Kevin De Bruyne described Manchester City’s 7-0 thrashing of Leeds United as “a booster for the whole team” after he returned to scoring form with an exceptional double.
De Bruyne was one of five attacking players fielded by Premier League champions City, with not a natural centre forward among them, and the quintet’s marauding was more than Leeds could handle at the Etihad Stadium.
Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez joined De Bruyne on the scoresheet, while defenders John Stones and Nathan Ake also got in on the act late on.
De Bruyne was starting a Premier League game for the first time since the derby against Manchester United on November 6, after working his way back to fitness from a recent COVID-19 lay-off.
“There’s been a lot happening this year, a little bit out of my control, so the only thing I can do is try to work hard and come back as quick as possible,” City playmaker De Bruyne told NBC.
“It’s unfortunate with everything that happened, and at the time I was coming back in a good rhythm until I got COVID. So it happened and now we’re working hard to come back in a good level.
“I think we played incredibly well, especially with the way they press; we found the right time to attack them.”
City’s seven goals came from an expected goals (xG) tally of 2.2, which suggests their finishing was outstanding, as it plainly was.
A curiosity was that they also had an xG of 2.2 in last season’s corresponding fixture, but lost that 2-1 to a smash-and-grab Leeds.
This time City built a big early lead – 3-0 in 32 minutes – and stretched clear.
“When you’re three or four-nil up it gets tougher for them,” said Belgium international De Bruyne. “They tried to keep it a little more tight in the second half, but I think we had enough chances to score a lot more.
“It’s good for everybody. A lot of people who maybe didn’t play a lot played today chipped in, so for the whole team it’s a booster.
“We were patient at the beginning and at the right times we found the gaps to go forward and punished them.”
De Bruyne’s second goal, a fizzing 25-yard shot, moved City 5-0 in front and was his 20th successful strike from outside the penalty area in the Premier League since his debut for the club in September 2015. That is more than anyone else has managed in the same time frame.
City moved four points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table after inflicting Leeds’ heaviest defeat of the Premier League era.
While Leeds totter in the bottom five, City have eyes on the big prize again, and a seventh consecutive win in the league means they are in great shape to push towards that target.
De Bruyne expects a tough battle for the title though, saying: “It’s a hell of a competition. It’s going to be a hell of a race this year, but we’re trying to be there.”