Monday 24 June 2019

Pep hails 'best player' De Bruyne as City turn on the style to rout Swans

Man City 5-0 Swansea

Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

James Ducker

It was not just the sight of Manchester City running up another avalanche of goals, or Kevin De Bruyne scoring a screamer that will have disheartened the champions' nearest rivals.

With 15 minutes still to go in the latest exhilarating demonstration of show-stopping football that had swept Pep Guardiola's side to the title with five games to go, Benjamin Mendy made his comeback almost seven months to the day since rupturing his cruciate ligament.

Swansea City's Tammy Abraham (left) and Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy battle for control of the ball. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Swansea City's Tammy Abraham (left) and Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy battle for control of the ball. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

A season in which City still threaten to break all manner of records has been played largely without the most expensive full-back in the game and that knowledge will serve as a chilling reminder to the rest for next season.

Even before they spend heavily again, the champions are already likely to be stronger thanks to the return of the £52 million Mendy.

By the end of an intoxicating afternoon when Swansea City became a virtual punch-bag and Guardiola's men the first Premier League side to attempt over 1,000 passes in a single game, the City supporters could not contain themselves any longer.

Flooding the field at the final whistle, they mobbed their triumphant players - Mendy and captain Vincent Kompany most notably - before setting up camp in front of the tunnel.

Fans on the pitch after the final whistle. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Fans on the pitch after the final whistle. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

Swansea City's top-flight status was not going to be determined by what happened here, but within 16 minutes it had become a case of damage limitation.

There was much to savour from a Man City perspective, from two fine team goals within a four-minute first-half burst to Mendy's return and a captivating cameo from Stockport teenager Phil Foden, but De Bruyne deserved a special mention.

His pass with the outside of his boot to play in Raheem Sterling, who squared for David Silva to score and, in doing so, become the sixth Man City player to reach double figures for goals this term, was sublime.

But his stupendous strike for his team's third goal, launching a 30-yard drive into the far corner, was jaw-dropping.

De Bruyne may have been beaten to the PFA Player of the Year award by Liverpool's Mo Salah last night, but in Guardiola's eyes there was no one more deserving of the accolade than his classy midfield marvel.

"From my point of view when you are analysing [the last] nine or 10 months, there was no player better than him, in terms of continuity, in terms of being there every three days of all competitions," the City manager said.

"I am sorry. Maybe in numbers there are guys better than him, but no (there is no better) player in this season. For me he was the best."

Swansea City were on the back foot from the start and got increasingly dazed and confused on their opponent's passing carousel. Like the first goal, the second owed much to the vision and weight of pass of a special midfielder. Silva's disguised pass to slip in Fabian Delph for the England defender to square for Sterling to claim his 23rd goal of the campaign was arresting.

Once De Bruyne added a third, it was merely a question of how many City would score.

Jesus had already missed a penalty only for his blushes to be spared when Bernardo Silva tucked home the rebound. Indeed, it did not look like being Jesus's day but then Yaya Toure floated a fine pass over a ramshackle defence and this time the striker headed home.

No wonder the locals could not control themselves at the finish.

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