Foden steals the present for Metropolis
It was the fourth goal that made it. Raheem Sterling had threatened, Bernardo Silva had brought his usual energy and Ilkay Gundogan had been decisive. But her young teammate stole the show.
"It feels like the day Phil Foden grew up and delivered on that promise he made over the past few years," Gary Neville told Sky Sports. "We'll come back and see this day, I'm sure because Phil Foden is a hell of a football player."
Manchester City fans have long lauded Foden as the standout talent of his generation, but here was someone from across town who was impressed by his groundbreaking impact.
Foden not only completed the standings in City's 4-1 win over Liverpool, but also scored the second goal with a twisted run and a measured pass. When it was over, not only were the champions defeated at Anfield, but they stood in line to praise their young conqueror.
Jürgen Klopp described that fourth goal as "a brilliant situation" when Foden grabbed the ball in his crotch before running at Andrew Robertson, moving, and thundering it past Alisson in one movement.
"I just think the man is silky and brave, he sees the picture, he obviously has a bit of speed," Graeme Souness told Sky Sports. "There is so much to enjoy about this young man."
It may seem strange to seasoned city watchers that a player with 100+ appearances on his behalf may have broken out for the club. Foden won his Premier League winners medal in 2019. He even set fire to a Wembley Cup final last March.
There have been so many magical moments, little sights, clips to share with friends. It wasn't even his first Premier League goal against Liverpool. But it still felt different.
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No Kevin De Bruyne and no Sergio Aguero. Liverpool need a result to save hope of holding onto their crown. But with the game balanced, it was Foden who snatched it from them.
Alisson's mistake was unexpected. He has saved Liverpool so often, as Klopp pointed out. But in the following period, Foden's influence was inevitable.
The run that was too much for Robertson and Jordan Henderson had come, the pass to find Gundogan was typical.
It was Foden who took responsibility for the expertly weighted free kick that John Stones converted, only to see the offside flag go off. Its real goal was just to dissolve.
"It was magical for 15 minutes," said Neville.
That's what great players do, and when that word – great – feels premature at the moment, there is a growing confidence that it doesn't feel inappropriate as we look back on a career to remember. This is sure to be just one of many great games that Foden ends up swinging his way.
A word for Pep Guardiola too, because his dealings with Foden were scrutinized during much of his reign. The protocols have been a bit limited at times, yet the century of apparitions shows that this is more a matter of impatience on the part of an excited public than a case of common management.
The statistics show that no player under the age of 21 – regardless of nationality – has scored more goals in the Premier League. Add on his six assists and Foden has been involved in more goals in the competition than any other young player. At the age of 20, he is still well ahead of schedule.
Foden was exposed to European football, played 18 Champions League games and was tested in a variety of different positions during his football training. The news from Guardiola following his ad as Man of the Match was that the training is far from over.
"He's so young," he told Sky Sports.
"Sometimes in some positions he still doesn't understand what you have to do. So he wasn't in the right position in the first half that he needs to be, which we are working on. He gets a little distracted by these issues. Far to play is a little easier for him.
"Hopefully he can understand and improve because in the first half he wasn't in the position we needed and so we suffered in a few moments to be in control. But he will learn. Then the action for the second goal and fourth goal, we know what a great talent he is. "
Everybody knows. But Guardiola won't let him stop learning, not when he can be that good.
Foden's appetite is evident anyway, and while it may be a little reluctant to put a 20-year-old Englishman with three caps on City's list of world-class players, the evidence speaks for itself. It was the fourth goal that made it. Phil Foden stole the show.