Kevin De Bruyne returned with a bang for Manchester City – scoring and providing an assist as they saw off Newcastle.
The champions have been without their Belgian playmaker, Kevin de Bruyne, for months but he came off the bench and produced a match-winning cameo at St James’ Park as Pep Guardiola’s side cut the gap at the top to just two points. De Bruyne’s stunning pass allowed Oscar Bobb to finish smartly in stoppage time.
De Bruyne has been City’s main creative influence since he arrived at the Etihad back in 2015. He has now come up with 103 assists in the Premier League. That has drawn him level with Wayne Rooney – in far fewer games – putting him joint third on the all-time list. Now Cesc Fabregas and Ryan Giggs are the only names ahead of him.
The Spaniard only has eight more than De Bruyne, but Giggs’ tally could prove beyond City’s main man with the Manchester United great sat on a hefty 162. Nevertheless, the Belgian’s return comes at a vital title with the season entering its crucial months.
“I missed this,” De Bruyne said after the match.
“It is what it is, I had a big injury and I needed the time. I enjoyed myself. I think it was more willpower than anything else. It was crazy. I know I’m not able to do that for 90 minutes at the moment”.
“I can put in a shift for 30 minutes at the moment. I feel it in my lungs, especially with the cold. It’s great to score the goal. The [assist] is good, but the run from Oscar [Bobb] is amazing. It was top from him. I look at his run. If he doesn’t run then I can’t pass the ball. Everyone was really happy for me. We want to try and compete for the league again. We are up there. It was a tough game.”
Guardiola was full of praise for his returning star as he fired up his players as they look to chase down league leaders Liverpool. “Kevin is a legend,” said the Catalan. “He is loved by our people and, hopefully, in the last months he can help us be there to the end”.
“We need players like Kevin. We need him to do something special in the final third. That is not tactical ability but talent, individual talent.”
He also added: “At half‑time I told the players: ‘You are amazing, stick together and we will do it.’ It was really important to win because Liverpool are flying and we have to go to Anfield so it’s better to be close the them.”