Who is Manchester City’s Young Player of the Season?

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Getty/Goal composite
Several of the club's young prospects have enjoyed good seasons in the youth ranks, but a select few have showcased their talents in the first team

It was another historic year for Manchester City, with the men's first-team sweeping all before them on the domestic front.

The stakes were high in the Premier League, with City winning 32 games (equalling their record from last season), including their final 14 on the bounce, to finish just one point ahead of Liverpool at the top of the table.

City have a host of young players in their ranks that have impressed this season, including 16-year-old Ben Knight, 18-year-old Felix Nmecha, who made his senior debut in the Carabao Cup, 19-year-old Ian Carlo Poveda, who started in the Carabao Cup and ended the season training with the senior team, and 15-year-old Charlie McNeill, who is sure to have a bright future.

Others, like Jeremie Frimpong, could also make the squad for a Carabao Cup clash next season.

But only a select few were deemed ready and able to contribute for an extended period by Guardiola, and these are the three players who have been chosen by Goal as City's Young Players of the Season. 


3. ARO MURIC


Aro Muric Manchester City

Muric's season started back in August, with 90 minutes in the Eredivisie for NAC Breda, against De Graafschap. The big Kosovan had been sent on loan to one of City's sister clubs for valuable first-team experience, but an injury to Claudio Bravo changed those plans. Suddenly, Muric was back at City, playing the role of understudy to Ederson.

It did not yield any Premier League or even FA Cup minutes, but he was crucial in getting City to the final of the Carabao Cup.

The 20-year-old proved to be extremely confident with his feet, which is of course very important for Pep Guardiola, and was always there as an out-ball if his defenders needed him. 

It is not easy to step in for Ederson, who has been a cornerstone of City's success under Guardiola, but Muric has looked more comfortable than Bravo, an experienced international.

The youngster's biggest night of the season came at the King Power Stadium in December, when he made a fine save in normal time and then stopped two penalties in the shoot-out to help City squeeze past Leicester.

“He’s 20 years old and he’s played all the competition," Guardiola said afterwards. "He’s a young guy who trains very well. He is so shy. He deserves the big applause. During the game was brilliant in his decisions, saving with his foot and in the penalties the keeper is decisive.”

Guardiola elected to pick Ederson in the final, signalling the end of Muric's season, but the 6 feet 6 inches tall keeper can expect to continue as the Brazilian's understudy next season, despite Bravo's return to fitness.


2. ERIC GARCIA


Eric Garcia Manchester City

The 18-year-old did not play as many first-team minutes as Muric, but it would be fair to say that he certainly stood out as an exciting prospect when he did make Guardiola's line-up. 

He was very impressive in that victory at Leicester, ordering around senior team-mates like Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi as he marshalled the defence, barely putting a foot wrong.

He then played both semi-final legs against Burton where he impressed again; the League One side could not match City in quality, of course, but their physical front men proved to be a test for Garcia, which he passed with flying colours, particularly in the first leg.

The former Barcelona youth captain also stood out for City's youth teams, whether the Under-23s, U19s or U18s, who reached the FA Youth Cup final, although, somewhat strangely, he generally appears more concentrated and impressive in the bigger games, especially with the first-team.

City have a real prospect on their hands and next season he looks set to join up with Guardiola's senior squad. He may not play many, if any, Premier League minutes, but he is seen as somebody who is ready to continue their path towards the first team, just as Phil Foden was two years ago.

Should City sell Nicolas Otamendi and only bring in one new centre-back, Garcia could find himself in the first team if other first-team players pick up injuries.


1. PHIL FODEN


Man City celebrate Phil Foden's first Premier League goal

Compared to Garcia and Muric, Foden is a bonafide first-team City regular. Despite sporadic criticism from fans and media regarding a supposed lack of game time this season, the 18-year-old finished the season with 1107 first-team minutes under his belt, as well as seven goals.

Foden's talent has been obvious to everybody at City for years now (he has been there since he was six years old) and Guardiola has slowly but surely been exposing him to more and more top-level action.

In September he scored his first goal for the club, when he was the best player on the pitch as City beat Oxford in the Carabao Cup (he started four out of six games in the competition), then scored his first goal at the Etihad Stadium against Rotherham in the FA Cup in January. Three days later he scored again, when coming off the bench against Burton; in February he struck twice at Newport; and in March he scored his first Champions League goal, against Schalke.

He had to wait until April to start his first Premier League game, when he was surprsingly called into the line-up for the home game against Cardiff when City knew they would need to win every game to win the title. More surprisingly still, he started against Tottenham over Easter, just three days after City were cruelly knocked out of the Champions League by the same opposition.

Guardiola later branded the league clash City's "toughest game of the season", and it was decided by Foden's header after just five minutes. 

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He started again against Leicester in the penultimate game of the league season, when the pressure was really on, and his subdued performance (albeit on a night when many of his more experienced team-mates looked jittery) shows that he is still very much a work in progress.

But City have a genuine prospect on their hands, and despite the clamour for him to have played even more this season (Foden himself was frustrated at times), it is clear that he will see more and more action as the years go by. 

Next season, with David Silva in the final year of his contract, Foden will surely have even more opportunities to showcase the talents that helped England U17s win the World Cup in 2017, and those that Guardiola believes will eventually make him a City first-team regular.

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