By George Overhill

14th Jan, 2023 | 7:10am

Willy Gnonto would suit playing for Manchester City according to Gary Neville, who admitted that Leeds United fans wouldn’t appreciate him pointing it out.

The teenager was the best player on the pitch as the Whites lost against the run of play to Aston Villa on Friday night (13 January), producing a wonderful assist for Patrick Bamford’s consolation in the 2-1 defeat.

Neville was in awe of the deadline day signing throughout and only got more effusive with his praise of the 19-year-old as the game went on, calling him a “little beauty” and “absolutely brilliant” during the second half, where he also mooted the possibility that he could follow Kalvin Phillips to the Etihad based on how he plays.

Speaking live on the Sky Sports match coverage on Friday night (9.22pm) Neville said: “Leeds fans won’t like me for saying this but when you look at a player like Gnonto and how Manchester City play by playing those little passes into those midfield runners, he just looks like a Manchester City winger.

“Leeds fans won’t like me for saying that because I’m not selling him off. I’m sure they want to see him for another few years at Leeds United.

“He looks really, really good. So mature in his decision-making on the ball.”

Commentator Seb Hutchinson responded ominously: “I can remember you saying something similar about Kalvin Phillips last season.”

Hands off

For all the criticism the Elland Road hierarchy deservedly received for their handling of the end of the summer transfer window, they have unearthed a gem in the process.

The silver lining of Bamba Dieng’s collapsed deal is that Gnonto was turned to in desperation, when the youngster wasn’t supposed to be arriving until this month.

He has already established himself in Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of schedule in the ensuing months, and was the star of the show at Villa Park.

Pep Guardiola’s side don’t need any assistance in directing their transfer policy towards West Yorkshire, having poached another fan-favourite last summer in Phillips, who has barely been seen in a City shirt since.

Neville is absolutely right that the Leeds United faithful want to see Gnonto remain at the club for the next few years at least, and were he to follow the same route any time soon would be a huge blow.

But it is unfortunately true that if the diminutive attacker keeps performing like he did in defeat in the Midlands it won’t be long before deep pockets start being emptied in an attempt to prize him out of Elland Road.

In other Leeds United news, Whites supporters reacted to an approach from Marsch at the final whistle of the Villa defeat.