Manchester City 4 Bournemouth 0: Pep Guardiola is finding it increasingly difficult to keep expectations under control after another spellbinding display against Bournemouth.
Manchester City made it eight wins out eight - three in the Champions League and five in the Premier League as they opened up a two-point lead at the top of the table.
And the manner of City’s performances have fans and pundits purring as Guardiola successfully brings his Barcelona and Bayern Munich swagger and style to England.
Poor Bournemouth had no answer to City’s movement, pace and invention as they were pulled apart and tormented on another breathtaking afternoon at the Etihad.
And it was all achieved without Sergio Aguero, David Silva and captain Vincent Kompany - the backbone of City’s recent glories along with Yaya Toure, who is just hoping he can get a place on the substitute’s bench at some point.
Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring with a clever free-kick under the wall, Kelechi Iheanacho and Raheem Sterling tapped in either side of half-time before Ilkay Gundogan wrapped up the win with a delightful fourth on his Premier League debut.
Guardiola was delighted with his side, despite a late red card for Nolito for a silly headbutt, but has warned that it won’t be plain sailing all season. City have so far only met Manchester United of their potential title rivals - easily dispatching them at Old Trafford - but admitted he was impressed by Liverpool and Chelsea on Friday night.
He’s also an admirer of Arsenal and Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs and is trying to temper excitement with a dose of reality over City’s dream start.
“My question is today is: are the people who came to this game really enjoy it? Yes? Wow, that is enough,” he said. “Then win titles or not we will see.
“I saw two fantastic opponents [on Friday night] and I know how difficult it will be, absolutely everything.”
Guardiola’s task is helped by having arguably the best player in the league - in De Bruyne - pulling the strings.
The Belgian tormented the Cherries from the opening 15 seconds when he fired off a fierce shot that Artur Boric had to shovel wide right up until in the 66th minute when his delightful pass cut a swathe through the Bournemouth defence for Gundogan to score.
It makes it all the more puzzling that Jose Mourinho was so quick to ditch him during a brief stay at Chelsea when he made just two Premier League appearances. Guardiola now rates him as one the best players in the world - only behind the incomparable Lionel Messi.
“I think he is a special player - an outstanding player. He makes everything. Without the ball he’s the first fighter, and with the ball it’s clear he sees absolutely everything. He decides what he has to do in the right moment every single time,” the Spaniard said.
“Sometimes you have to pass with the first touch, sometimes you have to control. Sometimes you have to attack the ball. Every time he makes the right decision.
“He is one of them [the best players I have managed]. Messi can sit alone in the table, it’s not allowed anyone else. But in the table beside, Kevin can sit there, there’s no doubt.”
De Bruyne was dumped by Mourinho just as Jack Wilshere looked like being the future of English football at Arsenal. Injuries have taken their toll on the 24-year-old, who is trying to rebuild his career at Bournemouth but he was literally in the shadow of De Bruyne on his first start for Eddie Howe’s side and it looked like an act of mercy when he was withdrawn in the 69th minute.
His involvement in City’s opening goal underlined what a difficult afternoon it was for the English midfielder. He gave the ball away to Fernandinho deep in his own half and brought down Nolito with a clumsy challenge as he tried to win the ball back.
“It was difficult for Jack,” Howe said. “We want to see Jack in their half and in the final third but we didn’t get there enough so to see his best qualities was impossible today.
“But the minutes will have done him the world of good and once he fully understands how we play and what we want him to do, I think he will be an excellent player for us.”
Bravo 6, Sagna 7, Otamendi 6 (Stones 52, 6), Kolarov 8, Clichy 7, Fernandinho 8, Gundogan 7 (Sane 72, 6), Sterling 9, De Bruyne 9 (Garcia 75, 7), Nolito 5, Iheanacho 8.
Boruc 6, Smith 6, Francis 6, Cook 5, Daniels 5, Ibe 5 (Wilson 45, 6), Wilshere 4 (Gosling 68, 5), Surman 6, Arter 6, Stanislas 5 (Gradel 74, 5), King 7.
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