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Joao Cancelo emerges as Pep Guardiola’s new devastating weapon of choice

There is a standing joke doing the rounds in elite, professional football.

Joao Cancelo is still being called a full-back.

As in those characters seen on the wide extremes of defensive lines.

As in those types who like to put wingers into the gravel.

As in those operators who plough a furrow up and down the same track.

Cancelo is no more a full-back than Pep Guardiola’s club-crested frock-coat is a bold fashion statement.The Portuguese starts in an area associated with full-backs … and then, that’s it.

Bernardo celebrates his goal from Cancelo’s sumptuous delivery

He has quickly become one of the players to carry the standard for this Guardiola rebuild.

That he intercepted a loose defensive clearance well inside opposition territory and set up the breakthrough goal here with a sumptuous pass just about typified his season.

Ultra-adaptable, ultra-comfortable in possession, understands exactly what Guardiola expects from him yet has a licence to be creative.

That is Cancelo, that is this entire Manchester City squad.

And as if they needed any psychological help, the aura thy carry has only been exaggerated by this impressive run.

Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola
Pep never appears truly happy – but this team are remarkable

So often, it is City versus a Damage Limitation XI.

Yet, despite this protracted purple patch, perhaps Guardiola’s combinations do not carry as much threat as they have done in the past.

Riyadh Mahrez has been one of their most creative attacking threats recently and he did not start here while Kevin de Bruyne’s reintegration continued from the substitutes’ seats.

Consequently, there probably was not as much for Monchengladbach to fear as they first seemed to think.

Predictably, there was Pep possession aplenty but it was all fairly harmless stuff.

And for the first quarter of a mediocre, medium-paced contest, the only real German worry was whether the referee or VAR would buy an extended, crafty, penalty box fall from Raheem Sterling.

Thankfully, they did not.

Manchester City's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva scores to make it 1-0
Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva nods home

Alas for the team at home in a foreign venue, they were only reprieved for a moment or two before going behind to as sweet an assist as you are likely to see.

Cancelo persuaded his pass with such precision, Bernardo Silva only had to put his head in the way to give City the first goal in a game for the umpteenth time.

Actually, that is doing Cancelo’s compatriot a disservice. It was a clever run and clever nod that did full justice to a clever cross.

And from that point on, events trod a familiar path.

As someone remarked post-Arsenal match, this is now a City side that gets on top and then jabs and moves its way to a boxing-style points win. Always in control.

Not, though, as prolific as they might be.

Gabriel Jesus scored… but should have had more

Gabriel Jesus has a full tank of energy but his confidence needle too often nudges red.

His wastefulness for the first hour of this game showed a hesitancy out of kilter with everyone else’s certainty.

Which is why his opportunistic poke from Bernardo’s nod-back to double City’s lead will be a welcome confidence-booster.

Oh, and the vision for the cross that had landed on Bernardo’s head?

From Cancelo, of course.

Remember when the Premier League wondered what all the fuss and the big transfer fee for Cancelo was about as he floundered in his early City days?

Long gone. Guardiola has been proven right again.

And he has produced a wonderful player who is a full-back only in name.

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