MANCHESTER, January 5 – Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said he wanted James Milner’s contract situation to be resolved quickly after the England midfielder’s brace took the club into the FA Cup fourth round.
Milner ended a run of over two years without a goal at the Etihad Stadium by scoring both goals in Sunday’s 2-1 third-round victory over Sheffield Wednesday, including a 91st-minute winner.
The former Leeds United, Newcastle United and Aston Villa player, who turned 29 on Sunday, will be out of contract at the end of the season, but Pellegrini hopes a new deal will prove a formality.
“There is no news on the contract for the moment. But I hope we will find an arrangement,” Pellegrini said.
“I’ve said already what I think about James Milner. He’s a very useful player. I brought him on in our last game as a substitute and I think he made more chances than a lot of players, three or four clear chances.
“But he always plays at 100 percent commitment and intensity for the team so I am happy with him.”
Pellegrini named a strong team for the tie and ended up with an even stronger one after bringing on David Silva and Samir Nasri, who combined for Milner’s 66th-minute equaliser and helped turned the game on its head.
As his use of personnel proved, it is a competition that Pellegrini says his club take seriously, with City having won the FA Cup in 2011 and lost in the final to Wigan Athletic two years later.
“The FA Cup means a lot for all the English teams,” said the Chilean.
“It is the most traditional cup, the cup you are only going to play one game each month from now until May, so of course we want to be involved until the last stage.
“I’m relieved because I think we didn’t play well. We played very badly, except the last 20 minutes, when maybe we found another gear and tried to create space against a team that defended very well.”
– ‘Tired minds’ –
One senior player who was rested for the entire 90 minutes was England goalkeeper Joe Hart, with Willy Caballero starting in goal for the second consecutive match.
But Pellegrini confirmed that Hart will return for City’s next league outing, at Everton on Saturday.
“It’s not a difficult decision,” said the City manager.
“Joe knows what I think about his performance. Willy played the last two games, but against Everton. Joe will return to his position because he is doing very well.”
Considering the previous meeting between the two clubs had ended in a 7-0 win for City in the League Cup in September, it was a fantastic effort by Wednesday, who delighted their large contingent of travelling supporters by going ahead in the 14th minute through Atdhe Nuhiu.
“The last time we were here, we got beat 7-0,” said manager Stuart Gray.
“It was 0-0 at half-time and second half they went up a gear and put seven past us so it was nice to go in at half-time one-up. We thoroughly deserved it.
“We frustrated them and, in the end, they showed us total respect putting on David Silva, Nasri and (Gael) Clichy and, in the end, tired minds caught us out. They kept the ball better than us the last 15 minutes.”