much better. To a man, they have one of the best squads in the Premier League, full of attacking depth and options.

But when the teams took to the pitch at the King Power, Leicester just seemed to want it more. They played at a high tempo, looked more cohesive as a unit and looked to have an actual game plan.

When United took the lead through Mason Greenwood thunderous long range effort, it was completely out of nowhere and against the run of play.

United could have gone further ahead when Kasper Schmeichel instinctively threw up an arm to deny Cristiano Ronaldo later on in the first half. It wouldn’t have been deserved.

Ronaldo was largely quiet. He’s of an age where he won’t influence games unless he is provided with decent service in the right areas and, despite being supported by Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho, that wasn’t there.

Pogba got lost in a deeper role, while Fernandes was too in and out of the game to change things. Sancho still deserves time to settle following his £73m transfer from Borussia Dortmund but it was another appearance in which he didn’t do himself justice.

Defensively, midfield didn’t offer enough protection for the back four and was outpaced and outwitted by Leicester’s trio throughout proceedings. At the back, individual mistakes, notably from a sluggish Harry Maguire after being rushed back from injury, meant it was far from polished.

Leicester took full advantage of everything that is wrong with Solskjaer’s United at this moment in time. This squad should be so much more, but they need to act like it and the manager will know he must find the key sooner rather than later or pay the price.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!