Pep Guardiola move let Raheem Sterling shake off Euros hangover amid Harry Maguire struggles – Liam Wood

Raheem Sterling might consider Tubthumping by Chumbawamba as his walk-on music should he ever decide to step foot into a boxing ring.

No matter how many times they try and knock him down, the Manchester City forward gets back up and proves there is, ultimately, not keeping him down.

It wasn’t caused by the selection of drinks listed in that classic 1990s anthem, but the England national team were left to contend with a different sort of hangover this summer.

But that man Sterling has evaded those potential after-effects with trademark elusiveness.

Becoming the first England men’s team to reach a major international final since 1966, immortality was a few kicks away from Gareth Southgate and his heart-broken squad.

Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were the unfortunate ones to miss from 12 yards.

Penalty defeat to Italy beneath the famous Wembley was particularly emotional for those three. Alas, the nation generally reached out to them in their hour of need – minus any imbeciles who subjected the players to vile racist abuse online.

The applause Sancho, Rashford and Saka received by supporters at rival clubs upon the return to domestic action silenced that barbaric noise, but while hands were joined across the footballing community, there is one man who defied the odds to kick on from that gut-wrenching end to the summer.

And he had added motive to do so.

Sterling was cast aside by Pep Guardiola before and after his Euro 2020 heroics. Barring a start in the Champions League showpiece, the England international was seldom used in important matches for several months – but has since re-emerged as one of the first names on the City team sheet.

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That was already the case by the time his eighth, ninth and tenth goals of the Premier League season nestled into the net on a predictably one-sided trip to Carrow Road.

His success in this campaign has not been replicated across the board, though.

Harry Maguire and England players have generally struggled during the 2021/2022 season.

In between one or two injury setbacks, academy graduate Phil Foden has naturally dazzled for City.

However, even on a procession to a fourth title in five years, Kyle Walker and John Stones have not exactly been mainstays, while £100million man Jack Grealish continues to adjust to life at the Etihad Stadium. The struggles are relative, of course, while there are mitigating circumstances for Grealish on the back of his high-profile move from beloved hometown club Aston Villa.

Sterling has, though, sent out a clear message to his international colleagues from across the city.

Ongoing problems at Manchester United are down to more than individual players, but their England contingent – namely Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford – have particularly struggled as the Old Trafford giants face an almighty battle to cement a top-four place.

Sancho has a similar respite to Grealish following his own high-profile switch.

Maguire and his recent performances have come under the microscope. Pundits and fans have regularly taken aim at Shaw and Rashford, too, while Walker and Stones – to a lesser extent – have not had the same reason as Sterling to put the Euros to the back of their mind, either.

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Guardiola clearly did not fancy Sterling to continue as a regular starter for City.

How many goals will Sterling score this season? Have your say in the comments section below.

With his back against the wall in that respect, Sterling then had to compete with a nine-figure recruit who was, as expected, handed first dibs at the beginning of the season as if to justify his staggering transfer fee.

As for Maguire, Shaw, Rashford and the United contingent, they had no such challenge.

Guardiola inadvertently fueled the fire for Sterling and his decision, planned or otherwise, has helped City evade a potential problem that has hit neighbors United hard and threefold. Replicating that might have been wise, but it would come too late in the day now.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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