Pep Guardiola praised Manchester City’s kids as “incredible” after they helped the team to a 6-1 win over Wycombe in the Carabao Cup.
The senior players did the damage at the other end, with goals from Riyad Mahrez (2), Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, and Ferran Torres before teenage sub Cole Palmer capped it all with a stunning late sixth.
But Guardiola fielded a back four made up entirely of 18-year-olds – Conrad Egan-Riley, Finley Burns, Luke Mbete and Josh Wilson-Esbrand – shielded by 17-year-old Romeo Lavia – and despite concerning first, they were solid and showed the attacking bent and football instincts the Blues boss demands of his centre backs.
And with James McAtee and Palmer both appearing as subs, it was a triumph for the academy.
With Aleks Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri and John Stones injured, Nathan Ake at his father’s funeral, and Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker, Fernandinho, Joao Cancelo saved for the weekend trip to Chelsea, it was down to the teenagers to keep Wycombe out and launch attacks – and they did so superbly.
Guardiola said they played without pressure: “The pressure is when they do really well. Maybe they were nervous, I don’t know but being supported for Phil (Foden), Kevin (De Bruyne), Raz (Sterling).
“Thanks for the support for coming as I know it’s special for our fans to see players coming from the academy.
“We know every day at training they can do it. It’s a dream for them to play in this kind of game, we told them to be themselves and do what they have to do.
“CJ (Egan-Riley) was incredible, Finley, Luke and Josh, Romeo, incredible. – just 17 and so young. So good.
“Cole and McAtee. (Sam) Edozie and Liam (Delap) couldn’t play but we’ve a good generation of players and we can have them. Maybe not like Phil, but it’s one of the nights when I love to be manager. I like to make them feel they are part of this amazing club.
“Normally the best way to introduce these guys is one or two – surrounded by the first team. This is the best.
“But the circumstances is what it is. We have no central defenders, Nathan is at funeral, Ayme and John are better but not able, Kyle and Ferna not ready to play mentally.
“Joao should rest as he played all the minutes. That’s why you have the academy. Use it, why should we not do it. After winning it four times in a row, this is the best time to do it.”