Sunday 25 February 2018

Milner backs City into corner over future as McShane makes peace

Manchester City 1 Hull City 1

James Milner curls in a late free kick to score Manchester City's equalising goal in their Premier League clash with Hull City at the Etihad. Photo: STEVE PARKIN/AFP/Getty Images
James Milner curls in a late free kick to score Manchester City's equalising goal in their Premier League clash with Hull City at the Etihad. Photo: STEVE PARKIN/AFP/Getty Images
Hull City midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady hits the bar with a header during his side's Premier League clash with Manchester City at the Etihad. Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero takes on the Hull City defence during their Premier League clash at the Etihad. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
David Meyler celebrates after putting Hull City ahead in their Premier League clash with Manchester City at the Etihad. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero prepares to unleash at shot on goal during his side's Premier League clash with Hull City at the Etihad. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Ogden

Leaving important issues until the last minute does not always guarantee a satisfactory outcome.

Manchester City are discovering that both on and off the pitch as their title defence begins to appear as convincing as a race car with a flat tyre.

On the pitch, Manuel Pellegrini's team are dropping points - the latest being this costly draw at home to Hull City - and off it they are seeing uncertainty shroud the future of James Milner, having allowed the England midfielder to enter the final six months of his contract. Milner, whose injury-time free-kick denied Hull City a first victory in the blue half of Manchester since 1930, embodies the sense that the champions are falling asleep at the wheel.

The 29-year-old, a £26m signing from Aston Villa in August 2010, can now take his pick of a free transfer move to the likes of Liverpool or Arsenal this summer having become frustrated with delays in being offered new terms last year and, more recently, being regularly overlooked by Pellegrini when he is arguably the one City player to have enhanced his reputation in recent months.

Milner may yet commit to a new contract at City, but the Yorkshireman has backed his employers into a corner by regularly outperforming his team-mates and Pellegrini admits that he has made it clear to the chief executive, Ferran Soriano, and the director of football, Txiki Begiristain, that the club must retain the midfielder's services.

"Yes, but sometimes it is not so easy," Pellegrini said. "We are one party, but you need both parties to agree. Maybe they (the Milner camp) need more time, but it's a problem we can resolve."

Despite his concerns over Milner's reluctance to commit himself to City, for whom he has started just 12 league games this season - four fewer than the consistently ineffective Jesus Navas - Pellegrini remains confident the player will stay at the club.

"Yes, I am confident because maybe it could be one day more or one week more, but Milner wants to stay here and the club wants him to stay.

"I don't think that because he scored in the 90th minute he is more important than Silva, than Kun (Aguero), than Dzeko."

Losing Milner would be a major blow for City in a summer during which Frank Lampard will also finally begin his career with New York City FC.

If Yaya Toure is allowed to leave, which is a distinct possibility, Pellegrini could lose three senior midfielders, with only one commanding a fee, so the Chilean would be justified to knock on the door of Begiristain to seek an explanation.

Pellegrini continues to be asked how his team are unable to perform against the likes of Hull, Burnley and Middlesbrough as they do against Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Roma.

Perhaps there is a complacency bordering on arrogance that their power and reputation will always win out in the end, but plucking draws from the jaws of defeat is fine when the opposition is Chelsea, but not a relegation-haunted team who had won just twice in 16 league games prior to visiting the Etihad.

David Meyler's first-half goal for Hull almost proved enough to win the game for Steve Bruce's team.

But then came Milner's rescue act as he scored from a 90th-minute free-kick to spare City from a third successive home defeat.

Paul McShane was a rock at the heart of the Hull defence and afterward he spoke for the first time about his fallout with Bruce, outlining how peace has broken out between the two men.

"As a footballer, there are always question marks, no matter what standard you are at," said McShane. "You have to go out there and give it your best to prove people wrong.

"Personally, it felt good to be playing again. I have been keeping fit and was ready for my chance.

"I know from experience that, if you go a long time without playing, you can get found wanting. So I worked hard on my fitness to make sure I was ready to go.

"To be honest, I didn't think I'd play again (for Bruce) but things in football change so quickly. You can't hold grudges in football because it's such a short career.

"You have got to make peace with the past and move forward. (© The Daily Telegraph)

Telegraph.co.uk

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