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Raheem Sterling fitting in seamlessly as Man City makes strong start to Premier League

By Steve Douglas


MANCHESTER, England _ Raheem Sterling hasn’t scored in his first three games for Manchester City. He is yet to complete 90 minutes. He’s even been upstaged by many of his teammates.

But if you’re after a reason why City is already being tipped as the team to beat in the Premier League after three straight wins this season, look no further than the England winger.

At this rate, his eyebrow-raising $76 million transfer fee could prove to be a bargain.

By the end of his increasingly fraught spell at Liverpool, Sterling was the main man at Anfield. A player that Liverpool supporters looked to for inspiration, for a moment of magic to get the team out of trouble.

At City, his role is different.

Stationed on the left wing, Sterling is proving to be a more of a team player, providing balance and energy that is allowing world-class players like David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero to thrive.

“That was the reason we bought him,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said Sunday after a 2-0 win at Everton that kept his team top of the league. “He is a different (type of) player.”

With boos and jeers constantly raining down from the stands at Goodison Park, it was easy to know when Sterling was in possession against Everton. His past link with Liverpool was the reason for the abuse he received all match by home fans, but it could easily have been for the panic he had caused in their team’s defence.

City’s midfield looked disjointed last season. Silva was often asked to play on the left, meaning he spent much of his time tracking back and helping out defensive duties. For a playmaker of his ability, that seemed like a waste.

Now Silva is playing centrally and with a free role behind Aguero and in front of Toure. The Spain international is making the most of his freedom, and has arguably been the stand-out player in the first three weeks of the season.

What’s giving Silva _ and even Toure _ more time and space is opposition defences’ preoccupation with Sterling, whose work rate up and down the left flank has been eye-catching and a big help to left back Aleksandar Kolarov. Sterling has kept things simple, leaving his box of tricks unopened and just fitting in with a better quality of players around him then he had at Liverpool.

“It is difficult to start to settle in a new team but playing with David, with Kun (Aguero), with Yaya he will become comfortable,” Pellegrini said. “Because all of them are good players, experienced players who will help him.”

City _ on a club record-equaling run of nine straight top-flight wins _ has been linked with Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne all summer, with reports in Britain saying a deal worth around 50 million pounds ($79 million) could be close for the Wolfsburg player.

That would take City’s spending to around $250 million since the end of last season and add more competition to City’s midfield, with Samir Nasri already having to be content with a place on the bench during the first three games.

It’s already looking ominous for City’s rivals.

Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala have struck up an impressive partnership in central defence, holding midfielder Fernandinho is back to his best after struggling for confidence last season in the aftermath of Brazil’s 7-1 drubbing by Germany in the World Cup semifinals.

Aguero is fit, sharp and already in the goals.

Add the threat of Sterling, and it will be tough to stop City winning a third Premier League title in five seasons.

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