Manchester City 3 Newcastle United 1: Elano conducts Eriksson symphony
As a man who can sell his services for £3m a year, Sven Goran Eriksson is not inclined to play down his ability as a football manager. But after watching a scintillating performance from his Manchester City side on Saturday he had to agree that, for all the mystique that surrounds his profession, the key to success is pretty simple.
It is that to be a winning coach the essential requirement is to have great players, as he has had at all the peaks of his 30-year career and which he may have identified again in the winger Martin Petrov and the playmaker Elano.
Petrov, the 28-year-old Bulgarian signed from Atletico Madrid, scored City's first goal and made their second with his strength and speed along the flank. Elano, a 26-year-old Brazilian whom Dunga, the Brazil coach, encouraged Eriksson to buy from Shakhtar Donetsk, seemed to be pulling the strings in almost every attacking movement and rocketed home a stunning free-kick.
They set the tone for a City performance of freedom and innovation that revealed Eriksson, ultimately criticised as too negative and shackled by conservatism during his tenure as England coach, to be a bit of an adventurer.
"You want to have players – and I have always had them – like [Roberto] Baggio, [Ruud] Gullit and [Roberto] Mancini, who, when you give them the ball, you know something will happen," he said.
"They do naturally things that you cannot coach. I always knew with Elano and Petrov that they were great players. But they don't take the ball and just try to dribble, they play football, they play with the team."
If Eriksson's England did not quite reach such heights, it was not for lack of ambition, the Swede insists. " I think England played some good football, especially when I could play Wayne Rooney behind the striker. But in the national team you have to work with the players you have, you cannot buy players, and it is always very important who is injured. I think Steve McClaren is finding the same. You cannot buy another Michael Owen."
That may not be a worry for McClaren should Sam Allardyce's optimistic forecast for his England striker's recovery from groin problems prove accurate. The Newcastle manager reported that keyhole surgery to strengthen Owen's abdominal walls had been a success and that if the unconnected tear to an adductor muscle heals, he could play against Everton on Sunday, bringing him back into contention for England's Euro 2008 qualifiers later this month.
The goal scored by Obafemi Martins that put Allardyce's side in front, from a long ball superbly controlled with one touch and lobbed over Joe Hart with the second, was equal in quality to Petrov's conversion of Stephen Ireland's precision pass and Emile Mpenza's stooping header from a Petrov cross.
Goals: Martins (29) 0-1; Petrov (38) 1-1; Mpenza (47) 2-1; Elano (87) 3-1.
Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Hart; Corluka (Onuoha, 57), Dunne, Richards, Garrido; Ireland, Hamann, Johnson (Ball, 85), Petrov; Elano (Geovanni, 88); Mpenza. Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Samaras.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Beye, Taylor (Faye 84), Rozehnal, N'Zogbia; Milner, Geremi (Jose Enrique, 76), Butt, Smith; Viduka (Emre, 87), Martins. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Pattison.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Man of the match: Elano.