The Spaniard arrived, diving and twisting at full-stretch to steer a brilliant late finish from De Bruyne’s cross past West Ham keeper Adrian and into the net. That brought City a 13th consecutive Premier League victory, equal with the best-ever single-season mark set jointly by Chelsea last season and Arsenal in 2001-02, and means that a win in Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford will not only open up an 11-point gap at the top of the table but will also set a new record for straight wins.
United, of course, will be without the suspended Paul Pogba for that game, a fact Guardiola bemoaned last night, when asked for his reaction to an interview in which the French midfielder quipped that he hoped City players suffered some injuries in the coming weeks.
“He said that?” said Guardiola. “Hopefully, we have no injuries and I wish that Paul could play against us. I like to face a team with their best players to see who we are able to beat. I think it was just an expression. I’m sure he didn’t want our players to get injuries.”
Possibly — well, at least not serious ones — but at the moment that looks the only way that City will drop this electrifying pace and allow their rivals to make a contest of the title chase.
David Moyes, it should be said, set up a magnificent, if completely negative game plan, which could have paid dividends had they held onto the unexpected lead defender Angelo Ogbonna gave them with his first ever league goal in professional football. Aaron Cresswell exchanged a 44th minute short corner with Manuel Lanzini and crossed for the Italian, who beat Nicolas Otamendi and steered a well-aimed header into the corner.
The goal stunned the Etihad, but it was no more than Moyes deserved for his tactical masterplan, one which could have produced more had Ederson not managed to turn Lanzini’s shot around his post.
In response, all City had to offer was a deflected Silva shot, which Adrian saved well, and it took a half-time tactical reshuffle by Guardiola to restore normal service.
The equaliser, on 57 minutes, was predictable, given the league leaders’ start to the second half, even if the goalscorer was more of a surprise as Raheem Sterling’s deft touch sent substitute Gabriel Jesus darting to the right-hand by-line from where his low cross was turned in from close range by central defender Otamendi.
There could have been more goals, with Adrian making spectacular saves to keep out long-range shots.
However, in the closing stages, Emerson was required to save well from Michail Antonio and Diafro Sakho wasted a glorious opening in the last minute, missing the target from 12 yards.
“It will be a long, long trip,” said Guardiola of the season still awaiting his rampant team. “United are always there, Chelsea are coming back, Liverpool now.
“Still, we scored two goals, created more chances than the opponent and conceded few but, in the last few games, what we have shown is that we never give up.
“But the good news for me for the future is when we play a team that decides to play like this, with 10 players inside the box, we need to play this way, with patience.”
Emerson 7; Walker 8, Otamendi 7, Mangala 5, Danilo 5 (Jesus 46, 6); D Silva 9, Delph 7, De Bruyne 7; Sterling 7, Aguero 6 (Fernandinho 85), Sane 7 (B Silva 90). Subs (not used) Bravo, Kompany, Gundogan, Toure.
Adrian 9; Zabaleta 7, Rice 6, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 6, Masuaka 6; Obiang 5, Kouyate 6 (Sakho 42, 6), Fernandes 5, Lanzini 6 (Arnautovic 68, 6); Antonio 7 (Ayew 88). Subs (not used) Trott, Martinez, Quina, Johnson.