West Bromwich 0 Man City 4
When asked if Sergio Aguero would be starting against Barcelona in the Champions League tie on Tuesday night, Pep Guardiola leant towards the nearest microphone and said quietly "I think so," before adding after a pause, "but I'm not going to tell you what position."
He was in a grateful mood towards the man who was the exceptional figure in this game, the scorer of two fine goals and the creator of one of the two that were plundered by Ilkay Gundogan as finally the worst streak in Guardiola's management career was over.
Six games without a victory ended with four goals unanswered and a place back at the top of the Premier League after Arsenal briefly moved ahead.
Guardiola has made no secret of the toll that the winless run has taken on him and he looked delighted as he threw an arm around Aguero's shoulders and talked at length to the Argentine as the players left the pitch. On Tuesday he will unleash Aguero on Barcelona, the great football machine that he, Guardiola, helped to create, and the striker could scarcely be in better form.
"He's a special player," Guardiola said of Aguero. "I would like to convince him how special he is for us. We need him. We need him a lot. When he [shows] that behaviour and when he is hungry, Sergio is definitive.
"He is part of the history of this club and we want to try to help him to be bigger and bigger and part of this fantastic club."
Guardiola does not like having to repeat why he left Aguero out the starting XI for the game at the Nou Camp but he did so once more, explaining how it was part of a plan to seize control. On that night he said he wanted players "arriving" in the box instead of, as is Aguero's way, lurking there. Yet his goals against West Bromwich Albion showed just what damage he can inflict.
"After six games without winning we needed three points for our heads," Guardiola said. "The problem when you don't win a game or you lose is not the three points, it is that you lack a little bit of confidence for the next one. That happened in that period. We played quite well but when you don't win, the argument about how many things you did really well sounds like excuses.
"When we win we are right, when we don't we just look for excuses and that is why it is so important to win the game. I am very pleased with the first half. They [West Brom] didn't push up too much and we had time to think about it.
"We fought against a physical team and people explained to me how difficult it is to come here and win 4-0."
He acknowledged that in the second half, Tony Pulis's side came back into the game with a new formation and two substitutes, Jonathan Leko and James Morrison. "They showed me how tough the Premier League is, because... in the second half the game was on and if they had scored in 60 minutes, anything can happen. When Gundogan scored the [third] goal the game was almost over."
The first Aguero goal, you might say, could happen to anyone as City broke quickly and passed their way around the retreating home defence. On that occasion, Gundogan exchanged passes with Fernando, playing at right back, and then slipped a ball in behind West Brom, which Aguero ran on to and lashed a shot from the right channel past Ben Foster.
The Argentine was razor sharp all game, later pinching the ball away from Darren Fletcher when he dawdled and setting in motion a chance for Nolito that Gareth McAuley just blocked with Foster beaten. When Fletcher was replaced before the hour there was a smattering of boos from a disgruntled home support towards their departing captain.
The second goal on 28 minutes was an extraordinarily powerful hit into the top corner, with Aguero exploding into life on the edge of the West Brom box. Again Fletcher had failed to control the ball and again Aguero reacted first, seizing possession and shaping a great shot past Foster. These were his first goals in seven games and you could see he enjoyed it.
As for the first half, you only needed to hear the West Brom fans celebrating the fleeting moments when they were in possession to gauge their feelings on how it had gone. "We've got the ball, we've got the ball," they sang for the brief periods it was theirs.
Pulis swerved the post-match press conference, so it was up to his assistant Dave Kemp to explain that the plan simply had not worked in the first half because of the quality of City's team.
"They haven't come from the job centre these [City] players," he said, "they have paid a lot of money for these people and they are very good."
Where was Pulis? "Probably hanging himself somewhere," Kemp replied cheerfully and while there were some brighter moments in the second half their best chance was when James
McClean got down the left and crossed for Salomon Rondon, who did not adjust to a deflection into time to finish.
Kevin De Bruyne came on to see out the game for City and on 79 minutes Aguero created the third.
From a standing start on the edge of the West Brom area, he broke left and instead of hitting one with his left foot in the space he had created, he clipped a ball through to Gundogan via a deflection off McAuley.
The German also scored the fourth, sweeping home De Bruyne's cross from the left, but it was Aguero whom Guardiola sought out at the final whistle.