Wright-Phillips is a mixed blessing for Keegan

Manchester City 3 - Crystal Palace 1
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The Independent Football

"Form is temporary, class is permanent" runs the phrase designed to comfort sportsmen and supporters the world over. However, Manchester City are likely to find that the class of Shaun Wright-Phillips is very temporary indeed.

"Form is temporary, class is permanent" runs the phrase designed to comfort sportsmen and supporters the world over. However, Manchester City are likely to find that the class of Shaun Wright-Phillips is very temporary indeed.

In seeing Wright-Phillips illuminate the opening half hour of a routine Premiership fixture, Kevin Keegan would have experienced the same joy laced with a hint of regret that David Moyes must have felt whenever Wayne Rooney bewitched Goodison Park. Somewhere lurks the knowledge that some day they will require a greater stage elsewhere. "Selling our soul" was how the City manager referred to it.

"I just know if I were managing one of the top clubs in the world and I saw videos of what this lad can do on a football pitch, I would be saying that this is the guy we should target," Keegan reflected. "He is one of the top five players in the world at what he does and he is getting better."

Outside City's stadium at Eastlands stands the huge, imposing metal structure, B of the Bang, an exploding star of a sculpture created to commemorate the Commonwealth Games and designed to emphasise the moment when a sprinter's body cracks into action. It might also serve as a symbol of Wright-Phillips's impact on a match.

Twice in what Keegan thought was the best start any of his teams have made here, Wright-Phillips drove into the Crystal Palace box and the only surprise was that he scored only once during that spell. "When we were at Maine Road in the division below, we almost expected him to miss," Keegan said. "He was still learning his trade then; now we are surprised when he misses. I only got to be a very good finisher when I went to Germany and I was 27. At Liverpool I wasn't."

When, in the 90th minute he benefited from Robbie Fowler's superb pull-back, it was the 30th time he had scored for Manchester City in 141 starts. It is a goal every four-and-a-half matches, which is mightily impressive for a midfielder and almost exactly matches Bryan Robson's record at Manchester United, although both were very different men and players.

Keegan was actually more enthused by Fowler's display, which vindicated his decision to rest the striker until he could positively prove his fitness. It was not just his goal; it was the way Fowler teased an admittedly limited Crystal Palace side that had been beset by injury and suspension. The way he dummied and turned Emmerson Boyce midway through the second half deceived and delighted the stadium.

"We could have stumbled on for another two-and-a-half years and ended up with a Robbie Fowler that isn't the one we want and certainly not what Robbie wants," his manager said.

"I think Robbie enjoys responsibility. He has a much stronger personality than people give him credit for and he is a very proud lad. It was his pride that was hurt more than anything; but that's the way it should be."

Goals: S Wright-Phillips (12) 1-0; Fowler (15) 2-0; Powell (32) 2-1; S Wright-Phillips (90) 3-1.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; S Wright-Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Sibierski (McManaman, h-t); Macken (B Wright-Phillips, 73), Fowler (Onuoha, 90). Substitutes not used: Waterreus (gk), Jordan.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Kiraly; Sorondo, Hall, Powell, Boyce; Routledge (Shipperley, 78), Leigertwood, Watson (Andrews, h-t), Soares, Lakis (Borrowdale, 61); Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Butterfield.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Manchester City: Dunne, Barton; Crystal Palace: Leigertwood.

Man of the match: Fowler.

Attendance: 44,010.

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