Kelechi Iheanacho is determined to seize every chance he gets to impress for Manchester City.
The 19-year-old Nigerian striker made a big impression on his first start for the club with a goal and two assists in a 5-1 Capital One Cup thrashing of Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
The highly-rated prospect, who also scored a late winner against the same opponents as a substitute last month, was given his opportunity in the continued absence of leading striker Sergio Aguero through injury.
And after his eye-catching display against the Eagles, Iheanacho, who joined City last season but had to be held back while work permit issues were resolved, is now hungry for more.
He said: “I know I have the quality to prove myself any time I am given the chance. So any time I am on the pitch I have to work hard and play to the instruction of the coach and try to score a goal. That is what I am working on.”
Iheanacho, promoted to the first-team squad in the summer, realises that in Aguero and Wilfried Bony he has some experienced – and expensive – players ahead of him in the pecking order but he is not fazed.
He said: “It is quite difficult because they are professional players, they have played in a lot of competitions and a lot of games and I am just coming up. I need to work hard every day and hopefully I will break in.”
City, who fielded a strong side despite resting Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Raheem Sterling, did not even hit top gear as they eased into the quarter-finals at Palace’s expense.
Bony opened the scoring after 22 minutes and Iheanacho set up Kevin De Bruyne for the second just before the interval.
De Bruyne returned the favour for Iheanacho early in the second half and Yaya Toure struck the fourth from the penalty spot. Damien Delaney claimed a late Palace consolation but 17-year-old Manu Garcia raced on to an Iheanacho pass to make it 5-1 in injury time.
The only downside for City was another knee injury for right-back Pablo Zabaleta – an apparent recurrence of the medial ligament problem that has already sidelined him for a month this season. The Argentinian was due to be fully assessed by the club on Thursday.
Palace, who were without a handful of first-choice players, were some way off their best and must pick themselves up for Saturday’s visit of Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League.
Manager Alan Pardew said: “We now get ourselves focused on the game on Saturday and need to make sure we get a few bodies back for the game. We need to put our strongest team out against them.
“We had a few back with Joel Ward getting some minutes and Dwight Gayle back from suspension, but we had some problems with a few as Jason Puncheon was ill and Yohan Cabaye had a knock. Fingers crossed they will be back for the weekend.”