Gundogan is HIM: Man City midfielder emerges as Guardiola’s man for big moments

Gundogan’s latest clutch performance came when he scored two volleyed goals, with either foot, to give Manchester City a 2-1 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Published : Jun 04, 2023 19:13 IST , CHENNAI - 4 MINS READ

Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan holds up the winners trophy as he celebrates winning the English FA Cup final.
Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan holds up the winners trophy as he celebrates winning the English FA Cup final. | Photo Credit: Dave Thompson/AP

Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan holds up the winners trophy as he celebrates winning the English FA Cup final. | Photo Credit: Dave Thompson/AP

Pep Guardiola’s first signing for Manchester City was Ilkay Gundogan, in the summer of 2016. 

The Spanish coach had watched him closely during his three years at Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, when Gundogan was with Borussia Dortmund. Since Guardiola’s arrival, City has splashed over a billion in transfer fees, but the German international came at a modest fee of £20 million.

The central midfielder, who was recovering from a dislocated kneecap at the time of his transfer, wondered if Guardiola would still want to sign him due to the injury. But a phone call to the City coach put all doubts to rest. 

A few months later, he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which took him nine months to recover from. 

Gundogan, though, has come back stronger and has proven to be an irreplaceable component in the ‘City machine’, which has dominated English football. 

He is not flashy, but Gundogan can do it all. He can press, tackle, shoot, and play short and long passes. In his seven seasons with City, Guardiola has played him as a No. 6, 8, 10 and 9. 

“The year (2018-19) we won the second Premier League with 98 points, he was incredible as a holding midfielder,” Guardiola remembered. He has been the ultimate team man and possesses the intelligence and skill to perform different roles successfully.

In the second half of his City career, he has been an unlikely goal-scorer and provider of clutch moments, which will go down in the highlight reel of the club’s greatest era. And the German has scored all kinds of goals, including overhead kicks, headers, free-kicks, volleys and shots from outside the box. He has proven to be the man for the big moments when City has needed the most, with the two-goal heroics in the FA Cup final against Manchester United on Saturday, being the latest in a long list.

After finishing with two goals in the 2019-20 Premier League season, Gundogan ended the following season as the team’s top-scorer in the league and overall with 13 and 17 goals, respectively. In that season, after a stuttering start to the campaign, City went on a 19-game unbeaten run, which effectively killed rival United’s title challenge. During that period, Gundogan scored 11 goals, including back-to-back braces against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

His biggest ‘I’m HIM’ [main man] moment came in the final day of the 2021-22 league season, with Liverpool hot on City’s tail. Gundogan wasn’t in the starting XI against Aston Villa, which doubled its lead within a minute of the midfielder’s entry onto the pitch in the 69th minute. 

Gundogan would spark the home side’s comeback in the 76th minute before poking home the winner in the 81st minute to send the Etihad Stadium into raptures.

This year, again in the final month of the season, Gundogan came alive with more telling contributions. In the home 2-1 win over Leeds United, he scored a brace while breaking the Premier League record for most completed passes (170) and touches (192) in a game. In the next game, away to Everton, he scored one of the goals of the season with three exquisite touches while on the turn; set up Erling Haaland’s goal in the next minute before curling an inch-perfect free-kick in the second half to seal a 3-0 win.

In the FA Cup final, he once again stamped his influence in a big game by scoring two volleyed goals, with either foot, to give City a 2-1 win over United. As City chases a historic first continental treble, Gundogan, whose contract runs out in the summer, will be wanting to right the wrong from the 2021 Champions League final and lead the Citizens to its maiden UCL crown.

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