Tue, Sep 18, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Eriksson dismisses top-four talk for City

AFP , MANCHESTER, ENGLAND

Micha Richards of Manchester City heads the ball during their Premier League match against Aston Villa at The City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England, on Sunday. Manchester City won 1-0.

PHOTO: AFP

Sven-Goran Eriksson has dismissed talk of Manchester City breaking into the top four next May despite his side moving second after their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.

Michael Johnson's second half goal extended City's 100 percent home record under the new manager and moved Eriksson's side to within a single point of early league leaders Arsenal.

But while Micah Richards was once again a tower of strength in the back-four, it was England Under-21 midfielder Johnson, also 19, who ultimately split the two sides with the game's only moment of true quality.

Johnson's powerful run and finish was enough to see off a poor Villa side

But Eriksson played down the growing expectations surrounding his club, insisting the head of the league table will carry a familiar look at the end of the campaign.

"I would be very happy if the league was finished now," said Eriksson, who denied reports he has been promised a ?150 million (US$301 million) transfer budget.

"I don't feel we should start talking about a top four finish. I think the four top places are for the four top clubs [Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool] but in football you never know," he said. "But I think the league will be tighter this year, even for the big four. A lot of teams have invested heavily and I don't think anyone will go through the season and lose just one or two games."

Eriksson hailed the display of Johnson, 19, who claimed his second match-winner of the season and insisted the teenager has the perfect midfield mentor in the experienced Dietmar Hamann.

"Michael Johnson is an all round midfielder," he said. "You can't say he has one speciality, he is good at everything and it is rare you can say that about a young player. And how he took the goal today showed maturity. I never saw Manchester City live last season but when I came here he told me he played the last nine games and said he came into the team and saved them."

"It's gold to have a midfielder who can score goals. It's fantastic and the goals he has scored have been extremely important," he said.

Eriksson omitted Stephen Ireland from his squad after the Republic of midfielder admitted last week he had lied about the death of both his grandmothers.

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