Vincent Kompany faces a pressure test on his landmark return to Manchester City

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It all started in a roundabout way with a groin injury. A few minutes into Manchester City’s second leg in the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, Vincent Kompany lunged awkwardly, felt a crack at the top of his right leg and knew what it meant. He would miss the rest of the season. He would miss Belgium’s Euro 2016 campaign. Most worryingly, he would be injured over the arrival of a man he was dying to impress: City’s new manager Pep Guardiola.

In a way, the qualities that helped Kompany master his two-decade career were the same qualities that made him such a peerless defender: a razor-sharp instinct for danger, an ability to intuitively recognize threats and turn them into opportunities to convert

John Stones was on the verge of signing for nearly £50million and Kompany knew that despite all he had achieved, City’s bright dawn offered no guarantee an injury-prone 30-year-old centre-back would play under one of the most demanding in the world Trainer. So as he chugged impatiently through his gym and rehab sessions, he made a promise to himself. He would go back to school.

Related: FA Cup and Premier League: 11 things to watch out for this weekend

During those summer and fall weeks, Kompany began exploring his new coach as thoroughly as he would any opponent. He made sure to attend all team meetings, including those he didn’t need to attend. He was on the sidelines at every training session and made mental notes of the drills. He spoke extensively to Guardiola’s staff to find out what made him tick. By the time he was finally ready to play again, he later joked, he understood Guardiola’s methods better than Guardiola himself.

It worked for a short time. Guardiola was deeply impressed by Kompany’s commitment and would repay it with his own, giving his captain the time and confidence to reclaim his place. But for Kompany, the time he spent studying Guardiola had awakened something in him. It was at this point, he later admitted, that he realized he was going to be a coach.

Thus began a journey that will take Kompany on Saturday night back to where it all began: the Etihad Stadium, City, Guardiola, the same familiar blue shirts, the same familiar swirl of noise, the same mesmerizing passing football he aspired to be in recreate Burnley. Kompany is far too ambitious and goal-oriented a coach to be nostalgic. What this FA Cup quarter-final represents instead is a test: where he stands as a coach, how well his own nascent methods and processes will fare under the highest pressure and the toughest test of all.

Ultimately, it was more than just geography that lured Kompany back to the north-west of England for the challenge of bringing a heavily indebted Burnley back to the Premier League. Perhaps he saw a little of himself in this quiet, tight-knit, understated and over-achieving club, with its culture of hard work and honesty, its loyal and uncompromising fan base. Kompany, the player, loved nothing more than an honest junk. Kompany, the manager, turned out to be similarly wired.

Vincent Kompany has quickly built a young, talented squad that is poised for a return to the Premier League Photo: George Wood/Getty Images

And again, where others saw a threat, Kompany saw an opportunity. Early in the season bookies gave Burnley about the same odds of relegation as they did of winning the division (about 9-1). Thirty players left for the summer in a desperate bid to cut costs, including Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski. But the exodus gave Kompany an opportunity to build a fresh, young side that could play a fresher, younger style of football.

There was some money and Kompany spent it wisely, bringing in players like Josh Cullen from his old club Anderlecht and Anass Zaroury from Charleroi. And after a slow start, Burnley have set the Championship on fire. Carriage is a virtual formality; Two losses in 37 games have put them in a position to challenge Reading’s record 106 points. The average age of the starting XI is more than three years younger than last season. Average ball possession has increased from 40% to 64%.

Related: Championship summary: Burnley march on, Sheffield United fight back to win

Likewise, the transformation from the Sean Dyche era should not be overstated. In many ways, Kompany simply built and renewed an existing culture: a culture of relentless aggression, coordinated pressing, playing the ball and delivering crosses with pinpoint accuracy. Burnley is fourth in the championship for set pieces goals. Meanwhile, Kompany has largely believed in a trustworthy first-starter. Premier League-era stalwarts such as Matt Lowton and Ashley Barnes have been firmly but unequivocally brushed aside. “He was honest with me at first,” admitted Lowton, who left for Huddersfield Town in January after receiving the tip. “He pulled me in and said my playing time was going to be limited. That is fair play.”

All of this has led to Kompany, who turned 37 in April, being hailed as one of Europe’s brightest young managers, perhaps even a candidate to succeed Guardiola. In fact, Guardiola went out of his way to make the connection on Friday, saying he was “more than confident” that Kompany would one day become City manager. But for a young, improving manager, early adulation can be a fragile thing. Steven Gerrard and Patrick Vieira’s examples illustrate the difficulty of maintaining that initial winning streak and turning a promising introduction into a sustainable career.

But what we can already observe is that Kompany looks, sounds and feels the role. Along with Xavi at Barcelona and Xabi Alonso at Bayer Leverkusen, Kompany is among the first group of Guardiola players to move into management. And maybe there’s a kind of burden, a tyranny of expectation that brings with it its own peril. On the other hand, given what we know about Kompany and dangers, he might be fine.

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