Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – The pre-match build-up was dominated by talk of Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Claudio Bravo, but Kevin De Bruyne stole the show in Saturday’s Manchester derby.
The Belgian midfielder scored a coolly taken opening goal and had a big hand in Kelechi Iheanacho’s second as City won 2-1 at Old Trafford to prolong their perfect start to the Premier League season.
It was a display that not only showcased the 25-year-old’s clinical attacking qualities, but also his versatility.
He finished the game playing as a lone striker after Guardiola withdrew Iheanacho in order to beef up his midfield and came close to adding a third goal with a shot that struck the post.
Victory will have been particularly sweet for De Bruyne, who was allowed to leave Chelsea by Mourinho in January 2014 before relaunching his career in Germany with Wolfsburg.
Mourinho later explained that De Bruyne had been unwilling to fight for a place in the first XI amid strong competition from players such as Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Andre Schuerrle.
But with each passing season, Mourinho’s decision to dispense with the red-haired attacker’s services seems like a bigger and bigger folly.
De Bruyne was a sensation in his first full season at Wolfsburg in 2014-15, with his 16 goals and 27 assists in all competitions earning him the award for Germany’s Footballer of the Year.
It prompted City to break their club record for him in August 2015, shelling out 55 million pounds ($73 million, 65 million euros) to bring De Bruyne back to England.
Last season was a mixed one for City, who finished fourth in the league, although they won the League Cup and above all reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time.
De Bruyne, though, enjoyed a consistently excellent maiden campaign, scoring 16 goals, including a stunning winner against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals.
“It was a surprise to everyone when he was allowed to leave Chelsea,” former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness said on Sky Sports.
“He is a star. He will score goals and create goals.”
De Bruyne has adapted quickly to life under new City manager Guardiola, who has taken to aligning the Belgium international alongside David Silva at the heart of his 4-1-4-1 system.
City were without the suspended Sergio Aguero at Old Trafford, but De Bruyne ensured he was not missed.
He opened the scoring in the 15th minute, beating the hesitant Daley Blind to Iheanacho’s flick-on and nervelessly wrong-footing David de Gea.
City’s second goal, in the 36th minute, also sprang from De Bruyne’s feet, with his left-foot curler bouncing off the post and allowing Iheanacho a simple tap-in.
In showing up Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, United’s two big midfield signings, he also claimed another measure of revenge against Mourinho.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $35/mo. for Sling Blue
- Watch Premier League, World Cup & MLS
- Includes USA, NBC, FOX, FS1 + more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Where to find Osasuna vs. Sevilla on US TV
- Tottenham’s Premier League title credentials face Chelsea test
- Removing ‘camouflage,’ Brazil football referee comes out
- Wolfsburg’s Kovac returns to Bayern Munich with a point to prove
- Berlusconi’s Monza aiming high ahead of debut Serie A campaign
- Sling is your ticket to the best of PSG starring Messi, Neymar and Mbappe
- FIFA officially advances World Cup by a day for Qatar
- Telemundo World Cup studio talent for Qatar announced
- How Paramount+ can improve its soccer streaming
- Sterling could not waste peak years at Man City on the bench