Kevin de Bruyne turned in a masterclass performance as Manchester City demolished Leeds United 7-0.
The biennial Pep Guardiola vs. Marcelo Bielsa clash is always must-see TV but usually for how close and tactically fascinating the games are as Guardiola dukes it out with one of his mentors. But this year Kevin de Bruyne was in no mood to be generous and orchestrated an absolute beatdown at the Etihad as City started the Christmas period with a bold statement to their title rivals.
De Bruyne was far from the only great performer on the night. In fact every City player was so locked in to Guardiola’s demands that if one were to rate the team, every starter would get at least an 8/10.
But while Jack Grealish scored a header (no, really) and John Stones played and scored as a right-back, and Rodri ran the show from the middle of the park, and Phil Foden was a ceaseless buzzsaw of movement, Kevin de Bruyne stole the show with his brace.
Kevin De Bruyne's game by numbers vs. Leeds United:
9 shots (most)
7 touches in the opp. box
4 shots on target (most)
4 chances created
4 duels won
2 take-ons completed
2 possessions won
2 goals (=most)
Total performance. 👌 pic.twitter.com/hrafXqBeA9
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 14, 2021
The first goal was nice, a classically slick City move that saw the ball come up the guts of the Leeds side as Ruben Dias found Phil Foden coming deep as a false nine. The Englishman laid a pass off to Rodri who, the instant he came into possession, saw De Bruyne sprinting behind his man into space. One well-weighted pass later, De Bruyne was sliding the ball beyond Ilan Meslier with a left-foot finish.
That goal was good, for sure. Great even as it showed how well De Bruyne can fit any role asked of him in this system. We think of him playing on the right and spreading out into that half-space to fizz crosses into the box, but here he was coming in off the left to be the sharp end of City’s sword, piercing the hearts of Leeds and turning the game into a beatdown.
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Things got better for City’s terrific two-time PFA Player’s Player of the Year as just after the hour mark he scored what is undoubtedly the goal of the night. Picking the ball up about 30 yards from goal, the brilliant Belgian took one touch and seeing there was no pressure unleashed an absolute thunderbolt off his foot. This thing flew into the back of the net so quick it was hitting the floor before Meslier had completed his dive.
The goal was a ridiculous and stunning statement from a player who, oweing to injuries and Covid-19 problems that have plagued him since the Spring, has somewhat fallen down the pecking order in terms of discussions of the best player in the Premier League.
Kevin de Bruyne in the first-half for Manchester City against Leeds:
◉ Most shots (5)
◉ Most take-ons completed (2)
◉ Joint-most chances created (3)
◉ Joint-most shots on target (2)
The king of the Etihad Stadium has returned. 👑 pic.twitter.com/DfNSTp1S6y
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 14, 2021
Bruno Fernandes has been stealing headlines and then Mohamed Salah took things to another level, being anointed as the best player in the world for his form in September, October and November. All the praise lavished on those two men and De Bruyne has been almost forgotten in 2021/22, looking on quietly as he struggled to really find his best self.
Then tonight came, and that goal came. And suddenly everyone will have to pay attention to him again. “All night he was exceptional” said Joleon Lescott, post-match. Owen Hargreaves chimed in, saying that the second goal “reminds me of Stevie G [Steven Gerrard].”
Hargreaves continued: “everything he did was so efficient. It was a joy to watch. He makes the game look far too easy.” De Bruyne struck it with such fury, such intensity, such malevolance; as if to declare forcefully in no uncertain terms: I’m back for my crown.
And that’s a scary prospect for City’s Premier League title rivals, because City are top of the league despite their best player not playing very well at all. Should the Belgian use this game as a springboard, there is no telling how good City might start to play and the ridiculous aims they may genuinely start to chase. Maybe a Treble? If they keep playing like this, don’t rule it out!