Pep Guardiola lauded Kevin De Bruyne as a “unique” talent after the Belgian playmaker’s return to action in Manchester City’s FA Cup rout of Huddersfield.
The Belgium international came on as a 57th-minute substitute and set up a goal as the holders cruised to a 5-0 win over second-tier strugglers Huddersfield in a thoroughly lopsided clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
This was De Bruyne’s first senior appearance since tearing his hamstring during City’s Premier League opener against Burnley in August.
Chants of ‘Oh Kevin De Bruyne’ echoed around the ground when the 32-year-old replaced Julian Alvarez, with City already 2-0 up following goals from Phil Foden and Alvarez.
Guardiola’s side extended their lead through Ben Jackson’s own goal and another Foden effort before De Bruyne’s deft lofted pass allowed Jeremy Doku to complete the scoring.
“He played really good minutes,” said City manager Guardiola of De Bruyne.
“We thought it was better to play the second half than from the beginning when the game was tighter…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.”
The Spaniard added: “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’s world-class quality will be a boost to City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup they won in their 2022/23 ‘treble’ season, with Guardiola hoping his squad will soon be back at full-strength with the return of several other senior players.
“What I want is to arrive in the second part of the season with everyone fit,” he said. “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.”