Manchester City outclassed Manchester United to maintain control of the Premier League title race with an outstanding display at Etihad Stadium.
City remain six points clear of Liverpool having played one game more after a victory that was arguably even more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
Ralf Rangnick’s side were without injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani, as well as Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw, who have Covid-19, and found themselves overwhelmed by the quality and intensity of the reigning champions.
Kevin de Bruyne was at the heart of it all. He put City ahead with a crisp early finish then restored their lead before half-time after Jadon Sancho put United level with precise low strike, the Belgian’s second hammered home in a goalmouth scramble.
City turned up the tempo after the break and got the goal their vast superiority deserved after 68 minutes when Riyad Mahrez met De Bruyne’s corner on the half-volley to beat United keeper David de Gea. The goal came via a deflection off United captain Harry Maguire, who endured a nightmare afternoon.
It got even better for City in the closing moments when Mahrez raced clear to beat De Gea, the goal being given after a lengthy VAR check for offside.
Manchester City felt Liverpool at their back after Jurgen Klopp’s side moved to within three points following their win against West Ham United but the champions could not have responded more impressively.
From the first whistle, City imposed themselves on Manchester United and Sancho’s fine equaliser proved to be only a minor inconvenience as the gap between Guardiola’s team and their arch-rivals was brutally exposed.
De Bruyne was the mastermind, scoring twice and creating City’s third, the shining star in a galaxy on display at Etihad Stadium as they showed they are in no mood to relinquish their crown, no matter how hard Liverpool push them.
City’s first-half performance was excellent but after the break they were simply magnificent as they over-ran United, who were not given a second on the ball and were unable to resist wave after wave of attacks.
Mahrez could have scored more than his two goals but for De Gea, while Joao Cancelo was also thwarted by the United keeper following an acrobatic volley.
City’s dominance of possession and ability to carve open an admittedly vulnerable United defence at will delighted their supporters, who revelled in a show of superiority that left United a beaten and bedraggled side long before the end.