'Stockport's Iniesta' strikes to repay Guardiola's faith

Manchester City's English midfielder Phil Foden (centre) celebrating with his teammates after scoring the opener in the 1-0 Premier League win over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium yesterday. City moved back to the top of the table, one point ahead of
Manchester City's English midfielder Phil Foden (centre) celebrating with his teammates after scoring the opener in the 1-0 Premier League win over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium yesterday. City moved back to the top of the table, one point ahead of Liverpool (85) who travel to Cardiff today. PHOTOS AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Manchester City's English midfielder Phil Foden (centre) celebrating with his teammates after scoring the opener (left) in the 1-0 Premier League win over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium yesterday. City moved back to the top of the table, one point a
Manchester City's English midfielder Phil Foden celebrating with his teammates after scoring the opener (above) in the 1-0 Premier League win over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium yesterday. City moved back to the top of the table, one point ahead of Liverpool (85) who travel to Cardiff today.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

The Manchester City midfield is littered with stars such as Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva, yet it was 18-year-old Phil Foden who scored the winner in the 1-0 win over Tottenham yesterday.

The England Under-17 World Cup winner, who reportedly became a first-time father in February, headed home his first league goal in only his second Premier League start at the Etihad in the fifth minute.

He said: "Luckily I was on the line to tap it in, when the opportunity comes I just try to take it and help the lads. I'm just happy to help the lads today."

City manager Pep Guardiola said Foden is "more than ready. He scored a goal, he fought a lot".

He added: "Playing in the Premier League is an incredible experience for him, he's so dynamic and adds extra intensity into our game.

"I wanted more attack and aggression in the box. He has the capacity with his work and ability, today was tough against top players and he did well."

Manchester United legend Gary Neville believes that the manager had been under growing pressure to give the starlet the chance to shine.

"To play him in his first game or his second Premier League start in such an important game, there comes a point where Pep Guardiola thinks here it is," he told Sky Sports. "This is the moment I have to get him into the side.

"The sort of feedback I have been getting in the last weeks is that there is a feeling in the club that if they don't get this kid in, they might all stop having an academy."

The lifelong City fan, known in some circles as the Andres Iniesta of Stockport, came into prominence in 2017 when he won the Golden Ball at the Under-17 World Cup. He was also named the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year that year.

The academy graduate made his City bow in the Champions League in 2017 against Feyenoord, and scored his first senior goal in the 3-0 League Cup victory over Oxford United the following year.

He also netted twice in the 4-1 win over Newport County in the FA Cup in February.

THE RIGHT CHOICE

I wanted more attack and aggression in the box. He has the capacity with his work and ability, today was tough against top players and he did well.

PEP GUARDIOLA, on midfielder Phil Foden.

Of his playing style, Foden said: "I try to get into the box because that's where you score goals. I am an attacking midfielder, I will always try to be in the box, today it paid off."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 21, 2019, with the headline ''Stockport's Iniesta' strikes to repay Guardiola's faith'. Print Edition | Subscribe