It is an obvious fact that Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is a livewire for Manchester City. After a scintillating display in midfield during Manchester City’s 2-1 win over bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, De Bruyne has now been involved in 32 goals in his 46 appearances in all competitions for Manchester City, with 17 goals of his own and a further 15 assists.
He bamboozled Daley Blind in controlling Kelechi Iheanacho’s flick on and raced away in the first half to slot Manchester City in front in a dominant first-half display, before inadvertently laying on the second for Iheanacho after his shot struck the base of the post and bounced back into the Nigerian’s path.
It was City’s 50th Manchester Derby triumph in all competitions, and a significant one for new manager Pep Guardiola who came out on top against old adversary José Mourinho for an eighth time in 17 meetings. It was no more than his Manchester City side deserved after a superb display in the absence of their main forward Sergio Aguero- particularly in the first half- in a fast and frantic derby, and Kevin De Bruyne was the midfield lynchpin as United were outclassed for the best part of the opening half, before the visitors dug in to see out the match after the break.
Deemed surplus to requirements by Mourinho whilst at Chelsea, De Bruyne exorcised those old demons by haunting his former manager, punishing the Red Devils with some incisive passing through the United back-line after being given far too much space in pockets between the defence and the midfield in an attempt to supply Iheanacho as well as wide men Nolito and David Silva.
In the first half he played an elusive central attacking-midfield role and then later switched to a false nine after Kelechi Iheanacho was withdrawn, and his brilliance in both roles is clearly critical to Guardiola’s system. The cool finish after slipping the ball away from Daley Blind oozed class before he effortlessly cut inside Luke Shaw and Blind before his shot came back off the woodwork to supply Iheanacho with a simple finish.
He came the closest in the second half to adding a third for City, when after sweeping away on the break, he was fed a brilliant through ball by Leroy Sané and cannoned a shot of the base of David De Gea’s near post which rolled across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.
Besides playing incisive balls in behind United throughout and being a constant attacking menace, De Bruyne also influenced the game as a drifting midfielder in getting back and picking the pocket of United players going forward to break up play and send City back on the offensive. De Bruyne and Manchester City were that strong in the first half particularly that even when United tried to go on the counter, they didn’t appear as if they knew how to go about breaking City down after they made up ground so effectively.
And with De Bruyne roaming in behind Marouane Fellaini, Daley Blind and Eric Bailly could do little about him, hesitant to roam forward into the space he occupied with the risk of being pulled out of position, leaving themselves vulnerable to being caught out by a killer pass from the 25-year old. The centre-half pair seemed to have no answer to the Belgian when he took the ball and ran into space either, some last ditch defending preventing defence splitting passes into Iheanacho in the first-half after De Bruyne had ushered them out of position.
In the circumstances, Mourinho’s team simply had no answer, and even as they turned the screw and aerially bombarded City in the hope of another error from jittery debutant goalkeeper Claudio Bravo- who gifted United their consolation goal on the day- De Bruyne still showed his threat on the break, and almost undid the home side again only to be foiled by the woodwork.
Saturday’s derby was another marker of just how special the Belgian midfielder may prove to be, after seeing his first season with City hampered by injury. If he can continue to produce displays like this in the Number Ten role on a consistent basis, there is no doubt that he may become one of the greatest foreign imports the Premier League has ever seen.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Renato Salas.