Manchester City is taking off precisely when it needs to. This seventh consecutive victory in the Premier League extended his lead to four points – Liverpool have played one game less – and pushed Pep Guardiola past the 500 goal mark: 502 to be exact in a record time of 207 games.
If City were rampant, Leeds were humiliated, and it is an enigma that their praised coach, Marcelo Bielsa, can oversee such an easy-to-choose unit. There are ways to avoid defeat and none were present tonight. Southampton and Crystal Palace left here this season with a draw and a win respectively, hampering City and launching ingenious inroads, but Bielsa learned nothing from them.
However, what will please Guardiola the most are the two goals from a revival by Kevin De Bruyne, plus the brilliant performances of Jack Grealish, Rodri and Riyad Mahrez, in particular, and of course a supreme display of the team.
Leeds ran out of six injured players in Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper, Patrick Bamford, Pascal Struijk, Robin Koch and Rodrigo Moreno.
Guardiola only had Ferran Torres on the treatment room roster and was able to name De Bruyne in his Premier League XI for the first time in five weeks as the champions looked to add another win to their sequence.
Guardiola once again positioned Phil Foden as the false nine with Grealish in a familiar spot on the left side, the £ 100 million man who still constantly lights up his new team. The former Aston Villa midfielder’s opening tactic of a fierce shot saw Illan Meslier save far below. Still, it boded well for City.
Bernardo Silva has been flying recently, so when Foden fed De Bruyne, who passed the ball to the Portuguese, the sight of him missing an open goal was strange. But normal consciousness soon returned. In front of a rowdy crowd under the stadium lights, Foden tapped Rodri. He passed Tyler Roberts, then Luke Ayling, and as he pulled the trigger, he saw his effort bounce off Meslier. Lurking behind was Foden, who had run from midfield, and his shot opened the scoring, an unfortunate mistake by Jamie Shackleton helping him get inside.
The last thing that is required in this place is to concede early. Eight minutes had passed and at 13 it was 2-0 and, possibly, the contest was over. City was a blue swarm, claiming a corner on the right that was delivered by Mahrez. Finally, the ball returned to the Algerian, whose cross sent Grealish jumping and accelerating a header, his second in the Premier League, past Meslier.
Bielsa, in his custom-made seat by the court, was as stunned as his team. Relentless and ruthless, City wanted more. Grealish ran through the area and unloaded. Mahrez lunged for the baseline, fired the ball and De Bruyne moved closer.
A team was showcased in perfect concert, its 10 outfield players knew exactly where to pass and move. Mahrez rivaled Grealish as City’s star performer, a diabolical and baffling Junior Firpo, who dragged him back and was reprimanded.
Next, Grealish danced 60 yards along the left and found Foden; he turned a corner and Leeds escaped. As they did, too, when the excellent Rodri burst his lungs again to catch a pass from Grealish, the Spaniard ran off the road near Meslier’s goal.
Even better was Rodri’s sublime pass that created City’s third. This released De Bruyne into the left channel and a whistle from the Belgian’s left foot and Meslier was hit. When they jogged to rest, Leeds required the mother and father of all returnees to avoid the same fate.
The visitors were criminally outspoken, Bielsa, despite his reputation as a supposed tactical guru, seemingly incapable of Leeds operating from a solid structure. When Jack Harrison was allowed to skate into the City area, the number 22’s lack of poise (he passed the ball to Ederson) summed up the poor team that Bielsa had fielded.
Things got worse for Leeds when Mahrez shone from long range and entered the fourth via Firpo. At this juncture a chorus of “Sergio, Sergio” sounded in tribute to Sergio Agüero, City’s top scorer who will officially retire on Wednesday.
This was the kind of evening City enjoyed because of their keen intention and the soporific stamina of Leeds. Stuart Dallas, to his credit, cut Ederson’s right post, but the question remained how many more City could loot.
When de Bruyne dodged an entrance, an irate Guardiola raised his hands in disgust as Dallas approached. Complacency, and much of it, seemed Leeds’s last hope. But this was before De Bruyne redeemed himself with a 20-yard barn for 5-0. John Stones and Nathan Aké completed the loss. The City fans, delighted, had chanted: “We want seven.” They received their wish.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism