Playing out of obligation, Manchester City forces the return of De Bruyne

By William Estrella

Playing out of obligation, Manchester City forces the return of De Bruyne

Kevin returned to the team after his return from injury and made Erling Haaland think again.

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Kevin De Bruyne has surprised his own Manchester City teammates with the way he has returned from injury. De Bruyne spent five months on the sidelines after suffering his third hamstring injury of the year, and Pep Guardiola warned that there would need to be caution when he came back. The Belgian made back-to-back starts against Burnley and Brentford but was back on the bench on Saturday to mean four of his six appearances since coming back have been off the bench.

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That hasn't limited his impact though; the playmaker picked up an assist within minutes of being back in the FA Cup win over Huddersfield and has been impressive ever since with a goal and five assists over six games and 314 minutes to mean a goal contribution every 52 minutes. City were labouring against Everton before the 32-year-old injected some urgency into their attack, and picked up another assist for Erling Haaland's second.

Guardiola and the City squad know De Bruyne better than most, yet even they have been taken aback at just how quickly De Bruyne has settled in after surgery and a lengthy absence. "I think everyone expected, you know, to give him a bit of time and stuff but straight away he’s fit, he’s been training really well in the gym, he’s working really hard and you could see on the pitch straight away he was ready to go," said Nathan Ake.

"To be honest, if you’re out for five or six months normally it takes you a little bit of time but the way he was working, to be honest, with the physios, you could see in the first few months he was working so hard and giving everything to be ready. He was straight away." De Bruyne and Haaland combined for the first time this season for the second goal at Everton, and Guardiola has praised the effectiveness of the pair in helping the team to win games. Haaland was returning from injury himself and the way he bounced off his defender for his second goal suggested he is getting back into form.

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Complicated situation

Ake knows how difficult it can be to defend against Haaland when he is given space to run into, and also noticed how De Bruyne coming onto the pitch changed the thinking of the striker. "He’s so quick, he’s fast, he’s strong. In those spaces one vs one it’s very difficult," he said. "Most of the time teams sit a little bit deeper so there’s not much space for him to go but I think sometimes we can use him on the counter-attack as we did today. When he’s got space like this it’s difficult to stop him.

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