David Silva took to the field with his baby boy, Mateo, and cradled him in his arms as the Manchester City team lined up before kickoff.
It was a touching scene – and a rare one before a Premier League game – involving a father and son who, in their own very different ways, have written their own chapters in City’s recent history.
The dad, a creative Spanish playmaker who is arguably the greatest player in City’s 138-year history, has been a popular member of the squad since his arrival from Valencia in 2010 but his bond with the club has grown even stronger because of the premature birth of Mateo in December.
City granted Silva compassionate leave for various spells during the second half of last season so he could return to Spain to be with his partner and Mateo in hospital.
Silva missed key games in what proved to be a record-breaking season for City but coach Pep Guardiola repeatedly expressed the “family comes first” mantra. In a recently released behind-the-scenes documentary of City’s season, when a TV crew was given virtually unlimited access to the City squad, Guardiola said to his players before one game: “You have to win for David Silva and his girlfriend … If you go out there and we suffer, then suffer for him. Is that clear?”
Silva used Twitter to publicly thank City for its support in what he described as “the hardest months of my life,” so the sight of Mateo on the Etihad Stadium field before Sunday’s game against Huddersfield was heartwarming.
His father proceeded to put on a show for Mateo, tormenting Huddersfield’s defense and capping a brilliant performance in a 6-1 win with a curling free kick into the top corner. Looked after by his mother in a VIP box during the game, the 9-month-old Mateo was in the locker-room afterward, surrounded by City’s jubilant players for photos that were quickly posted on social media.
“His son will never forget,” Guardiola said, “that the first time he saw his father play football, he scored that outstanding goal.”
“El Mago” (the Magician), as Silva is known, is 32 now but continues to be a key member of City’s team. His importance has soared in recent days because of an injury to fellow playmaker Kevin De Bruyne that could rule him out for around two months.
The creative burden will fall heavily on Silva over the coming weeks. But, with Mateo seemingly healthy and Silva having made the decision to retire from international duty with Spain, there could be a new lease of life inside the player City’s fans have taken to their hearts more than ever.
CONCERNS AT UNITED
An injury to Alexis Sanchez. A sloppy display by Paul Pogba. Defensive fragility. And, of course, a first loss of the season.
These are suddenly worrying times for Manchester United and its manager Jose Mourinho, who was downbeat and grumpy for much of the offseason and whose mood won’t have improved after a 3-2 loss to Brighton.
Sanchez missed the match with an unspecified injury and Mourinho wasn’t sure how long he’d be out. Pogba, whose relationship with Mourinho is under scrutiny, lost the ball 27 times against Brighton and acknowledged his “attitude was right.”
Then there was the uncertainty at the back, notably with central defenders Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof. Mourinho wanted a new center back this offseason but the board turned down his request and told him to work with what he had.
With defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic out injured, United’s defense looks exposed. Tottenham, and its prolific Harry Kane, should fancy their chances heading to Old Trafford in the next round of games.
With two straight losses, Arsenal has endured a difficult start to the season under new manager Unai Emery. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Emery has introduced a new approach that sees Arsenal playing the ball out from the back more. Goalkeeper Petr Cech has looked uncomfortable at times with the ball at his feet, as have some of the defenders, but the philosophy is here to stay and it’s already produced a marvelous team goal.
Arsenal’s second goal in the 3-2 loss at Chelsea on Saturday began with a series of passes in and around the team’s own area. It ended with the ball being spread to the right wing where Henrikh Mkhitaryan crossed for Alex Iwobi to sweep in a finish.
Arsenal’s players outplayed Chelsea in spells at Stamford Bridge and arguably deserved something from the game. They have also played Manchester City – losing 2-0 – but the schedule eases for the next seven games. Only after then should Emery truly be judged.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80