Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez hit doubles as Manchester City thumped derby rivals Manchester United 4-1 to restore their six-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit.
United had won their previous three games at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions but, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, they were behind inside five minutes to a close-range De Bruyne strike.
After Jadon Sancho temporarily levelled up against his former club, De Bruyne struck a second to put City back in front before half-time, and then teed up Mahrez for a superb City third in the second half.
United were previously unbeaten in 11 games in normal time in all competitions but conceded a fourth when Mahrez doubled his tally late on, seeing City give themselves some breathing space at the top, albeit with Liverpool holding a game in hand and still having to travel to the Etihad next month.
De Bruyne was left in plenty of space to drill Bernardo Silva’s low pass away from David de Gea early on, the Belgium international registering his 50th goal in the competition.
United otherwise made a positive start, despite also being without Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani, and they were level with 22 minutes played.
Sancho was played into space by Paul Pogba and cut inside before sending a delightful curled finish past Ederson from the edge of the 18-yard box.
City restored their lead just six minutes later through De Bruyne, who blasted in after Phil Foden’s initial shot was well saved by De Gea and not dealt with by United’s defenders.
De Bruyne was again involved when picking out Mahrez from a corner to volley in a third goal for City, and the Algeria international rounded off the scoring in the 90th minute with another crisp finish after VAR judged Alex Telles had played him onside.
What does it mean? More than just bragging rights for City
This contest had plenty riding on it, with City needing to respond to Liverpool’s win over West Ham on Saturday and United requiring a point to move back level with Arsenal – 3-2 winners at Watford earlier on Sunday – in fourth place.
In the end, City’s quality saw them ease to victory, meaning they have achieved a league double over United in the same season for just the second time under Pep Guardiola, having previously done so in 2018-19.
The manner of the second-half display will be of particular concern for United interim boss Ralf Rangnick, whose side had just 21 per cent of possession and were outshot 14-0 by their opponents, two of those attempts by Mahrez ending in the back of the net.
De Bruyne at the double
City midfielder De Bruyne has now been directly involved in 89 goals in 100 Premier League home appearances for Chelsea and City (37 goals, 52 assists) after scoring twice and setting up another against United.
He is the first City player to score a brace in this league fixture since Sergio Aguero in April 2015 and becomes the fourth Belgian to register 50 goals in the competition after Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Eden Hazard.
City’s wealth of riches
De Bruyne was not the only City player celebrating a milestone strike, as Mahrez’s sumptuous volley took him to 100 goal involvements for City in all competitions – with that soon becoming 101 as he notched his 21st goal of the campaign late on.
City’s attacking display, even when not quite in fifth gear, was a stark reminder to United of just how great a gap they have to bridge to their rivals if they are to seriously challenge for the title next season.
City host Sporting CP in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, holding a 5-0 lead from the first leg, while United face Tottenham in their next league outing on Saturday.