Milner's debut

MANCHESTER ENGLAND - AUGUST 23: James Milner during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at City of Manchester Stadium on August 23 2010 in Manchester England. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

Some contrast in debuts this weekend.

Whereas Stephen Ireland was on the wrong end of a 6-0 drubbing at St James's Park on Sunday, James Milner kicked off his career at City with an impressive performance in the 3-0 victory over Liverpool.

Milner was drafted straight into the line-up by Roberto Mancini as he switched up formations again, bringing in Adam Johnson and Milner as the wide players in a fluid and flexible midfield line-up.

Starting not on the right hand side or centrally -as much of the debate has centred around - Milner was deployed on the left hand side, intermittently switching with Johnson on the opposite flank. Milner, full of running and endeavour, displaying all of the attributes that Roberto Mancini was so high on.

Whilst not possessing the deftness of touch that allowed Stephen Ireland the ability to pick a pass or thread the ball through a defence, Milner's drive and dynamism was evident, with his strength in possession a feature of his display. Also strong in the tackle, he won a couple of battles with Stephen Gerrard to underline his burgeoning standing in the game.

Whether operating in a purely 'wide role', or coming inside to join the central trio, he was equally impressive as shown with this Guardian chalkboard that illustrates both his range of passing and how seamlessly he fitted into the side:

  by Guardian Chalkboards

Sure the fee paid for Milner was excessive, and it resulted in the offloading of a popular Academy player in Stephen Ireland, but on the evidence of his first ninety minutes at least, Milner looks by far a better fit for Mancini's line-up than Ireland.

The display against Liverpool was perhaps the first time that a game showed the team was now very much in Mancini's image. As I wrote post match it was a performance that was "...patient in approach, effective in style and clinical in execution." 

All traits that on first glance at least, Milner appears to possess in abundance.

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