JAMIE REDKNAPP: Sterling answered his critics perfectly for City

If there was one player who most needed to fly out of the traps this weekend, it was Raheem Sterling.

It seems that every year he starts the campaign feeling he has a point to prove and this year is no different.

After scoring 20 goals for Manchester City as they romped to the Premier League title, I thought he would take his prolific form to the World Cup. He was one player I was expecting to dazzle in Russia.

Instead, he could not end his three-year goal drought for England and was one of the more disappointing performers in what was an excellent tournament for Gareth Southgate’s side.

He then returned to his club to find serious competition for his place. Not only had City splashed out a club record £60million on Riyad Mahrez, but Leroy Sane was equally determined to impress after being left out of the Germany squad.

Question marks remain over his future because he is yet to sign a contract extension, but Sterling could not have wished for a more perfect start to the season against Arsenal. Not only did he find the net but he did so in some style.

If there is one area of Sterling’s game that needs most improvement, it is his striking from distance. The goal at the Emirates was his 50th in the Premier League but only his third from outside the box.

For a player whose tricky dribbling gets him into excellent positions, Sterling does not make the most of those opportunities. He tends to rush his shots and slap the ball with his foot.

Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta were both good strikers of the ball. I’m sure they are working with him to improve his technique.

He has shown remarkable character to bounce back from a difficult summer. Keep scoring more goals like that and Sterling will have another sensational season.

Handing the captain’s armband to Paul Pogba was a smart move from Jose Mourinho.

I argued in Sportsmail last week that the Manchester United captaincy could be the making of Pogba. Jose clearly thinks it might be the way to repair their relationship.

You only have to look at behind the scenes clips from the World Cup final to see that he is captaincy material. Hugo Lloris may have been the France skipper but the respect shown to Pogba from the players was incredible.

By giving him this responsibility, Mourinho is recognising that his midfielder is the main man at Old Trafford and challenging him to prove it. Pogba gave his manager the perfect response against Leicester with a commanding display.

They are never going to have the same bond Mourinho shared with Frank Lampard at Chelsea but if United are to be successful this season, these two need to be pulling in the right direction.

We’ve waited almost a year to see Naby Keita in the Premier League but boy was he worth the wait!

I knew he was an aggressive player but by taking the No 8 shirt which has been vacant since Steven Gerrard left Liverpool three years ago, Keita proved before a ball was even kicked that he does not shy away from a challenge.

He is unlike any Liverpool midfielder in the Premier League era. Keita is a pocket rocket brimming with pace and energy but also blessed with technical ability.

When I spoke to Jurgen Klopp after the game, his eyes lit up at every mention of his new midfielder. He clearly rates him incredibly highly and knows just how important he can be in taking Liverpool to the next level.

Debuts do not get much better than Richarlison’s for Everton. After his two goals at Wolves he has set himself an incredibly high standard.

We knew that on his day he could beat defenders at will. Cutting in from the left, he is a menace for any right back. 

Richarlison can be the hero Everton fans have been craving. His challenge now is to reach double figures for the season.

Tottenham deserve immense credit for the way they battled to victory at Newcastle but I still feel they may regret not adding to their squad.

As a player I could not wait to see who my clubs would sign. New arrivals added a spark to the dressing room and kept everyone on their toes. 

I remember thinking when Liverpool signed Paul Stewart in 1992 that I would have to raise my game.

Spurs are strong in every position but at St James’ Park I thought they needed more pace going forward — especially with Son Heung-min at the Asian Games for the rest of August.

It was vital that Crystal Palace kept hold of their match-winner Wilfried Zaha this summer but just as important for Roy Hodgson is the rock solid partnership between Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins at the heart of their defence. 

Incredibly, Palace are unbeaten in the 15 matches these two have started together — winning 11, drawing four and keeping nine clean sheets. 

Keep these two fit for the whole campaign and Palace will be incredibly difficult to beat — as Fulham found out on Saturday.

He took the Championship by storm with a staggering six goals from outside the box last season.

It didn’t take Ruben Neves long to show just how deadly he is from distance, firing in a stunning free-kick for Wolves against Everton. 

Since the start of last season, Neves has scored more long-range goals than any player in the top four divisions. I can’t wait for more box-office hits.

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