Season Highlights: Phil Foden Sparkles as Manchester City Win the Carabao Cup

Ewan Murray
Aston Villa v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Final
Aston Villa v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Final / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Watching Manchester City lift the Carabao Cup is not a rare occurrence, not by any stretch. In fact, they should probably just be gifted the trophy at the start of every season.

Even Pep Guardiola seems slightly more disinterested in the competition with every passing year as his side continually dismantle weaker opposition on their route to Wembley.

As a result, you can understand why some people don't give two hoots about the Carabao Cup anymore. It's like watching the same film over and over again when you know the ending already, an ending that brings the majority of us little joy.

But this year's Carabao Cup final was at least a little different because of one man: Phil Foden.

Rewind to the morning of 1 March 2020 and most of us were waking up to the prospect of another Super Sunday - yes, we miss it too. With City only needing to get the better of relegation-threatened Aston Villa at Wembley, few of us had genuine hopes of an exciting game of end-to-end football.

And while City proceeded to do the inevitable by lifting the trophy, their Midlands opponents put up a stern resistance. In fact, if a corner that wasn't a corner hadn't been given - one which led to City's second goal - the course of the evening could have been dramatically different. Maybe that's a little wishful thinking on our part.

Prior to kick off, many of us were taken aback by one particular name on the teamsheet. Foden was actually starting a game of football, and one that wasn't an FA Cup clash with Wycombe Wanderers.

Could this be it? Is this where we see the best young talent Guardiola has ever seen finally storm the big stage? David Silva's successor pulling the strings and offering hope to England's midfield crisis?

Yes, yes it was. Within reason, of course.

Despite featuring in City's lineup of world-beaters on the right-wing - a position which is not his preferred - Foden offered us a man of the match performance, wetting our appetites as we hope to see more and more of the starlet in coming seasons.

Foden instantly looked assured in arguably the biggest match of his career, more than fitting in alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan. The 19-year-old was consistently finding his way in behind Matt Targett at left back and being picked out by effortlessly perfect lofted balls towards the byline.

Phil Foden was named as Man of the Match in the 2020 Carabao Cup final
Phil Foden was named as Man of the Match in the 2020 Carabao Cup final / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Eventually, Foden's persistence paid off. Rodri picked him with a chipped through-ball, allowing Foden to redirect the ball back into the path of Aguero, who simply doesn't miss in such situations.

Having grabbed an early assist, Foden's confidence only grew as he continued to boss the game in a position relatively unknown to him. City added a second and looked on their way to a replay of their 6-0 FA Cup final thrashing of Watford last season, but Villa managed to pull one back.

Regardless of the actual result, many of us just couldn't take our eyes off Foden. He was playing with a swagger seldom seen in teenagers and glistening in his new-found belief on the grand stage.

He was driving at opposition defenders, jinking in and out of tackles, finding teammates with precise passes from all manner of positions, plucking cross-field balls out of the air with aplomb. It was breathtaking stuff. There was even a vague resemblance to Eden Hazard as Foden bounced off tackles and carved open the Villa back line.

What was equally as exciting as Foden's performance was what it now means for City. With David Silva set to leave the club at the end of the season, Foden proved to Guardiola that he doesn't need to look for a replacement in the transfer market - the solution is already well within his ranks.

It was simply a dazzling display from one of England's most exciting young players and one that was met by a wave of national pride. To have put in a man of the match showing in a cup final at Wembley - overshadowing some of the world's best players in the process - shows the sky is the limit for the 19-year-old.