‘He is the player of the season’: City star triggers dramatic fightback win to expose gulf with United in Manchester derby


Phil Foden has led Manchester City’s fightback – even despite an astonishing miss by Erling Haaland – as the champions beat Manchester United 3-1 in a one-sided derby that again exposed the gulf between the two Premier League rivals.

City trailed 1-0 at their Etihad Stadium home on Sunday after Marcus Rashford’s rasping long-range strike in the eighth minute and a scarcely credible miss from the prolific Haaland from barely two metres out.

But Foden then succeeded where Haaland failed, smashing in a rising drive for the equaliser in the 56th and then sweeping in a low shot in the 80th minute off Julian Alvarez’s inside pass.

“I always had the feeling he would score goals. Right now, he is winning games,” City manager Pep Guardiola said of Foden, the 23-year-old England forward whose double took him to 17 goals this season in all competitions — a career high.

“He is the player of the season … no-one has been so decisive for us as him this season.”

There was still also time for Haaland to atone for his mistake by taking advantage of a defensive error by Sofyan Amrabat to stroke home the third goal in stoppage time with City’s 27th shot of the match. 

Manchester City’s Phil Foden celebrates with teammates after scoring their side’s second goal. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Haaland collapsed to the ground in mock relief following his goal — a league-high 18th of the campaign — after celebrating with Foden.

The pair scored a hat-trick each in City’s 6-3 win over United last season — and they hurt their rivals once again

Second-place City move back a point behind Liverpool with 11 games to go in a title race that looks like going to the wire.

Erling Haaland ices the game for Manchester City.

It couldn’t be a Manchester derby without the Norwegian scoring, right?

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— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) March 3, 2024

United, meanwhile, have lost ground in the fight for Champions League qualification. 

With fourth-place Aston Villa and fifth-placed Tottenham winning on Saturday, United are now six points back from Spurs and 11 behind Villa.

The lopsided nature of the match showed that Jim Ratcliffe, who has taken charge of United’s footballing operation as part of the billionaire’s arrival as a co-owner, has his work cut out in returning the club to being a force in the English and European game.

Phil Foden does it again! ????

The homegrown hero puts Manchester City ahead against Manchester United.

From 0-1 down to 2-1 up.

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— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) March 3, 2024

He talked last week about knocking City and Liverpool “off their perch” in three years. That might be optimistic on this evidence.

For United were outclassed, with the game played in the manner of an FA Cup match between a top-flight team and a lower-league opponent. City had 74 per cent possession overall and United only had one shot on target — Rashford’s goal.

Still, before Foden scored his brilliant first, there was a chance United could somehow hold out. 

Anything Marcus Rashford can do, so can Phil Foden ????

Absolute top drawer from the Manchester City man.


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— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) March 3, 2024

And even that goal was contentious, with United manager Erik ten Hag angry that a foul wasn’t awarded for a foul on Rashford by Kyle Walker prior to City breaking forward and grabbing the equaliser.

“It was maybe soft but there was contact,” ten Hag said.

City will now be heading to Anfield for a seismic match next Sunday (Monday AEDT) right on Liverpool’s tail and with a chance of inflicting a huge blow in the title race. The champions are now unbeaten in 19 matches in all competitions.

In the day’s other top-flight game, Burnley’s winless run was extended to 10 games in all competitions with their 2-0 home loss against Bournemouth, who scored through Justin Kluivert and Antoine Semenyo.

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