Manchester City will be crowned Premier League champions if they win next week’s Manchester derby after they delivered one of their most impressive displays of the season to beat Everton 3-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side, who return to Merseyside to play Liverpool in their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, blew Everton away in a devastating opening half in which they scored three goals.
City are 16 points clear of second-placed United with seven games remaining and have the chance to clinch the title against their neighbours before focusing their energy on the European campaign.
The attacking intent – and the ability to deliver on it – was clear from the outset as City grabbed the lead in the fourth minute through Leroy Sane’s sizzling volley from a tight angle at the back post.
French defender Aymeric Laporte, playing at left back for the first time, produced a clever exchange with David Silva and the Spaniard’s pinpoint cross was superbly converted by Sane.
Everton beat City 4-0 in this fixture last season but 15 months on from his heaviest defeat in the Premier League, Guardiola has created a very different team and they were in a different class to Sam Allardyce’s modest side.
Still, Everton should have got level when Yannick Bolasie missed a clear chance as he headed over the bar with the goal at his mercy but having received that let-off, City responded in ruthless fashion.
Sane swung the ball out wide to Kevin De Bruyne, who did well to get above a high bouncing ball and find Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus who confidently headed home the cross.
City were utterly dominant and Silva was again the provider for the third goal, in the 37th minute, when he slipped the ball across the area and Raheem Sterling drove past Jordan Pickford.
The visitors went in at the break with a three-goal advantage, enjoying 81 per cent of the possession and the scoreline could have been even more emphatic.
Inevitably the edge went out of City’s play after the break and Everton gained encouragement in the 63rd minute when Bolasie’s low drive from the edge of the area flew in off the inside of the post.
Guardiola’s men understandably preserved energy for the remainder of the game, their minds already on a week in which they face two local rivals and could end with the title in their hands.
Man of the match Leroy Sane said after the match: “It’s always difficult after an international break because we didn’t have much chance to train together this week but we had a good game today.”
City boss Pep Guardiola said in his post-match interview: “It’s so good, we are so happy after three weeks without a game, you never know how you react.
“You have to be aggressive, if you are not here and at Anfield you do not do well if you do not show up.
“It’s two years thinking and training that way, the way we want to play was also last season, no matter home or away we play that way.
“We have to focus on the Champions League, we have United in the middle but for the line-up we have to think about the Champions League.”
Everton manager Sam Allardyce said his team fell short: “We organised a little, but the main message was ‘If you’re going to press, do it together, if you drop off, do it together.
“That was part of the trouble in the first half, where individual members of the front line pressed and with City’s quality they can pass through you.
“We did as much as we could, tried as much as we could and I think that has been the same for every team bar Liverpool.”