Pep Guardiola said Manchester City were lucky to have Kevin De Bruyne after the Belgium midfielder inspired his team to a resounding 5-0 victory over Premier League rivals Liverpool.
De Bruyne created goals for Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus and had a hand in one of Leroy Sane’s two strikes as City recorded their biggest win over Liverpool since March 1937.
The game hinged on Liverpool forward Sadio Mane’s 37th-minute dismissal for a shuddering head-high challenge on Ederson that ended the City goalkeeper’s match, but Guardiola only had eyes for De Bruyne.
“Kevin is, pfff,” said the City manager, puffing out his cheeks, in his post-game press conference at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
“With his quality, his commitment without the ball. He learns, he’s so intelligent. You say one instruction and he understands immediately.
“He produces a huge (number) of passes and assists. Last season he shot 15 or 16 times against the posts. We were unlucky. Hopefully this year he can help us.
“He’s quick, he always sees the spaces on the middle or outside. He runs more than anyone else. He’s good with balls to feet, he’s good attacking space.
“He is a complete player. He loves to be here with us. We are a lucky team, a lucky club to have Kevin with us.
“This season he’s in a good mood, maybe because he is a father. He is one of our captains. I am so happy with his performance. And not just today.”
De Bruyne’s pass released Aguero to round Simon Mignolet and open the scoring in the 24th minute and his cross from the left was headed in by Jesus in first-half stoppage time.
Aguero unselfishly teed up Jesus for City’s third goal and late strikes from substitute Sane, the second a glorious effort into the top-left corner, completed the rout.
Ederson was stretchered off in a neck brace after Mane caught him in the face with an outstretched right boot as he tried to latch onto Joel Matip’s lofted pass behind the City defence.
– Klopp ‘not concerned’ –
But he re-emerged beside the dugout towards the end of the game, the left side of his face covered in a white dressing, and tests revealed he had not sustained any facial fractures.
Guardiola joked it would make the Brazilian “more beautiful” and said the injury would probably not sideline him for very long.
The 24-year-old sustained the injury after racing to the edge of his box to head the ball clear and Guardiola praised him for having reacted so alertly.
“We play so high, the goalkeeper has to play on the 16-metre box and help with these frontal balls,” said the City manager, whose side open their Champions League campaign at Feyenoord on Wednesday.
“It’s so important for us to feel that we have one guy to help the central defenders. Of course it was brave because Mane was coming. Unfortunately he’s injured, but hopefully he will come back as soon as possible.”
Guardiola concurred with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s assessment that Mane’s challenge had been “accidental”.
Klopp said Mane had been left “very, very, very upset” and “shocked” by the incident, but suggested an appeal against the Senegal forward’s dismissal would be “another waste of time, like the whole game”.
It was Liverpool’s heaviest defeat since Klopp became manager in October 2015, but he felt Mane’s dismissal had distorted the game.
“That was a hard lesson today and I know the boys will learn from it,” he said.
“But I’m not concerned in the long term. If City take too much confidence from this game, they make a mistake. If we lose too much confidence, we also make a mistake.”
Liverpool were without Philippe Coutinho, who returned to action with Brazil during the international break following a back injury, but Klopp said he was in contention to face Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday.