Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (2L) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Swansea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 22, 2018. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Pep Guardiola’s hope that his team’s hunger to rewrite the English football record books would see them maintain their championship-winning form proved well-founded as Manchester City swept aside Swansea City 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
The only negative aspect of the occasion for the newly-crowned Premier League champions was a post-match pitch invasion by several hundred City supporters, who ignored pleas over the loudspeakers to burst through stewards and onto the field.
Seven days after Manchester United’s shock home defeat to West Bromwich Albion had made the title a mathematical certainty for Guardiola’s side, City returned to action before their own supporters.
With the league safely won, Guardiola had warned that his players will find next season far tougher — both in terms of the opposition and his own demands — and hoped that the chance to set new historical marks would prove an inspiration over the remainder of this campaign.
And another emphatic victory certainly left City, who have four games remaining against teams in the bottom eight of the league, well placed to do precisely that.
They stand one victory short of Chelsea’s Premier League record tally of 30, set last season, and with 90 points, are also well on course to break the record of 95 points, again set by Chelsea in 2010.
That season also saw the London club set the current best for goals scored with 103, a mark City now trail by just five.
Season for the ages
In short, Guardiola has presided over a season for the ages in his second season in England, even if there was a slightly anti-climactic feeling about the way in which City clinched the title just days after a Champions League quarter-final exit to Liverpool.
But there was still no denying the triumphant air around the Etihad as a huge banner proclaiming “Welcome to the home of the Premier League champions” was unfurled across the East Stand.
City, and their captain Vincent Kompany, must wait a further two weeks before physically getting their hands on the trophy — their third Premier League title in the last seven years with the authorities having decided that a formal presentation will be made when Huddersfield Town visit the Etihad on May 6.
Still, Swansea provided City with a guard of honour before kick-off and the visitors were largely reduced to watching and admiring as City showed them why they are setting records this season.
After just 11 minutes, and relentless City possession, Kevin De Bruyne’s superb pass was played back by Raheem Sterling for David Silva who juggled the ball skilfully before volleying into the Swansea goal.
Five minutes later, an even better move saw David Silva and Fabian Delph play a series of one-twos before the latter crossed for Sterling to calmly slot in the ball from four yards.
It was the start of a monotonous procession towards the Swansea goal with De Bruyne scoring the pick of the bunch on 53 minutes with a magnificent 25-yard right-foot shot.
Nine minutes later, Federico Fernandez brought down Sterling and, after Gabriel Jesus’s penalty was touched onto the post by Lukasz Fabianski, Bernardo Silva responded quickly to net City’s fourth from the rebound.
In the comfortable finale for City, there was time for Benjamin Mendy to make his return after a seven-month absence with a knee injury as a 75th-minute substitute, handing the French international a fifth appearance of the season and, with that, a Premier League winner’s medal.
And Jesus finally claimed his goal two minutes from time, appearing on the end of Yaya Toure’s chip to head in the final goal of a game that served as an emphatic statement by club and manager alike.