Now he is winning games – Pep Guardiola talks up Phil Foden’s impact on Man City

By Sports Desk March 03, 2024

Pep Guardiola praised fantastic Phil Foden and said the Manchester City midfielder is developing into a world-class player after his wonderful, derby-winning display against Manchester United.

Nobody expected anything other than embarrassment at the Etihad Stadium for Erik ten Hag’s stumbling Red Devils, yet Marcus Rashford’s scorcher gave them a shock half-time lead.

United were under the cosh for large periods before and after the break, finally buckling as 23-year-old Foden scored a superb leveller in the 56th minute before then firing City ahead 10 minutes from time.

Erling Haaland added gloss in stoppage time but there was no doubt who the star of the show was in Sunday’s important 3-1 victory for Guardiola’s title-chasing team.

“He is right now this season (one of the best players in the Premier League),” the City boss said of man-of-the-match Foden.

“He’s been the best so far. I always had the feeling he would score goals, in training sessions, always I had the feeling but now he is winning games.

“To become a world-class player at that age you have to win games and he always played good, always had an incredible work ethic. Doesn’t matter what position, he doesn’t complain.

“He lives to play football but now he is winning games. He played a false nine at Bournemouth and was unbelievable. Today after he missed the first chance against (Andre) Onana he became a little bit anxious. That is for his age, he will learn on that.

“But Rashford scored an unbelievable goal and Phil scored an unbelievable goal too.”

Foden helped the treble winners get out of a hole on Sunday after City fell behind for the 12th time in the league this season.

It was their first-ever Premier League comeback win against United and means they have recovered 21 points from losing positions this term.

The result put them back within one point of leaders Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s mouth-watering battle between the sides at Anfield.

“We have Copenhagen on our mind and we will have time after to talk about Liverpool,” Guardiola said ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

“We have a lot of points still to play for and different places to go.”

United bowed out of Europe before Christmas so there are no distractions before Saturday lunchtime’s return to Premier League action at home to embattled Everton.

The injury-hit Red Devils have regressed during Ten Hag’s second season and sit an eye-watering 19 points behind leaders Liverpool, who they face in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Similarly concerning is the fact that sixth-placed United are 11 points off Aston Villa in fourth and six behind fifth-placed Tottenham, which could yet be enough for Champions League qualification.

But Ten Hag does not believe United are that far behind City when not beset by injuries and felt key decisions hurt his battling side on Sunday.

“On defining moments, we didn’t have it on our side because just before the 1-1, I think Rashford was on another break,” Ten Hag said.

“And just before 2-1, there was (Alejandro) Garnacho in a breakthrough. I think we were really close to win or at least get a draw here.

“I will not say it was a tackle (on Rashford) from Kyle Walker. They both run, but Rashy confirmed to me it was contact.

“I saw it back, it was very soft, but you will understand when you are on a full-speed run, if you get a little touch then you are out of control and I think that is what happened.”

Asked if this match highlighted a chasm between the teams, under-fire Ten Hag said: “No, I don’t think so. Absolutely not. We have many problems in injuries and, still, we had an opportunity because it was really small margins.

“We could have scored a second goal in a debatable moment and in the second debatable moment, so you see it’s not that big. Especially when we have everyone on board we can be competitive.

“I think also we showed, for instance, in the cup final against them when it’s really close but don’t forget City, in this moment, are the best team in the world.”

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