Manager Pep Guardiola, on Saturday, hailed Manchester City’s thumping win over Stoke as the team’s finest display since he became manager as his side opened up a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was sensational, providing two assists and one of the passes of the season that led to the second goal as Guardiola’s men returned from the international break to treat the home support to a stunning performance.
“I am happy for the victory, we had to focus after the international break, to start well,” said the Spaniard, who joined the Citizens at the start of the 2016-17 campaign.
“We didn’t lose easy balls, we play fast and simple. That’s why I am very pleased. It is the best performance since I came here.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes added: “They were quicker, stronger and anticipated things far quicker than us, and in the end we had no answers to the questions they posed to us.”
City scored three times in the first period and had 83.5% of the possession in what was arguably the most one-sided Premier League half this season.
Gabriel Jesus was the first to find the net when he nipped in ahead of Mame Biram Diouf to prod home. De Bruyne then threaded a ‘no-look’ pass into the path of Leroy Sane, who fed Raheem Sterling to slot in.
It was 3-0 by the 27th minute when Spain midfielder David Silva fired home after more good work from Sterling and Sane.
The only surprise of the first 45 minutes was when Diouf’s deflected shot reduced the deficit.
The home side then received another jolt when the Senegal player’s header came off the leg of Kyle Walker, hit the post and beat Ederson in goal two minutes after the restart.
Any hopes of a fightback, though, were quashed when Jesus smashed in his second from close range via another beautiful De Bruyne delivery.
Fernandinho then produced the goal of the game with a rocket from 25 yards that whistled past Jack Butland in goal.
Belgian De Bruyne’s magic then allowed Sane to slot in the sixth before substitute Bernardo Silva completed the rout when he converted Sterling’s pass.
And so the eulogies continue to accumulate for a player who must already be one of the front-runners for the player of the season award.
De Bruyne had been playing in a deeper role in recent matches but against Stoke it looked at one stage that the home side were made up of a team De Bruynes – he appeared everywhere.
Having been involved in the build-up for the first, the Belgian brought the home support to its feet when his Ronaldinho-esque pass found its way to Sane, who then squared the ball to Sterling for 2-0.
And when City’s lead was cut to a goal after the break, De Bruyne eased the jitters with an assist for Jesus who slammed in the fourth.
The sublime pass for Sane for 6-2 was even better – slotted through a group of Stoke players to find his man.
De Bruyne told BBC Sport: “We play in a flow at the moment – we are playing well. Not just me.
“It looks wonderful to see the goals – it’s not an individual action.
“I’m very happy because we’re winning the games at the moment. I’m going with the level of the team, which is very high at the moment.”