When Pep Guardiola finally became Manchester City manager this summer, it was simply assumed by a number of critics that Raheem Sterling was in serious trouble.
The 21-year-old had struggled in his debut season following his £49million move from Liverpool and even more so during England's disastrous European Championship campaign.
In fact, Sterling was regularly targeted by England fans following disappointing results against Russia, Slovakia and, of course, Iceland and it was theorised that he was heading for the wilderness under the former Barcelona manager.
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But the early signs suggest those critics could not have been more wrong. For the first time, Sterling is showing the kind of form that he originally showed at Liverpool; the kind of form that inspired City to pay so much money for him.
Two goals against West Ham United on Sunday saw him pick up the man of the match award and, against all odds, he is now the man of the moment. But it is not just the guidance of Guardiola that has seen Sterling rejuvenate. He has also taken some of the credit for himself, and rightly so.
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In a recent interview with the Guardian, Sterling said he looked himself in the mirror following Euro 2016 and made himself a promise. As it stands, he seems as determined as ever to keep it.
“Every day I’m learning,” he said. “It’s something that I will definitely take into every season with me, to remember that sort of stuff and just to move forward from it. I just made a promise, something that I said to myself, that when I come back at the start of this season I am going to work hard and try to be as consistent as I can.”
Proving people wrong
So intense was the abuse on social media, a young man like Sterling could not have failed to notice it. Indeed, following England's game against Russia, he posted an image on his Instagram with 'TheHatedOne' hashtagged in the caption.
But while it is clear Sterling is well aware of the criticism aimed at him, he insists he is only working hard for himself, not to prove anyone wrong.
He continued: “This is the season you will see me working my hardest, that’s for sure. I didn’t come into the season thinking: ‘I want to show everyone.’ But just to concentrate on my football, that’s the most important thing. People will talk, but the most important thing for me was to come in and do well under the new manager and impress here. I knew if I kept working hard I would get my chances.”
Sterling has started four of Manchester City's five games this season and scored two goals and directly created three more. Despite the arrival of Nolito and Leroy Sane over the summer, it appears the London-born winger will play a key role in Guardiola's masterplan.
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