These guys win games – Pep Guardiola welcomes return of ‘unique’ Kevin De Bruyne

By Sports Desk January 07, 2024

Pep Guardiola hailed Kevin De Bruyne as exceptional and unique after his impressive return to action in Manchester City’s FA Cup stroll against Huddersfield.

The Belgian playmaker appeared as a 57th-minute substitute and set up a goal as the holders breezed past the Championship strugglers 5-0 in a one-sided third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

It was De Bruyne’s first outing in five months after a long lay-off following hamstring surgery and his comeback is timely as City step up the intensity for the second half of the campaign.

City manager Guardiola said: “He played really good minutes. We thought it was better to play the second half than from the beginning when the game was tighter.

“It was so difficult to find space. They defended so so deep and were really well organised, compact.

“It was really good and now, as I said before, he needs to accumulate training sessions and more training sessions, more than games. Still he is not ready for 90 minutes.

“Kevin helps to win games and there are few (like him) in the world. We can play good football-wise but Kevin, (Erling) Haaland, Phil (Foden), Julian (Alvarez) – these guys win games.

“That’s why it’s so important to have him back. Kevin is exceptional, he is unique.

“He was a long time out with surgery. His first minutes, the quality of the assist for the Jeremy (Doku) goal – it’s really good to have him back.”

De Bruyne put the seal on City’s performance by teeing up City’s fifth goal for Doku, who was also making his return from injury.

Foden had already struck twice with Alvarez also on target and City benefiting from a Ben Jackson own goal.

Haaland was again absent through injury but, with a lighter schedule this month, Guardiola is hoping to get all his top names back as treble winners City again chase glory on three fronts.

He said: “What I want is to arrive in the second part of the season with everyone fit. I want Erling back, Kevin back, Jeremy and John (Stones). When they are back we have a team that can compete in different competitions until the end.”

Huddersfield manager Darren Moore hopes his side will learn from a difficult experience.

Moore said: “It was always going to be a tough game. We tried to come here and nullify the areas where Man City are excellent in and thought we did that to start off with.

“You have to try and start on a positive note and disrupt their passing rhythm, but when the first goal goes in and then there is quickfire second one, the game runs away from you a bit.

“The boys were just talking about the quality they were coming up against. Sometimes in moments of defeat it about the learning perspective and that is what we have taken from today.”

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    Pep Guardiola feels his Manchester City players will need to cool off “in the fridge” after their exertions of the past few days.

    City responded to last Wednesday’s draining penalty shootout loss to Real Madrid by digging in for a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.

    The win, secured by a late goal from Bernardo Silva, maintained their hope of defending the domestic double but Guardiola later hit out at the scheduling of the fixture.

    The City boss felt his players should have been allowed more rest after their European game and he now intends to give them a break before they return to Premier League action at Brighton on Thursday.

    “In the fridge for two days,” said Guardiola when asked what his plans were for his squad ahead of the trip to the Amex Stadium.

    “Don’t see each other, stay at home with your families. Try to rest, nothing special.

    “Two days to prepare for Brighton and (Nottingham) Forest. One game at a time.”

    Guardiola clarified comments after the game suggesting he could boycott media duties over the issue.

    The Spaniard insisted he meant to say he would not have time to go above and beyond the usual obligations.

    “No, it’s Gary Lineker – come on!” he said, in reference to the host of Saturday’s BBC TV coverage.

    “If they ask for a photoshoot for the broadcasters, I’ll say no I’m busy, I don’t have time. It’s a joke for the future.

    “I always attend the media because I represent this institution. I’ve always done it and will always do it, but if they ask for extra then I don’t have time.

    “If you put me in a game every three days then the managers have a lot to do.”

    Guardiola also praised the character of Silva, who had been one of two City players to miss in the penalties in the defeat by Real. The Portuguese had also been close to being substituted shortly before scoring his 84th-minute winner.

    He said: “Always life gives you a second chance and he took it.

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    United had looked to be cruising past an apparently inferior opponent as they opened up a handsome lead with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

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    Callum O’Hare pulled another back with a deflected strike and Haji Wright sent the game into extra time with a stoppage-time penalty after handball by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

    Both sides hit the bar in extra time before Victor Torp thought he had snatched a dramatic winner in the closing minutes, only for VAR to rule Wright fractionally offside in the build-up.

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    Klopp believes “nobody plays like” the full-back after he returned from a knee injury at Anfield last week.

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    When asked how important it is to have Alexander-Arnold back in the side, Klopp added: “It’s super important.

    “Nobody is like Trent so that’s how it is. The way we play with him can be different so it’s super helpful and I’m really happy about that.

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