Dyche: McNeil a shining light in City drubbing
Dwight McNeil of Burnley is challenged by Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 26, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Dyche: McNeil a shining light in City drubbing

19-year-old maintained promising form even as City put Clarets to sword in cup tie

David Comerford

Sean Dyche singled out the 'first class' Dwight McNeil for praise after watching his Burnley side succumb to the quality of a full-strength Manchester City in the FA Cup.

City romped to a 5-0 victory at the Etihad, with Bernardo Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero among the goals.

It was a ruthless display from the champions, who went up a gear in the second half and blew the visitors away, but Dyche remained eager to take the positives.

And the biggest consolation, he says, was the performance of youngster McNeil, who has impressed since breaking into the side last month.

Dyche full of praise

Dyche has been particularly struck by the confidence he has displayed so early in his career.

"We certainly didn’t come here today for that to happen, but within all that we’ve a young man in Dwight McNeil who, I am telling you, was first class again today," he said.

"No matter what is going on in the game, he wants it, wants to help his teammates deliver and he puts doubts into the opposition.

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"I said to him after to keep enjoying his football because he is on a nice upward curve and I have great admiration for him.

"He’s 19 and going around all these Premier League grounds and showing that nice edge of borderline confidence and arrogance.

"Not as a person, because he’s a very unassuming, but on the pitch you want him to come to life and I am really enjoying watching him at the moment."

'We know the bigger picture'

Dyche's team selection indicated that putting together a cup run is low on his list of priorities.

He made seven changes from last weekend's draw with Watford, resting key players such as Ben Mee and Chris Wood.

Stephen Ward and Steven Defour, who have only recently recovered from long-term injuries, were both given opportunities to build their fitness.

"We patched a team together today, once again, so I am not too disgruntled with it," Dyche conceded.

"The challenge today was looking at who we can protect.

"We’ve been on a run of five very, very good performances and we had to protect the situation today and get some minutes into the players who were coming back from injury, such as Ward and Defour.

“We’ve two right backs down, and we lost Robbie [Brady] at half time to a groin injury, when we know we’ve been working to try and get wide men fit, so there’s a lot going on and at the minute we know the bigger picture and the bigger fight, and that is the Premier League.

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In these circumstances, then, the result against this 'elite' City outfit was no surprise. 

“It’s tough to come here with all that, but they are the brutal facts and to be honest, today was more about them – and I saw elite players doing what elite players do.

“They picked an elite team and brought on elite substitutes and sometimes when they are as potent and clinical as they were today, you have to hold your hands up.

“I’ve checked all the goals back and they mostly come from us and the mistakes we made, particularly in the second half, were punished pretty much every time.”

Could it have been different?

Even after acknowledging the gulf in class, Dyche could not help but ponder what may have been.

He pointed to a glorious opportunity to equalise in the first half when Matej Vydra robbed Nicolas Otamendi and went through on goal, only to find the side netting.

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Dyche says it could have stunned the home side and changed the game.

"Matej’s chance is pivotal, not just in terms of the scoreline, but the feeling inside the stadium.

"It suddenly feels a bit weird for them if he scores and that can affect the game."

"You know you aren’t going to get many chances against these, and I’m not remotely saying we’d have gone on to win the game, but you never know because that changes the energy in the respective sides - and not long after they get a second and it’s tough from there."

"But as I say I am not going to overthink this one. It gets parked very quickly because we have bigger fights ahead."

Nonetheless, attention now turns back to the more important matter of the Premier League survival fight. Burnley face a trip to Old Trafford on Tuesday night before a crucial game against fellow strugglers Southampton at the weekend.