Kevin de Bruyne was terribly missed at Manchester City. One of the greatest footballers of this generation, de Bruyne injured his hamstring during the Blues’ first Premier League game of the 2023-24 season. It turned out to be a serious injury and he found himself out of action for almost five months.
In his absence, City’s performance deteriorated and at one point they found themselves placed fourth on the points table. For a team, that was looking hot favourites to win the Premier League for the fourth successive time, it was not familiar territory by any means. De Bruyne’s absence was attributed to Pep Guardiola’s team going down quite a few notches.
De Bruyne returned from injury in January and it’s no coincidence that ever since his return, City have begun to take on the air of invincibility again. The 32-year-old was in the December-30 matchday squad against Sheffield United after missing 27 City games across competitions.
A week later, he came off the bench against Huddersfield and provided a beautiful assist in a 5-0 win for his team in the FA Cup. Then in his first Premier League match since his injury in the team’s season opener, he again came off the bench against Newcastle United in the second half and equalised for the Blues. That was not all. It was his pass that set up Oscar Bobb’s stoppage-time winner and City’s 3-2 win. The contest against the Magpies was important for City to win and without de Bruyne, it was unfathomable how the Blues would have got over the line. In his absence, the same Newcastle had knocked City out of the League Cup in September.
In another FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur it was de Bruyne’s corner in the dying minutes of the game that helped City walk away victorious. Then on 31st January against Burnley in the Premier League, he provided another assist as City emerged victorious 3-1. Four wins in four matches since de Bruyne’s return. That’s no coincidence. It’s the de Bruyne effect that has blown plenty of air into City’s sails.
Many believe his return more or less has ended the Premier League title race. That it’s a matter of time before City return to the top and continue on their way to becoming the first team to win four successive Premier League titles. At present, they are third in the points table, five behind Liverpool who have played two games more.
City fans are happy, so is Guardiola. “Kevin must know how much the people love him. He’s incredible. Kevin, until he decides to leave or retires, will forever be one of the most beloved players. We are really pleased for him,” the Spaniard said after the Huddersfield game that saw chants of “oh Kevin de Bruyne” boom at the Etihad Stadium.
De Bruyne joined City in 2015 from Wolfsburg and no one in the current team has played a bigger hand in the team’s success on the field since. He is a winner of five Premier League and one Champions League trophies. He has won the Professional Footballers’ Association men’s Players’ Player of the Year award twice. To all intents and purposes, he is the backbone of the City team. His panoramic vision, extraordinary control of the ball and the ability to provide pinpoint passes have served City so well for so long.
It’s totally understandable why his return is being celebrated by City fans. His standards are so high that Guardiola complained of his missing a free kick opportunity against Newcastle. Can you believe that? Despite scoring a goal and providing an assist! Spain’s World Cup winner Cesc Fabregas believes the Belgian is like a boy with new boots following his return from injury. These are massive accolades. His return is not good news for his rivals who would have secretly rejoiced when he limped off the field after 23 minutes against Burnley on August 11. Their troubles have grown manifold now.