Man City: Guardiola 'liberates' Sterling, while Hart wants out
England winger gets a new lease of life, but the future looks bleak for the goalkeeper
Manchester City booked their place in the group stages of the Champions League with a resounding 5-0 win over Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday night.
There is the formality of a second leg to come at the Etihad, but manager Pep Guardiola can begin planning his assault on Europe.
So dominant were City that Sergio Aguero was able to miss two penalties and still grab a hat-trick. "As a taster of what may lie in store under Guardiola, this was tantalising," says James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph.
"Seldom have City looked so slick, so assured, so utterly in tune with one another going forward in Europe."
There were other positives beyond the collective display. "One need only look at the performance of Raheem Sterling to appreciate the rousing effect Guardiola can have on players," says Ducker. "Sterling has looked a broken man for much of the past nine months, here he was very much in the thick of it alongside the sublime Nolito, David Silva and, but for those penalty misses, Aguero."
While the headlines have focused on goalie Joe Hart's inability to impress the new coach, City fans should take note of the improvement in Sterling.
"In the space of two months, Guardiola has revitalised Sterling, culminating in this match-winning display which has all but guaranteed City's place in the Champions League," says the David McDonnell in the Daily Mirror. "Sterling has been liberated by the Spaniard's appointment."
The player has responded to the challenge, says Nick Wright of Sky Sports. "He started the season knowing he faced fresh competition for a starting spot from new signings Nolito, Leroy Sane and Oleksandr Zinchenko, but he has hit the ground running and already looks like a key player having played the full 90 minutes in each of City's first two games.
"Sterling is showing the kind of adaptability Guardiola craves, and his off-the-ball work shows he is embracing his new manager's methods."
Things are very different for Hart, however, who was once again on the bench.
"The Catalan has decided that Hart, 29, does not fit into his first-team plans, as he does not possess the passing skills Guardiola requires from his goalkeepers, who he wants to also act as sweepers," reports The Times.
"Sources close to Hart say the England goalkeeper has had a frosty relationship with the former Barcelona head coach ever since he turned up for pre-season training."
Although Guardiola is prepared to sell Hart for £20m, the player would prefer a loan move in order to buy time to consider his next step. Everton, Sevilla and Liverpool have all been mentioned as possible destinations.