MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester City’s 18-year-old midfielder Phil Foden confirmed he can handle the big stage with his fifth-minute goal securing a vital 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
With Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne suffering the latest in a series of injuries this season, Foden could well be in line for another start in Wednesday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
Foden, a frequent substitute and Cup player, was given just his second start in the Premier League and made the perfect beginning by nodding in from close range.
The England youth international delivered a confident and aggressive performance that left Guardiola delighted with his decision.
“Now I am a genius. He scored a goal, how good is the manager?” laughed Guardiola, when asked about his decision to start Foden ahead of David Silva.
“Phil is an incredibly talented player and we have to pick him in the right moment. He has the quality to arrive in the box.
“Every time he plays he scores a goal or has chances. His ability in small spaces, it is not easy to play against (Eric) Dier or (Victor) Wanyama or (Christian) Eriksen. It is an incredible experience for him to play and I trust him a lot,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Foden was thrilled with his debut Premier League goal.
“I was happy to help the team and get the goal,” he said.
“(It’s my) first Premier League goal so it will live with me forever. It was a bit of a surprise (to start) but I am ready for whenever it comes,” Foden added.
“We know we have to win every game to win the Premier League. We are taking it one game at a time so we’ll see what happens.”
Next up are United in the derby on Wednesday and the likely absence of De Bruyne could mean another opportunity for Foden — although Guardiola also has David Silva and Fernandinho available.
“Maybe, maybe Kevin is not there so we will see,” said Guardiola.
De Bruyne, who has struggled with injuries throughout this season, was replaced in the 38th minute after suffering what appeared to be a knee problem.
Guardiola said he had not spoken to the club’s medical staff but thought it might have been only a muscle strain.
“It was something muscular, which is normal after injuries and three or four games of a lot of minutes with no preparation,” said the Spaniard.
“Maybe he will miss the four games and the FA Cup Final. I don’t know how big the impact is.
“We will see tomorrow (Sunday) but I think for the next game, he will be out.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Clare Fallon