Saturday 18 August 2018

City ready to put rivals to sword in historic quest

De Bruyne relishing Liverpool and United tests

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

It was a flawless start to a potentially momentous week in Manchester City's history.

And, as Kevin De Bruyne contemplated the weight of glorious possibilities beginning with Saturday's sumptuous, effortless 3-1 dismantling of Everton, he was in no mood to downplay the notion he was part of an ensemble producing footballing perfection.

For all the titles and domestic cups collected at the Etihad in this golden era, there would be no greater symbol of the shift in power than securing the Premier League title with victory over record title-winners Manchester United next Saturday, while ending Champions League-obsessed Liverpool's pursuit of a sixth triumph in Europe's elite competition.

Vast superiority can be confirmed by inflicting the ultimate psychological torment on neighbours and rivals.

"We are going to relish this position," said De Bruyne. "These are the games you play the whole season for. You try to do well the first six, seven, eight months to be where we are.

"To make it (the title) against United would be special. It would be so nice to go on to win against United, for the fans it would be something special.

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling scores his side’s third goal. Photo: Reuters
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling scores his side’s third goal. Photo: Reuters

"It would be wonderful, something different - you know how it goes between them, you know the history, so it would be historic.

"The sooner we do it, the better. Then we can focus on other games. It's a tough run.

"We play Liverpool, United, Liverpool again and then Tottenham. It's pretty impressive, eh?"

The manner of this victory was most satisfying for De Bruyne (above) and manager Pep Guardiola. There were no nerves of title hunters and no thoughts of merely getting the job done at a traditionally tough venue.

You could surround David Silva with a pack of bloodhounds and he still would not look flustered in possession, while first-half goalscorers Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling keep improving.

Sane and Sterling are simply unrecognisable from a year ago.

Members of the Bolshoi Ballet should be sending scouts to City training to study Guardiola's choreography.

While many still wonder if City's defence is as steadfast as it needs to be to conquer Europe, few attackers get enough of the ball to test the theory.

De Bruyne sensed Everton bewilderment, a recurring trait in City's opponents, but especially notable on a demoralising evening for the hosts.

"The first-half, especially, was the best football we have played this season," said the Belgian.

"You could see it in their faces in the first-half that they didn't know what was happening. That's why you feel in so much control, I guess, when you see it on their faces.

"We have had a lot of games where we have controlled the game, but here, the first-half especially, was something different, another level. They didn't know what to do. We controlled it so much. They didn't know whether to press us or stay back, and there was something in between in the end.

"You know that you are in control and everything is going all right, how you planned it. You feel you have power over everything - offensively, defensively.

"Even when they made it 3-1 it came out of nothing and it stayed the same. Everybody was well balanced and we killed the game, I guess, just to win it."

De Bruyne acknowledged there may be a gulf of cosmic proportions when City begin stage two of their Mersey mission on Wednesday.

"It will probably be very different," he said. "It's the Champions League, the quarter-final, it is all or nothing. In that game (defeat at Anfield in the Premier League), we had a spell of 10 minutes where we lost the control and we lost three goals. Otherwise, I think we did alright.

"Obviously, they have their style of play, and to play there is very tough. But apart from those 10 minutes, we really did OK. Not the best game we have played, but I don't think there were at that time lots of periods when they were in control.

"You learn about these things, and I think we know we have to control it better. Let's see if we can."

The walk from Goodison to Anfield is less than a mile. Guardiola's side are making their way across Stanley Park with purposeful strides.

This victory was all the more uplifting because Guardiola had arrived at Goodison facing an odd statistical quirk: Everton were the only Premier League team he had not defeated.

Moreover, it was here last January that he suffered his worst defeat as a manager, losing 4-0.

There was never any chance of a repeat of that scoreline.

Within moments of the kick-off, Guardiola's team began to unleash their intricate passing movements as De Bruyne, Silva and Sterling exchanged seemingly radar-assisted one-twos.

No more than four minutes had elapsed before Aymeric Laporte, drafted in at left-back, reversed a lovely pass towards the line. Silva galloped forward, gathered the ball, and sent it fizzing to the back post, where Sane applied the finishing touch with a sublime volley.

This was not a contest; it was a humiliation and there were empty seats appearing in the Philip Carter Stand as early as half-time, with further goals from Jesus and Sterling having put City 3-0 ahead.

Yannick Bolasie's 63rd minute reply provided little consolation for outclassed Everton, as City go on to bigger challenges. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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