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The 24-year-old departed the Etihad Stadium in search of first-team football and his former manager says he understands his reasons for wanting to leave the club

Roberto Mancini insists he did not force midfielder Adam Johnson out of Manchester City after the 24-year-old left the club in the summer to join Sunderland.

The champions face the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day with the Italian revealing that the England international had grown frustrated with his lack of first-team opportunities at City.

"I didn't say to him to leave. Adam said he wanted to always play and for that reason I let him go," Mancini told reporters.

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The 24-year-old has made a quiet start to life at the Stadium of Light, scoring two goals in 15 appearances in the league this season and has seen his international opportunities dwindle as a consequence.

However, Mancini says Johnson was a valued member of the City squad but appreciates his reasons for wanting to leave Etihad Stadium.

"For me Adam was an important player but I understand the situation," Mancini continued.

"He is young, he wants to play every game."

Mancini's side are second in the league heading into the Boxing Day fixtures, four points behind leaders Manchester United having gained two points on them after their rivals' 1-1 draw at Swansea on Sunday.

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