Since impressing Pep Guardiola in front of more than 67,000 people in the first Manchester derby played outside the UK, Phil Foden has started in just two of the subsequent nine meetings.
Just once in more than five years since the bloated day in Houston, the young Stockport has been named a Manchester City XI for a Premier League match against their biggest rivals.
The foot has obviously been patient and is still only 21. He should never start in the biggest matches of the season while still learning to thrive on a Guardiola team where the standard is so high. And when he got his chance to shine, in March 2020 at Old Trafford, the Blues were far below their best as they fell to a 2-0 defeat that summed up a frustratingly inconsistent season.
The feeling, however, is that the Foot has for some time been severely underused in – despite what Guardiola has said – one of the biggest fixtures in the calendar. His energy and quality made him very unlucky to be a replacement in the home defeat in December 2019, a draw away in December 2020 and the home defeat in March 2021.
Another unmanageable selection decision can never be ruled out with the City boss, but while Foden humbly rejected the proposal on Wednesday night, he must be one of the first names on the squad for Saturday’s match.
After missing the start of the season with an injury picked up ahead of the European Championship 2020 final, the 21-year-old boasts five goals and five assists from eight starts so far; in one of the two matches he interrupted, at Chelsea away, the eyes will tell you that he was still one of the best players.
A masterclass at Anfield for the second season in a row also repeated what last season’s Champions League race confirmed: The foot is a player who thrives in big matches.
After the 4-1 victory over Club Brugge, the player did not shy away from the requirements for a role that is not his favorite, saying that it is the responsibility of anyone who assumes the No. 9 role on the team without an Orthodox striker to to score goals. No matter how collective the City team is, it still needs individuals who are happy to step forward and carry the burden.
Whether Foden continues in the No. 9 role, returns to the left-wing position that gave Liverpool a nightmare, or slips into a midfield role that gave him praise for England’s duty recently remains to be seen. However, as Guardiola has said, his position is not of the utmost relevance because he makes an impact no matter where he plays.
If the City coach wants to show how important the derby is, a start for the local star in the squad is a must.