Pep Guardiola says he has never doubted Phil Foden’s quality on the field after the youngster marked his return to the Manchester City side with the only goal against Brentford.
Foden finished superbly from a Kevin De Bruyne cross to score his fifth Premier League goal of the campaign and fire City to a 1-0 victory in Wednesday’s clash in west London.
The 21-year-old, along with Jack Grealish, had been left out of City’s line-up for their previous two matches after being warned about his off-the-field behaviour by Guardiola.
That came after the pair were pictured in a nightclub mingling with others without wearing a mask a day before taking part in a recovery training session.
But Foden was back in Guardiola’s good books thanks to his match-winning moment at the Brentford Community Stadium, with that goal taking City eight points clear at the top.
“Exceptional,” Guardiola told Amazon Prime when asked about the performances of Foden and De Bruyne in attack.
“With Foden, he’s already a football player. We never had any doubts about his quality. We knew it. Since he came to play with us, always he’s been exceptional.”
Foden was fielded in a false nine position he is now becoming accustomed to and scored from one of his two attempts against Brentford, the goal allowed to stand after a VAR check for a possible offside.
At 21 years and 215 days, Foden became the second-youngest City player to score 20 Premier League goals after team-mate Gabriel Jesus (21y, 40d).
Five of those strikes have come in 921 minutes of action this season – the equivalent of just over 10 entire games – each from his left foot.
Asked about his preferred position in the side, Foden said: “Wherever the manager puts me, I will do my best for the team. I started on the left. It is good, I am adaptable.
“I’ve have a few goals this year that have been ruled offside so I wasn’t too confident about this one. I thought I went a bit too early, but thank god the goal counted.
“I am really happy. There were a few when I went a bit early and was offside. We could have won by more. We kept working hard.”
City were not at their best but did enough to take advantage of Liverpool’s defeat at Leicester City on Tuesday and Chelsea’s home draw with Brighton and Hove Albion elsewhere on Wednesday.
All five previous sides to be eight points ahead at the start of a new calendar year have gone on to win the Premier League title, including City themselves in 2017-18.
Despite having racked up 10 wins on the spin for the fourth time under Guardiola, he is taking nothing for granted.
“There are 54 points left to play,” he said. “So when you put it in this perspective eight points is ridiculous.
“But we’ve won ten games in a row and this is one of our targets. We don’t have much time and on January 1 we play Arsenal, who are one the best teams right now on form.”