Man City`s Milner set to survive Mancini changes
Newcastle: James Milner is likely to keep his place when Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini makes changes for Tuesday`s home match against Aston Villa after starring in a 3-1 victory away to Newcastle United.
Sunday`s success at St James` Park saw City go second in the Premier League, two points behind leaders and local rivals Manchester United.
Although controversial striker Carlos Tevez scored twice it was the performance of England international Milner, who left Villa under a cloud last season, that caught Mancini`s eye.
"He was fantastic. All our players did well, but he stood out."
Despite an impressive away win, which saw City revive their title challenge following a home defeat by Everton, Mancini made it clear the congested holiday fixture schedule would see him alter his expensively assembled side for the Villa match.
"We have an incredible four games in ten days and we will make changes against Villa because we must recover in the 38 hours and that is not an easy thing to do," he said.
"All players must be ready to play that is why we have a strong squad."
Villa supporters were furious with Milner over a move that earned him a huge pay rise and, as always, their travelling fans will make him a target for abuse at Eastlands on Tuesday.
That will not concern him, however, and Mancini is not likely to consider resting the player he rated as their outstanding performer at St James` Park.
The match against Villa is followed by another home game against Blackpool, offering City a genuine chance to collect six points and head into 2011 as the leaders of the Premier League.
Star striker Tevez is also expected to feature against Villa after showing at Newcastle that his dispute with City has not affected his form.
"He`s mentally okay. I`m happy that Carlos scored two goals, but I`m happy for all the players because they did very well," said Mancini.
Sunday`s victory came as Mancini celebrated 12 months in charge at City. Asked for one word to describe the year, he said: "Fantastic."
Others may have sprung to mind as he looked back on a traumatic time, but he insisted: "The Premier League is the best league in Europe at this moment. For me, it`s an incredible experience."
"Last year we won my first game, this year we won - I like Boxing Day. It has been fantastic."
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, also poised to reshuffle his squad for their next match at Tottenham, was happy with the character shown by his side after they went 2-0 down inside the first five minutes to goals from Gareth Barry and Argentina forward Tevez
"The start has cost us the game," Pardew said. "We had talked about not making errors in the final third and we came up with two howlers."
"But the response of all the team was outstanding. We gave City a good old game and at 2-1 I thought something special could have been on."
"When you are 2-0 down so quickly you have to rely on the character of the group to get something out of the game. Our performance outside the first eight minutes was as good as we`ve produced, but you can`t gift goals."
"The character of the team was shown, though. A lesser side might have lost 6-0 but we dug in and got back into it."