Assistance machine De Bruyne surprises as Manchester City kicks off | Manchester City

IIt’s not like Kevin De Bruyne is flying under the radar. The Manchester City midfielder scored his side’s first four goals in their 6-2 FA Cup win at Luton on Tuesday evening. He was sensational. It’s just that Erling Haaland was better, even more eye-catching. The centre-forward applied the finishing touches to those four De Bruyne assists and scored a fifth goal before the hour mark to ensure he dominated the post-match discussion.

The bottom line was that after almost two months out in early December due to a foot problem, Haaland was back in rhythm, at peak fitness. Pep Guardiola said he knew it would take time. For a player with such an imposing frame, it is. And when Haaland talked about feeling “amazing,” it added to the eerie vibe. A penny for Manchester United’s centre-backs, who must prepare for the fight against him in Sunday’s Premier League derby at the Etihad Stadium.

But if Haaland could not have done what he did without De Bruyne, there was also a symmetry in terms of the latter’s return from injury. De Bruyne’s story is more dramatic, it goes back further and, based on the way he spoke, the fallout remains ongoing. What should worry United and the rest of City’s next opponents is that De Bruyne surprised himself with the manner in which he came back. “I wasn’t worried but I didn’t expect to come back this way, to be honest,” he said.

De Bruyne has 11 assists (and two goals) in 10 appearances since returning from a hamstring injury suffered in the opening match of the Championship season at Burnley, which required surgery and a layoff. five month old foot. It’s the same muscle that was used in last season’s Champions League final against Internazionale, forcing him off City’s hat-trick after 36 minutes.

It has been a frustrating period, with De Bruyne having to tread carefully even after his return against Huddersfield in the FA Cup at the start of January. Guardiola introduced him gradually – as a substitute for three games, then mainly as a starter, but left him on the bench in the home win over Brentford on Tuesday last week. He would only play him as a late substitute in Saturday’s win at Bournemouth.

“I feel good,” De Bruyne said. “I think against Brentford I was a bit tired and I got kicked in my other hamstring. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t take that risk, but I feel good and I hope to maintain that.

Kevin De Bruyne tries to find a way past Chelsea’s Axel Disasi. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

De Bruyne was asked if it was about knowing his own body, with the conclusion being that he perhaps knows it a little better now. “Yes and no,” he replied. “Normally, I continue to play, but that’s mainly what made me fall before. In a way, I try to take care of myself but I also make decisions. Since I came back, my hamstrings have been doing well, so I’m very happy with that. But I know if you don’t play for five months and come back, you’re going to have problems everywhere else. This is normal and okay.

“A game like Luton helps. I feel like I’m back in the right direction after being away for so long. I couldn’t ask for anything more because after five months you don’t know what could happen but I feel like I’m back in the right direction. I am happy.

Inspired by De Bruyne and Haaland, City were frightening against Luton, progressing to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – which has long been a key point for Guardiola. His team has only failed once in eight seasons to reach this stage of the competition.

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It was a night when it seemed natural to wonder whether City could achieve another treble. They normalized the abnormal. They occupy second place in the championship, one point behind leader Liverpool, who they will face on Sunday at Anfield. They will have Arsenal at home on March 31. In the Champions League, they lead 3-1 after the first leg of the round of 16 against Copenhagen. Return is next Wednesday. De Bruyne, however, did not want to make headlines on this subject. He had given enough.

“We go to all the competitions we have to go to and we fight for them,” he said. “It’s something really positive after the seasons we’ve had before which have gone far. You hear about other teams, sometimes there is a drop, but if we win or don’t win, we fight until the end so the drop hasn’t been that big.

“For us, most of the big games are in March and if you are close to the top after March, you fight to the end in the games to come. We’re trying to get through this as much as possible and see where we are.

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