Pep Guardiola backed Phil Foden to be a Manchester City star for the next decade after the teenager made his first Premier League start in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Cardiff.
Though Foden could not join Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane on the score-sheet he forced a couple of saves out of Neil Etheridge in the second half and saw one close-range shot strike the post.
Guardiola has seemed reluctant to lean on the 18-year-old too much in City’s pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple, but the night’s showing suggested he is ready to feature more.
“Phil, we know it, he’s young but he can do everything,” Guardiola said. “He can create chances, he’s incredible with his vision. We can count on them and that’s good.
“Every day he is in the locker room, he is part of the group and we trust him.
“I’m happy with the way he plays. He’s at a good level. He could have scored two goals, he’s exceptional.”
While other highly-rated teenagers have looked abroad for first-team opportunities, Foden signed a new City deal until 2024 in December and Guardiola said he would get his rewards in the long run.
“It’s not easy for him with (David) Silva, Bernardo (Silva), (Ilkay) Gundogan, De Bruyne, but he wants to be here, he’s delighted to be here,” he said.
“I assure you next year he will play more minutes. That’s the process. He’s 18 or 19. For the next decade he will be important.”
Victory sent City back to the top of the table and they were ahead inside six minutes through De Bruyne, though the Belgian admitted after the match his shot from a tight angle on the touchline was intended as a cross.
Sane doubled the lead just before the break with a low shot following a corner, and Cardiff rarely looked like getting back into it until a couple of late chances, the best of them seeing Ederson race off his line to deny Oumar Niasse.
It was another composed performance from City, despite Guardiola making seven changes from the side that beat Fulham on Saturday.
“These players have helped us, they are not guys who did not play for two months and are not happy,” Guardiola said of those that came in.
“We have a good squad and without it we cannot fight for the four competitions.
“It’s impossible. We are here in April because we have confidence in the players.”
While City march on, Cardiff’s troubles deepen and their next two matches – away to relegation rivals Burnley and Brighton on April 13 and 16 respectively – could be make or break for Neil Warnock’s men as they remain 18th in the table.
Warnock had threatened to field his under-23 side in this match after lashing out at the officials following their 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, but said he was proud of his side’s response.
“To concede a goal as early as that, you fear the worst,” he said. “They started the game like the Real Madrid of 10 years ago, they were so quick and comfortable on the ball.
“The disappointment of the Chelsea game could have knocked teams, but they came to see me on Monday after I said about the under-23s and said, ‘Gaffer, I want to play in this game’ and that’s what you want to see.”
Cardiff sit five points adrift of safety, albeit with a game in hand on those around them, and Warnock admitted the scale of the challenge with Liverpool and Manchester United still on the fixture list.
“I think we have to win three out of six and get a draw somewhere,” he said. “But I think we can get results from all of the last six games.”