With a score of 1-1, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola decided to bring in Gabriel Jesus in an attempt to secure a winner against Liverpool on Sunday.
Ultimately, that decision would be a game-changer, but not in the way you might expect.
In previous seasons, this exact substitution would have likely led to Phil Foden stepping out, had the starlet even been on the pitch in the first place. This time things were different. Instead of dragging the youngster, Guardiola opted to give Riyad Mahrez a morning bath instead.
This is the same player who cost City £ 60million in 2018; the same player who was crowned PFA Player of the Year in 2016; the same player who is one of the best straight forward on the planet.
The fact that Foden has instead been selected to stay on the pitch is testament to his incredible development this season, both in terms of ability and importance alongside Pep Guardiola. This campaign, he has already made 28 appearances, just ten fewer than what he achieved last season.
His output has also increased significantly, with Foden registering ten goals and six assists, down from eight and nine in the previous term.
Guardiola’s decision to trust his starlet against fierce City rivals has paid off at Anfield. While Alisson’s horrible pair of mistakes will naturally dominate the headlines, Foden’s display was potentially life-defining.
After a calm but industrious first half, he came back to life in style after the break, making Fabinho a workhorse with explosive speed from the start.
Foden’s spectacle continued throughout the second period, with the forward finally making a decisive impact just seconds after being spared being substituted. Grabbing Alisson’s comically poor pass, he made his way to the byline, leaving Andrew Roberton for dead – who 90 mins recently ranked the world’s best left-back – and making a tricky ball for Ilkay Gundogan to crash at home.
The highlight of Foden’s afternoon would come ten minutes later, when he produced a moment of magic that left the hordes of world-class players on the pitch jealous. Picking up the ball in a wide, unpromising area, he posed questions to Robertson that left the Scotsman stumped, jumping into half a yard of space and searching the ball past Ederson.
Standing out in a team as endowed with attacking skills as City is an unenviable task. Yet despite being only 20 years old, there was little doubt as to who the best player on the pitch was on Sunday. The exceptional display continued Foden’s trend to move from “talent” to leaving the Premier League in its own right.
However, it is perhaps this performance above all others that we see in a decade as the moment when Foden finally arrived as a superstar.