Pep Guardiola said Kevin de Bruyne is helping Manchester City become “a better institution” after the playmaker put in an inspired performance to help his side outclass Tottenham for a 16th successive Premier League victory that stretched their lead to 14 points.
Ilkay Gundogan, in for the absent David Silva, headed City in front from a corner after 14 minutes and the only surprise was that it took until 20 minutes before time until man-of-the-match De Bruyne’s powerful shot extended their advantage.
Gabriel Jesus struck the post with a penalty after Jan Vertonghen fouled De Bruyne but Raheem Sterling crowned a sweeping move with a simple finish to put the game well and truly out of Spurs’ reach.
Sterling then took advantage of Eric Dier’s mistake to walk in the fourth for his 15th goal of the season before Spurs – for whom Harry Kane and Dele Alli were lucky not to get red cards from referee Craig Pawson for challenges on Sterling and De Bruyne respectively – pulled one back in stoppage time through Christian Eriksen.
Boss Guardiola singled out De Bruyne for praise as he highlighted the Belgium international’s work without the ball, calling it “a good example for the young players, for our academy”.
“They know how good Kevin De Bruyne is and when they see how he runs and fights without the ball, that is the best example,” added Guardiola.
“He helps us to be a better club, a better institution for the future, because that is what we want to do. His performance, I have no words to describe what he has done with the ball.
“And overall, without the ball, he is able to make pressure from 40 metres to the goalkeeper. And when that happens, the people who are behind him think ‘if that guy runs like this, I have to run as well’.”
How can anyone stop Manchester City?
It is the question being asked on a weekly basis – and no-one is any nearer finding the answer after another imperious performance from a City side who are surely now too far ahead to be caught in the Premier League title race.
Jose Mourinho went for a cautious approach with Manchester United in Sunday’s derby at Old Trafford and was unpicked by the magic of David Silva as City won 2-1.
Silva was absent here and Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham adopted a more positive outlook – but this time the brilliant De Bruyne was the inspiration as another method was tried and failed against Guardiola’s almost flawless side.
City swarmed all over Spurs, with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris often put under pressure in possession and in the end it was quite simply all too much for Pochettino’s side, as it has been for pretty much everyone this season.
Only Everton have taken a point against City this season with a 1-1 draw in the second league game of the season at Etihad Stadium – and it is difficult to see how this winning run can be stopped as they play with such threat and variety.
Even when City are threatened, Guardiola has successfully solved a problem which dogged his first season at the club with the acquisition of an excellent goalkeeper in Brazilian Ederson.
When Spurs looked dangerous for a brief period at the start of the second half, Ederson made a superb flying save to his right from Harry Kane.
If there is a weakness in this City side no-one has yet found it.
De Bruyne’s masterclass
Silva may have been missing but this Manchester City side has more than enough brilliance to rely on one player – and it was De Bruyne who orchestrated the destruction of Spurs.
The Belgian had simply too much in his armoury, even shrugging off Dele Alli’s crude challenge which left the England midfielder fortunate only to get a yellow card from referee Pawson.
Indeed, De Bruyne turned his anger on Spurs, scoring City’s second shortly after with a shot that was too fierce for keeper Lloris, drawing a foul from countryman Jan Vertonghen to earn the penalty that Jesus missed and playing a part in setting up the third for Sterling.
Spurs, like many before them, found that if they closed down one option, Manchester City found another.
And at the heart of it all was De Bruyne, now a world-class talent in a truly outstanding team.
Guardiola added: “The performance of Kevin de Bruyne, you cannot imagine how good he plays with the ball, but he runs like a player in the Conference league – it is easier for the manager and the club.”
‘His feet are like paintbrushes’
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown on Match of the Day:
Kevin de Bruyne’s feet are like paintbrushes, he’s an artist. He’s a thinking footballer, so creative, he creates chances for everyone and he’ll take his own when he gets them.
He’ll work hard for you as well. Young kids watching this, he’s not admiring passes. He wants to get after things, there’s an energy and desire in his football.
He wants to work hard, he’s giving his manager everything, he’s on fire – the world is his oyster at the moment. He’s taking people out of their seats. The calibre of football he’s playing is outstanding.
Spurs disappoint again – Alli most of all
Spurs were yet again found wanting on their travels against a team they had hoped to be challenging for the Premier League title.
As at Manchester United and Arsenal this season, Spurs never looked like securing the sort of statement victory that suggests they could bridge the gap from Premier League runners-up last season to champions this term.
Since they won 2-1 here in February 2016, they have not won in 10 away games against other teams in the so-called “big six”, losing six and drawing four.
It is a telling statistic – although Pochettino is unlikely to believe it is because his players are struggling to climb a psychological barrier.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this defeat was the lack of impact from Alli, whose main contribution was that spiteful tackle on De Bruyne.
He was a peripheral figure and was roundly booed by City’s fans when he was unsurprisingly substituted late on.
Man of the match – Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City).