Manuel Pellegrini confirmed the withdrawal of Raheem Sterling at half-time in Manchester City’s thumping win over Newcastle United was a tactical decision, one that bore handsome reward for the Chilean manager and his team.
City went into the half-time break at the Etihad Stadium level at 1-1 having trailed for much of the half to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 18th-minute opener, a goal that was only cancelled out by Sergio Aguero three minutes before the break.
Pellegrini opted to remove big-money off-season signing Sterling at the break in favour of Jesus Navas.
City subsequently proved to be unstoppable in the second half, Aguero scoring four more times and Kevin De Bruyne adding another to condemn the winless visitors to a 6-1 thrashing.
And Pellegrini made it clear that fitness concerns were not behind England international Sterling’s early departure.
“No, Raheem was not injured,” he said.
“I think we needed another way to try and penetrate the defence.
“In this case, maybe we are talking about what Kun [Aguero] did because it was unbelievable and about Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
“But I think that Jesus was very important. He opened spaces that maybe in the first half we couldn’t.
“Kevin improved playing on the left side. In this case it was not a good day for Raheem but he will continue being a very important player for us.”
De Bruyne has now struck three times in four Premier League games for City since joining from Wolfsburg in August and Pellegrini believes the Belgium midfielder, a former Chelsea fringe player, is steadily adjusting to life back in the Premier League.
“I think that Kevin, in every game he settles a little bit more,” he said.
“It is not easy maybe with the movement that we have in our attacking to start playing in a good performance when you don’t know all the movements of all the other players.
“But I think that good and technical players like to play between each other. David [Silva], Kun, Yaya [Toure], Kevin De Bruyne, Sterling, Fernandinho – they are all technical players.”