Pep Guardiola said Kevin De Bruyne is reaping the rewards of adding a selfish streak to his game after his four-goal haul propelled Manchester City to within touching distance of a fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
Guardiola’s side destroyed Wolves 5-1 to restore their three-point advantage over Liverpool with two games to play and the City manager admitted that the marquee signing of Erling Haaland will only help them to increase their goals tally. Raheem Sterling registered City’s fifth six minutes from time and De Bruyne hit the post with a minute to spare.
“I’m so disappointed with him because he missed a fifth goal, with [hitting] the post,” Guardiola said, smiling. “I know he is always a guy who is so generous and always has the sense to make an assist but this season I think he has the sense to be prolific and score goals.
“He won the game against Chelsea [in January], he scored against [Real] Madrid and he has been decisive scoring goals and at the end this makes the greatest [players]. I’m very pleased for him because of course scoring four goals in the decisive part of the league is so important.
“We’ve spoken during the years – ‘You have to arrive to the box, you have to be close to the box and you have to score.’ This season I think was the year that he has done better and better. Hopefully he can continue not just this year but for the rest of his career.
“I have the feeling that now he is starting to enjoy goals. Before it was just assists and now I have the feeling it is: ‘I like it when my teammates come to hug me because I scored a goal.’ I think it is good.”
De Bruyne scored a 17-minute first‑half hat-trick and added his fourth on the hour. Phil Foden also hit the woodwork late on. The only sour note for City was further defensive injuries, with Rúben Dias, John Stones and Kyle Walker already out for the rest of the season.
Guardiola confirmed that both the 37-year-old Fernandinho, who started at centre-back, and Aymeric Laporte, who was replaced by Nathan Aké because of a knee problem, are doubts for the trip to West Ham on Sunday.
“We have incredible problems in behind and against [Michail] Antonio, [Jarrod] Bowen and [Manuel] Lanzini and all their mates it will not be easy,” the City manager said. “At the same time it doesn’t matter what happens, we are going to find a solution and of course we’re obviously going there to win the game.”
Guardiola said he has been delighted with his side’s emphatic response since they exited the Champions League against Real Madrid. “You always doubt about how they [will] react but we have done it the way we have the last month for five years. We have done it many, many times. My players didn’t change one second and the results are not going to change my opinion about that. The people say it is a tragedy or a big success, but I don’t play this game.”
Jürgen Klopp described Haaland, a £51m signing from Borussia Dortmund, as a “beast” and Guardiola said he is looking forward to helping the Norway forward, whose father, Alf-Inge, played for City, to settle in Manchester.
“Big congratulations to the club, he is signed for the next years, he is a young talented player, I’m very pleased he decided to come and join us,” Guardiola said.
“Next season we are going to work together and hopefully he can settle – help him to settle as soon as possible in terms of Manchester and a house. I am pretty sure he is going to adapt quickly to the way we want to play. It is a decision for the club to make a good sign for the future.”
Carlos Cachada – the Wolves first‑team fitness coach who led the players from the sidelines in the absence of the head coach, Bruno Lage, who has coronavirus – conceded the best team won. “I think it was a fair result,” he said.
The Portuguese wing-back Chiquinho, who made his first start, said: “It was a very difficult game. We tried everything, but they are a strong team and they’ve proven on the pitch that they are better than us.”