Three points from Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace as Yaya Toure netted a brace on his return to the side.
Yaya Toure’s time at Manchester City looked like it was over, but the man who has won so many games for them in the past returned to Pep Guardiola’s side and claimed both goals as City moved above Chelsea and level on points at the top with Liverpool.
Toure, who hadn’t started a Premier League game under Guardiola since the Catalan arrived in the summer, showed moments of his old magic to give City a first-half lead, then after Connor Wickham had equalised for Palace, the midfielder slotted home a winner in the closing stages.
Seeing Toure back in the Manchester City side was joyful, even as a neutral. In the opening stages the Ivorian did not look like he was moving especially freely, the creaking of his joints almost audible from the back of the stand. His passes were similarly rusty, just a yard or so awry from where they were supposed to be, but it was enough to disrupt City’s play and make you think that this might be a slightly sad encore, a former great wheeled out after his time had gone.
Then came his first goal, against the run of play: not that Palace were noticeably better than City. Toure, having looked like a man who hadn’t started a league game since April, played a one-two with Nolito and his shot was taken into the roof of the net via a deflection.
Palace looked better after the break as Wickham hit back but there he was Toure again, in the second-half, completely free on the edge of the six yard box to flick home the winner. One wonders what Dimitri Seluk, Toure’s agent who has seemed to be his client’s main barrier to the City first-team (thanks to his curious feud with Pep Guardiola), made of it all.
This was not the Toure of old, the man who could suddenly decide he was going to win a game whenever he fancied, and then do it. That version is gone, but this game, in which he largely sat deep and let his younger, sparkier colleagues ahead of him do the creating, showed that he is not just a viable option for this City side, but a match-winner too.
It also displayed that, while Guardiola remains a stubborn man, he’s not that stubborn. Joe Hart will presumably have noted that with interest.