De Bruyne the ringmaster for sensational City

Published: 18th September 2016 09:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th September 2016 10:41 AM   |  A+A-

Kevin De Bruyne_AP

In 2015 Kevin De Bruyne moved from Wolfsburg to Manchester City for £54m. (File|AP)

Manchester City also won their opening five Premier League games last season, before the wheels started to come off, and the memory of that progressive unwinding is likely to discourage too many from rushing to anoint Pep Guardiola's team as champions in waiting.

Guardiola, though, is not Manuel Pellegrini, and this City side look a far more formidable proposition on so many levels than the team that punched well below its weight in the previous campaign.

It is still very early days, and it will be interesting to see how Guardiola's men cope when the fixtures begin to stack up, the cold nights draw in and some of that energy and early-season exuberance has been sapped but, for now at least, City are setting a relentless pace and very much the team to beat.

Eight wins from eight in all competitions - the best start to a season in City's history - is an ominous statement of intent from the world's most gilded coach, but it is the speed, intensity and sheer beauty of their football, encapsulated by the brilliant Kevin De Bruyne, that is really resonating.

Worryingly for the rest, City are scaling new heights with every passing game and Guardiola, with a headmasterly sternness, warned there would be no let-up, no risk of complacency on his watch.

"That will not happen," the City manager said emphatically. "We will not think it is easy because I am here. I have heard for a long time that the Premier League is the toughest so we know that it is September and we have won nothing."

This City side in full flow, as they were in dramatic bursts against poor Bournemouth, make for quite electric viewing. Sergio Aguero, suspended for the second match of the three, and David Silva, out injured, were not even playing but when Aguero's stand-in, Kelechi Iheanacho, leads the line like this and City have the majestic De Bruyne and a super-charged Raheem Sterling playing with such menace, it doesn't matter.

Bournemouth barely knew which way to turn, their manager Eddie Howe hardly convinced by Guardiola's post-match suggestion that his side were the best City have faced in the league so far. It was just a shame Nolito brought an ugly end to things; the Spain forward was sent off four minutes from time for a headbutt of sorts on Bournemouth defender Adam Smith. Nolito ended up connecting with Smith's shoulder after the pair clashed but the intent was there, and referee Jonathan Moss was right to dismiss him.

The referee saw it and we accept the decision," Guardiola said.

There was so much to admire, City supporters could spend hours arguing over the finer points of a breathless performance, but as superbly as Sterling played here, there was little doubting the game's ringmaster.

De Bruyne scored the first and had a hand in the rest, and given the calibre of players Guardiola has managed previously, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich's coach glowing appraisal of the Belgium playmaker carried some weight.

"I think Kevin is a special player," Guardiola said. "He always makes the right choice every single time. I am lucky to have him. He is one of the best players I have worked with.

"[Lionel] Messi is on his own in the table but Kevin is in the next table and he is right up there. He is one of the best but to be one of the very best you have to win titles."

 City are unrecognisable from the lacklustre side they became in the final 18 months of Pellegrini's reign. They hunt their prey with the brutality, organisation and finesse of a pack of wild animals, and the speed with which they can turn defence into attack must be as debilitating for opponents as it is dazzling for their fans to watch.

Their second and third goals came on blistering breakaways after De Bruyne hit a low free-kick under Bournemouth's wall into the bottom corner in the 15th minute after Jack Wilshere, making his first start since his loan move from Arsenal, lost possession under pressure from Fernandinho and then fouled Nolito as he tried to make amends.

Aguero had scored a hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach in midweek and would be a loss to any team, but Iheanacho was a worthy replacement, starting and finishing the second goal.

Jordan Ibe's free-kick was cleared and the Nigeria striker calmly fed Nolito, who released De Bruyne with a brilliant, quick, angled ball. De Bruyne surged forward and played in Sterling with one of those expertly weighted passes. The England forward crossed and Iheanacho did the rest. Glorious stuff.

Sterling's reinvigoration from the broken man of last season has been one of Guardiola's most eye-catching improvements. At one point in the 64th minute, he showed strength and persistence to win the ball off a Bournemouth defender on the touchline before setting off a slaloming Messi-esque run, surging through five players only to be thwarted by Boruc.

City were already 3-0 up by then. Andrew Surman made a hash of a header from Nolito's ball forward. Iheanacho collected the loose ball and passed to De Bruyne, who returned it as City broke at speed. Iheanacho crossed and although Sterling's finish was weak, it was enough to carry the ball over the line.

Goal four was a minor classic. Gael Clichy and De Bruyne worked their magic down the left before a delicious flick from Nolito freed up De Bruyne to stroke a through-ball into the path of Ilkay Gundogan to side-foot home.

Callum Wilson hit the crossbar late on for Bournemouth and then came Nolito's moment of madness. But otherwise this was an afternoon when beauty abounded for City.

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