Manchester City Manager, Pep Guardiola, has revealed why he started Super Eagles forward, Kelechi Iheanacho in the derby with Manchester United which the Etihad team won 2-1 on Saturday.
Guardiola was bold enough to play Iheanacho as replacement for the suspended Sergio Aguero and the 19-year-old responded with his ninth goal from just 13 shots on target in the Premier League.
The Catalan coach told Manchester Evening News yesterday that he could have picked someone else to lead the attack, but Iheanacho’s presence sent a message to the rest of his team.
“He was the only striker we had in that moment,” he noted.
“I thought about many other options – but I thought in the beginning to show to my players that I came to win the game.”
Guardiola was satisfied with his side’s display against Jose Mourinho’s United.
“I’ve conceded many goals against Mourinho’s teams on the counter-attack because his teams are really good in that part of the game,” he said.
“But in the first half we controlled it, we conceded maybe one or two counter-attacks, no more.”
And his introduction of Fernando for the youngster after 53 minutes demonstrated a pragmatism that is often overlooked amid Guardiola’s purist instincts.
He was prepared to use a shield when required to defend his lead and it paid off handsomely.
Even Iheanacho spoke about scoring the winner and creating the assist for City’s opener as United lost at Old Trafford.
The 2013 Under-17 World Cup winner said it was a dream come true” while voicing his happiness at a performance for the ages.
“It means the world to me because it was a dream come true for me to play in the Manchester derby.
“It was also important to score the winning goal in the game so I am very happy for my team and everyone because we really worked very hard to get the victory.
“For the goal, it was being at the right place at the right time.
“I didn’t anticipate the shot actually but I am happy it came off me and I scored.
“I am very happy to get the goal and the assist,” he said.
Saturday’s goal was Iheanacho’s first for City in all competitions this season.
It was a win achieved without the banned Aguero and without influential captain Vincent Kompany who is nearing a return, as is summer signing Ilkay Gundogan, who was also absent.
Leroy Sane, the £37m summer signing from Schalke, made a lively appearance as a substitute here and will be a formidable force when fully fit.
John Stones was outstanding when United’s second-half siege came, demonstrating why Guardiola was satisfied to spend £47.5m on the young England defender to bring him from Everton.
Kevin de Bruyne was also a key figure, scoring one goal and being involved in the other. He has been directly involved in 32 goals in 46 appearances for Manchester City, scoring 17 and assisting in 15.