Pep Guardiola revelled in Manchester City’s best performance since he took charge – but warned he wants to be a winner, not the great entertainer.
Two goals from Gabriel Jesus and one each from Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva saw the Etihad outfit record three successive home league games with five goals or more – and hit seven for the first time since 2013.
It was a stunning feat to extend their lead at the top to two points, but Guardiola said: “I am here to win. I am not here to entertain. You can improve your ideas, but I am here to win.
“But the way I want to play is like this. Last season for example against Everton when we missed two penalties we didn’t win and in that moment we started to go down in our confidence. Now we have to recognise our mood and confidence is so high. Everybody believes we can play good, it doesn’t matter who plays, they are going to play good.
“We concede two shots on target, unfortunately they were own goals. We scored seven goals and created more shots on target and that is what I want to do. Always you can do it better, but I cannot deny [this] was maybe the best performance since I arrived.”
Teasing, tormenting and toying with their beleaguered opponents, it was a masterclass in movement and attacking finery. Sane, Jesus and Sterling were not only willing runners but clever in their ability to find space and be picked out by passes from the genius that is Kevin De Bruyne.
Stoke’s former City boss Mark Hughes said: “Kevin De Bruyne is head and shoulders above anybody else in the Premier League, in my view, given the level of performance and the way he can dictate the game.”
The Belgian was predictably involved in the first two goals that set City on their way to another rout. A lovely ball saw Kyle Walker race inside and afforded time and space to cutback for Jesus to slot home.
An intricate passing move then saw De Bruyne link with Sane and the German – having somehow earlier volleyed over when unmarked – was unselfish as he chose to tee up Sterling for a tap-in. It was simple yet sublime.
Ditto goal number three in the 27th minute as Sane’s sweeping cross picked out Sterling and he, in turn, the supporting Silva. A stumbling first touch from the Spaniard and then a left-foot poke into the corner.
Yet much folly followed the fun as Stoke suddenly snatched two goals either side of half time.
Mame Diouf’s persistence paid off for the first as his strike deflected in off Fabian Delph. Then the Stoke frontman met a fine cross from 18-year-old debutant Tom Edwards with a poor header, but it hit the incoming Walker and bounced into the net.
The fans were tense, but nerves in this City side? Not a chance. Back they came with three crushing blows in the space of seven minutes.
De Bruyne’s delightful cross was slammed in by Jesus before Fernandinho sent a 25-yard rocket past Jack Butland and De Bruyne threaded through a pass for Sane to finish with aplomb. This was sixy football, but there was still time for sub Bernardo to stroll in for a seventh goal. It was a magnificent display and showed how much Guardiola and City have learnt from last season.
“With almost the same players, what changed?” he added. “Basically we know each other more, I know my players much more, I know the competition more and I know even more how to damage opposition teams.”
And Hughes added: “We are not the first to come here and get turned over. Clearly we won’t be the last because City are an outstanding team.”
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