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These guys win games – Pep Guardiola welcomes return of ‘unique’ Kevin De Bruyne

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 7 Jan 2024

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Pep Guardiola hailed Kevin De Bruyne as exceptional and unique after his impressive return to action in Manchester City’s FA Cup stroll against Huddersfield.

The Belgian playmaker appeared as a 57th-minute substitute and set up a goal as the holders breezed past the Championship strugglers 5-0 in a one-sided third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

It was De Bruyne’s first outing in five months after a long lay-off following hamstring surgery and his comeback is timely as City step up the intensity for the second half of the campaign.

City manager Guardiola said: “He played really good minutes. We thought it was better to play the second half than from the beginning when the game was tighter.

“It was so difficult to find space. They defended so so deep and were really well organised, compact.

“It was really good and now, as I said before, he needs to accumulate training sessions and more training sessions, more than games. Still he is not ready for 90 minutes.

“Kevin helps to win games and there are few (like him) in the world. We can play good football-wise but Kevin, (Erling) Haaland, Phil (Foden), Julian (Alvarez) – these guys win games.

“That’s why it’s so important to have him back. Kevin is exceptional, he is unique.

“He was a long time out with surgery. His first minutes, the quality of the assist for the Jeremy (Doku) goal – it’s really good to have him back.”

De Bruyne put the seal on City’s performance by teeing up City’s fifth goal for Doku, who was also making his return from injury.

Foden had already struck twice with Alvarez also on target and City benefiting from a Ben Jackson own goal.

Haaland was again absent through injury but, with a lighter schedule this month, Guardiola is hoping to get all his top names back as treble winners City again chase glory on three fronts.

He said: “What I want is to arrive in the second part of the season with everyone fit. I want Erling back, Kevin back, Jeremy and John (Stones). When they are back we have a team that can compete in different competitions until the end.”

Huddersfield manager Darren Moore hopes his side will learn from a difficult experience.

Moore said: “It was always going to be a tough game. We tried to come here and nullify the areas where Man City are excellent in and thought we did that to start off with.

“You have to try and start on a positive note and disrupt their passing rhythm, but when the first goal goes in and then there is quickfire second one, the game runs away from you a bit.

“The boys were just talking about the quality they were coming up against. Sometimes in moments of defeat it about the learning perspective and that is what we have taken from today.”

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