How Raheem Sterling is Providing 'Fergie Time' For Pep Guardiola's Manchester City This Season

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling
Manchester City's Fabian Delph, left, chases after Raheem Sterling at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, November 29. Sterling scored a winner for City in the 96th minute of the game. LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty

As one, they all began tearing toward the corner of the Etihad Stadium pitch. Pep Guardiola leapt, punching the air. Even the injured Benjamin Mendy limped his way down the touchline. They all wanted to celebrate with Raheem Sterling.

For this was the third time in a week that Sterling had struck late for Manchester City to win a game. But, this time, it reverberated even more powerfully, the significance even greater.

With City set to drop points against Southampton on Wednesday night after the visitor came from behind to draw level at 1-1, Sterling scored with a matter of seconds to go in the 96th minute. Guardiola's team looked likely to see its eight-point cushion at the top of the Premier League table snipped down to six, with second-place Manchester United on the horizon as the Manchester derby is a week on Sunday. But, then, up stepped Sterling. Again.

Manchester City's summer spending spree had raised concerns about how the 22-year-old would fit into the team. Would his squandering of chances last season go against him when Guardiola contemplated his line up, with Leroy Sane, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Yaya Toure all at his disposal?

The English winger managed just 10 goals in 47 appearances for City last season. But Guardiola showed faith in him, and he has repaid that by taking his tally to 13 for the season already—and the Christmas lights have yet to be put up.

"As I have said many times, he is making steps. Before he was a little bit more shy and he did not believe, but now he can do that," Guardiola said, as quoted by the BBC. "Raheem is a match-winner, it was a fantastic goal."

Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola
Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, north west England, November 29. Guardiola celebrates Raheem Sterling's late winner against Southampton. LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty

And, indeed, he has certainly been just that for City this season, as five of Sterling's 13 goals have earned his team points. Back in August, he got the equalizer that prevented City losing to Everton, and five days later grabbed an injury time winner against Bournemouth.

In October, Sterling scored the third in a tough 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns, and then came his run in November. Over the last nine days, he has secured City's place in the knockout stages of the Champions League by scoring against Feyenoord, won three points against Huddersfield and, then, did the same again against Southampton.

Opposition managers will also be warning their players to be wary of Sterling in the closing minutes of the game, as eight of his goals have come in the final 10 minutes of the game.

It isn't so long ago that the roar of celebration was being heard down the road, at Old Trafford, due to the fabled "Fergie time." Sir Alex Ferguson, who retired as manager at Manchester United, was known for seeing his teams strike late in games to win.

Now, it's City and Guardiola benefitting. Keeping faith in the Englishman has proved to be a sterling decision from the Spaniard.