Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne celebrates with manager Pep Guardiola after beating Newcastle in the Premier League
Kevin de Bruyne (right) celebrated with manager Pep Guardiola (left) at full-time
Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne says he has missed playing football and influencing games while he has been out with a hamstring injury.
The Belgian came off the bench at Newcastle and equalised for the Blues before an inch-perfect pass set up Oscar Bobb’s stoppage-time winner.
De Bruyne, 32, was playing in the league for the first time since the opening day of the season on 11 August.
“I enjoyed myself. It was crazy,” De Bruyne told TNT Sports.
“I missed this. I had a big injury and I needed the time.”
Of his performance, he added: “I think it was more willpower than anything else.
“I know I’m not able to do that for 90 minutes at the moment. I can put in a shift for 30 minutes. I feel it in my lungs, especially with the cold.”
De Bruyne made his return from injury in the FA Cup third-round tie against Championship Huddersfield last Sunday and set up Jeremy Doku as the Blues won 5-0.
He came on at St James’ Park with his side 2-1 and scored the equaliser with a superb sweeping finish within four minutes and 35 seconds of coming on.
The former Chelsea man then played a superb lobbed pass into the path for Bobb for the winner and became the first City player to score and assist from the bench since Sergio Aguero against Cardiff in January 2014.
De Bruyne has spent spells on the sideline during his City career but has been largely injury-free in the past couple of campaigns.
He was forced off in the first half of June’s Champions League against Inter Milan, as his side wrapped up the Treble, with a hamstring injury but returned to fitness for the start of the campaign.
He only lasted 23 minutes at Burnley in the opening game of the season before suffering a recurrence of the injury and has spent the past five months out.
Pep Guardiola has said City will be cautious with De Bruyne, but in Friday’s news conference said he was ready to start games again.
Despite that, he started on the bench and de Bruyne admitted he was not sure what to expect on his return.
“I’ve never experienced this,” said De Bruyne. “I worked really hard and had to change a couple of things. When you play all of the time, it’s very hard to change things.
“The beginning [when you get injured] is a big blow but I’m not someone who stands still. I enjoyed myself being able to do things I could never do. I worked hard to come back.
“I know I need to keep working hard and get sharpness.”
Guardiola told BBC Match of the Day: “I am a little bit upset and grumpy with him [Kevin de Bruyne] because he didn’t score from the free-kick!
“When opponents are more tired, Kevin and Oscar [Bobb] provide another pace at the end.
“Oscar’s was a fantastic goal for the control. We were really impressed in pre-season, I knew from information for the second team he was special.
“When Kevin has the ball and we have runners, Kevin is unique in the world but the finish by Oscar, I am so, so happy for him.”
The goal was Bobb’s first in the Premier League and added to a strike in the Champions League in December.
“I said thank you to him [De Bruyne] after,” Bobb told TNT Sports.
“He’s the only one in the world who could do that. To play with him is great. Not only one of the greatest players in the Premier League, he’s a very nice guy. He helps the young guys a lot.”