Manchester City entered Tuesday night’s match with Leeds, which has been somewhat overwhelmed in recent weeks, with a 2-1 loss to RB Leipzig and a narrow 1-0 victory over Wolves to boast in their two previous matches.
And by his own standards, Kevin De Bruyne had gone through a similarly disappointing run of individual form. Without any goal mixes to show for himself in eight excursions for Pep Guardiola’s side – and an attack by Covid either stuck in between – it is safe to say that we all asked ourselves where in all the peace the true KDB had gone.
Well, as City returned to their usual glittering form in a 7-0 squad against Leeds on Tuesday, so did De Bruyne.
The midfielder returned to his enigmatic best when he conducted an overwhelming quality orchestra at the heart of his team’s total demolition and dismantling of Marcelo Bielsa’s men in the Premier League.
While the Belgian had only one hand in two of the seven goals – yes, only – it was his decisive, talismanic and totally controlling performance in central midfield that made City sparkle.
Aside from his brace, he was an integral part of every aspect of City’s devastating and unattainable dominance of the night.
The energy that he had apparently lacked in the recent screenings was there to see, with his incessant pressure from the front, Leeds disturbed calm and game patterns from behind and therefore kept his side on the front foot at all times. His pace of work extended to his elusive movement, pretty much all over the pitch.
Whether the ball was at the foot of left-back – and part-time twin – Oleksander Zinchenko or with Riyad Mahrez on the right wing, De Bruyne offered himself continuously as an alternative and was of course always in space.
Kevin De Bruyne ran the show for Manchester City / Alex Livesey / GettyImages
His positional awareness enabled him to take possession in progressive areas from which he could distribute the game to the last third and in channels, and eventually recorded an impressive move of four key passes. At the same time, his intelligence allowed him to always complement the movement of City’s fake nine to pull apart and disfigure visitors’ formation in the middle of the park.
In fact, the Leeds ‘midfielders – consisting of Diego Llorente and Luke Ayling – and the central midfield – Adam Forshaw and Stuart Dallas (then Mateusz Klich) – looked completely hopeless for 90 minutes with City’s creative threats controlling the visitors’ show. ‘half.
But that’s not a fair summary – what made them look so terrible was the unfathomable intelligence, awareness and agility of City’s front five, mainly created by De Bruyne.
If I had not already sold you on his significance and returned to his incredible best in this game, let’s take a look at his braces. Two goals of the highest quality, consisting of two fantastic finishes.
Send it, Kevin De Bruyne! ?
Sensational attack from Manchester City’s Belgian maestro! pic.twitter.com/q88QUe3dGm
– Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 14, 2021
The first came when he opposed Phil Foden’s fall into a deep area with an arrow behind it, eventually locking himself on Rodris’ perfectly weighted through ball and clinically putting the ball past Illan Meslier without a shred of hesitation.
The other was, yes, an absolute rocket. Do you remember Rodris’ arrow driver a few weeks ago? Well, this could be even better.
City’s Belgian maestro collected the ball from Ilkay Gundogan and moved the ball on his right side before releasing a cruel toxic blow to the ceiling of Leeds’ net from distance. It was an amazing moment, to complete a performance that was easily given a 10/10 in 90 minutes of match rating.
Of course, City’s and De Bruyne’s dominance over the match and their opposition increased as Bielsa’s men became more and more desperate. But let’s not take anything away from an achievement that really signals De Bruyne’s return to his child storming best.
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