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Call off Young Player of the Year race – ‘City reject’ Cole Palmer has taken Chelsea by storm

Cole Palmer celebrates scoring

Call off the vote for PFA Young Player of the Year because there can only be one winner – Chelsea hat-trick hero Cole Palmer.

Manchester United fans delighted in signing “City reject” at Palmer early in Thursday night’s game. At the final whistle, they were wishing the boyhood Red Devils fan had ended up at Old Trafford.

Palmer relishes the big occasion, the pressure, the chance to take the limelight. The 21-year-old celebrated the opening goal of his first career treble by mocking the chants of the United fans in the away end.

No wonder he has adopted the ‘Cold Palmer’ nickname so readily because Chelsea’s latest hero has ice in his veins. Having already netted one spot-kick, the midfielder did not look the least bit nervous at having to take another one in time added on for stoppages.

As soon as VAR had confirmed Chelsea’s second penalty, there was no doubt Palmer would score. And anybody who did not properly see the dramatic last-gasp winner could have guessed who must have netted it. Palmer may as well be wearing a cape, given the impact he is having in his first season.

Even Palmer lost his cool slightly after he scored the winner, ditching his ‘cold’ celebration and running straight towards the home dug-out, which had emptied out onto the pitch.

“You know I have taken many penalties, I am not going to miss a penalty, touch wood,” said Palmer. “To score in the last minute is crazy.”

Palmer is mobbed by team-mates
Palmer is pounced on by his Chelsea team-mates after scoring the last-gasp winner - Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It is now 16 goals and eight assists in the Premier League this season for Palmer, who is already in line to be rewarded with a big pay rise when the time is right and is only two goals behind Erling Haaland.

His 24 Premier League goal contributions is more than Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa managed in their first seasons at Chelsea, and Palmer is now chasing down Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s 32.

“The impact is amazing,” said Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino. “He is doing a fantastic job, it is difficult to talk more about him. Today he showed the mentality and the quality.”

Gareth Southgate must have watched the way in which Palmer snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with his Chelsea hat-trick and thought what he might be able to do in an England shirt this summer.

You would certainly back him to keep his cool in a penalty shoot-out and there is increasingly a big case for Palmer to go to the Euros, even if it means leaving out a so-called big-hitter such as Marcus Rashford, who made little impact from the substitutes’ bench for United.

Given they could still win the Premier League title, the Champions League and the FA Cup, it is a stretch to accuse Manchester City of dropping the ball. But allowing Palmer to leave for £40 million, plus £2.5 million in add-ons, looks more puzzling with each passing week.

Phil Foden had scored a hat-trick for City 24 hours earlier and it is probably only the fact that Palmer is not playing for a club in the title race that is stopping him from being a realistic contender for Player of the Year, yet alone the Young Player award he looks a shoo-in for.

Without Palmer, Chelsea’s season would already be over, but with him, they have hope. They could yet snatch some sort of European qualification through the league and who would bet against him producing more heroics against City in the semi-finals of the FA Cup?

Palmer could have been forgiven for thinking he had done the hard work when he netted his second penalty to drag Chelsea level against United, but he said: “When we scored he [Mauricio Pochettino] said ‘Two minutes, come on’. He’s always trying to drive us on. We went for it and, thankfully, we scored.

“It’s a big winner. It’s a massive momentum booster. It puts everyone in a good mood. Hopefully we can kick on.”

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