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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Manchester City set up chance to seal title against United after another passing masterclass at Everton

A 3-1 victory at Goodison Park ensures Guardiola's side can clinch the Premier League against their great rivals

Manchester City can win the Premier League title against Manchester United in their next match. Carl Recine / Reuters
Manchester City can win the Premier League title against Manchester United in their next match. Carl Recine / Reuters

Now the equation is as simple as it is painful for Manchester United. “We’ll win the league on derby day,” crowed the Manchester City fans crammed into a corner of Goodison Park. They are one victory away.

United may have to see their neighbours celebrate on Saturday. The best they can do is to delay a party.

Everton never threatened to do that. Ninety minutes may have been a microcosm of a season. City offered elegant evidence of superiority. They provided another advertisement for Pep Guardiola’s ethos. They illustrated the difference a second season has made for the Spaniard.

His joint heaviest league defeat came at Goodison Park last year. After that 4-0 shellacking, this was a cathartic victory. It also served as the ideal build-up to Wednesday’s return to Merseyside for the Uefa Champions League quarter-final at Anfield.

City could again afford to relax on the pitch. Three ahead after 33 minutes at Arsenal, they were three up in 37 at Everton. They contrived to take the drama out of another second half.

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There were measures of their excellence before then. Everton’s 11 players only completed two more passes than Fernandinho in the whole of the first period. They were starved of possession. City used it expertly.

David Silva created two goals in another display of understated class. Even he was overshadowed, however, by Leroy Sane, who allied blistering pace with elusiveness and a deft touch. He was involved in each of the first three goals.

Everton were eight minutes from inflicting City’s first defeat of the season in August. They were defeated inside 12 in the rematch. That destructive start highlighted why City’s recruitment is focused on constructive players, even in destructive roles.

Ederson and Aymeric Laporte were bought in part because of their class in possession. It was apparent in the early double salvo. For the opener, the defender provided a pass many a midfielder could not by providing an incisive through ball to complete a one-two with Silva. The Spaniard chipped a cross to the far post where Sane hooked in a volley.

The second began with another paid to keep goals out. Ederson began a move. Everton had the opportunity to equalise moments earlier, Yannick Bolasie heading over. Ederson took the restart and found Sane in the centre circle. He flicked the ball over Morgan Schneiderlin and released De Bruyne. He lofted a cross that Gabriel Jesus headed in off the shoulder of Jordan Pickford.

If that illustrated City’s potency on the counter-attack, so did their third goal. Silva sprung the offside trap to accelerate on to Fernandinho’s pass. When the Spaniard crossed, Raheem Sterling delivered an assured finish. City’s season is full of startling statistics and Sterling’s 21st goal of the campaign represented another.

If the scorer was significant, so was the supplier. It highlighted a collective commitment to create. Silva now has 11 assists this season, making City only the third club in Premier League history to have a trio in double figures. Sane and De Bruyne are the others.

City could have scored more. Everton belatedly registered one in a footnote, Bolasie firing in off either post. The home fans were briefly roused. They had been taunted by their City counterparts, chorusing: “You’ve got Sam Allardyce.” It was an effective insult. The Englishman got his tactics wrong as his side were outclassed.

Guardiola, in contrast, could savour another successful day. It included Laporte’s audition, the centre-back pressed into service at left-back. He may find himself deployed there at Anfield on Wednesday, charged with stopping Mohamed Salah in the Champions League. That assumes more importance as City will not be stopped in the Premier League.

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