Pep Guardiola admits Phil Foden is now starting to demand selection with his performances for Manchester City.
Foden netted his eighth City goal of the season – making him the club’s top scorer this term – as City climbed to third in the Premier League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Brighton at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Guardiola has eased the 20-year-old into the first-team picture in recent seasons but his latest appearance was his fourth successive start.
The City manager said: “It was another good performance. He is a guy with a special instinct close to goal, not just with the left foot, but with the right foot. He deserves to play. His standards are higher.
“I try to judge the performance day by day and I have the feeling he lives his life 24 hours to play football. Today with a lot of distractions around our lives – clearly less now because we have to be at home – but when you see his face he is happy at training sessions and playing games.
“When that happens the rest is what everyone sees in his performance.”
Foden settled a tight contest just before half-time with a superb strike from the edge of the area after a clever touch from a Kevin De Bruyne pass.
It was their fourth win in succession in the Premier League and extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 14 games.
City could have won more comfortably as Raheem Sterling missed a late penalty, Bernardo Silva hit the woodwork and Robert Sanchez made several good saves, but Brighton were resilient.
Guardiola said: “No matter if you are a top side, no matter the quality of players we have, when you have the bravery, courage and personality Graham Potter teams always have it will be difficult.
“In the last 20 minutes – not because we are bad but because they were good – we struggled. But it is a good signal for us. The best thing that could have happened was to win this way.”
On a wider issue, City’s goal celebration could attract scrutiny in the wake of renewed Premier League protocols calling for non-playing contact between players to be minimised. All 10 of City’s outfield players celebrated together after Foden’s strike.
Guardiola said: “We are going to do it, we are going to follow, we are going to respect the protocols. It is not just for us, it is for the rest of society.
“But the moment you score a goal and one guy runs and the others don’t go to celebrate with him, it is weird and uncomfortable. We will follow what the Premier League says but I don’t know if we will be able to do it.”
Brighton boss Graham Potter agreed with Guardiola’s point of view.
Potter said: “It is a challenge but we want to adhere as closely as we can because we understand the seriousness of it. We will do our best.
“Unfortunately sometimes the brain is a sub-conscious one and you are just there in the moment, you are not thinking, it is an instinctive reaction.”
Brighton’s defeat meant they have now gone nine games without a win in the Premier League and they remain 17th in the table.
Potter, however, could at least take the positives from his side’s stubborn performance.
He said: “We’re disappointed to come away with nothing but we were playing a top opponent. We felt we gave everything and that’s all you can ask for.
“You have to suffer sometimes here but we defended with our lives and I’m really proud of them.
“I think the players had real personality out on the pitch. In the first half we were a bit wasteful with our attacks but the second half we can be positive about. The attitude was fantastic.”