Manchester – Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City produced the best performance of his reign in their swaggering 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City on Saturday.
Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding, producing two assists and playing a part in three more goals as City scored seven goals for the first time since Guardiola took charge in July 2016.
It was the first time City had scored that many in a league match since defeating Norwich 7-0 in November 2013, with Gabriel Jesus scoring twice, and further goals from Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva.
Victory put City two points clear at the top of the Premier League, and left Guardiola struggling to find fault, although he was disappointed that his side conceded goals either side of half-time, with Stoke’s first from Mame Biram Diouf, and the second a Kyle Walker own goal.
“You can always do better but I cannot deny that today was the best performance since I arrived here. We played a good 45 minutes, and maybe more than that,” he said.
“Except for two actions which we have to learn more about, we produced a really good performance from everybody.
“After the international break, it can be a bit complicated, but we did really well. So we played quick because we played simple.
“Everybody helped to give us an extra pass, and after the quality for the people in the middle, our wingers and strikers made the difference.
“I’m very pleased because we won, and especially with the way we won.”
De Bruyne’s performance was complimented by both Guardiola and Stoke manager Mark Hughes, who described the Belgium midfielder as the best player currently in the Premier League.
“Kevin didn’t score today, but he is a guy who is so dynamic. He understands the game. Normally, that kind of player doesn’t do the actions to be aggressive, win the ball, and make the right pass and the right tempo,” he said.
“After that, when he has the ball in the positions close to the area, the wingers, strikers and attacking midfielders move because they know the ball is coming.
“He’s a talented player, and he produced a good performance today.”
Hughes was disappointed with his team’s defending, particularly in the first half, but did find time to express his admiration for De Bruyne.
“This result isn’t going to define our season. We came up against an exceptional City side and we’ve been found wanting, in terms of physicality and the ability to get close to them,” he said.
“They’ve got genuine world-class players within their ranks. Kevin De Bruyne is head and shoulders above any player in the Premier League in my view, given the level of performance and the way he can dictate and affect the game.”
Hughes defended his decision to give a debut to 18-year-old right-back Tom Edwards, who endured a torrid afternoon against Sane, although he did create Stoke’s second goal before an ankle injury forced him off.
“We didn’t have too many options,” said Hughes. “He was due to play. He’s deserved his chance.
“If he hadn’t got an injury in pre-season, he would have played before now, because that’s how well he was doing.
“It’s unfortunate for him, but it’s a learning experience, not only for him, but for everybody today. He’ll be better for it.”