Bernardo Silva scored twice as Manchester City cruised to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win at Watford on Saturday.
Silva was described by manager Pep Guardiola as the best player in the English top flight this week and showed why with two sumptuous finishes to back up his cushioned volley against Aston Villa in midweek.
In stark contrast to Manchester United’s 4-1 humbling at Vicarage Road a fortnight ago that ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign, City virtually killed the match as a contest within four minutes.
Phil Foden picked out Raheem Sterling at the back post for the simplest of headers to open the scoring.
Silva slotted home from a narrow angle to double the visitors’ lead and produced a stunning strike into the top corner after the break.
But the scoreline barely did justice to the dominance of Guardiola’s men, who took advantage of Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat to West Ham earlier in the day to go one point clear of Liverpool at the top of the table.
Guardiola also has a clean bill of health for his squad heading into the hectic festive period as Foden and record signing Jack Grealish returned to the starting line-up, while Kevin De Bruyne made his comeback from coronavirus as a second-half substitute.
Foden made an immediate impact by picking out Sterling, who was given an incredible amount of space to head in his 99th Premier League goal.
Only a horrible slice from the normally technically perfect Foden kept Watford in the game moments later.
However, a slick City move soon doubled their lead as Silva fed Ilkay Gundogan and when the German’s effort was saved by Daniel Bachmann, the Portguese international followed up to slot in at the near post.
Silva made clear his desire to leave City in the summer, but the 27-year-old is back to playing some of the best football of his career.
Mohamed Salah’s free-scoring form for Liverpool may deny him individual awards come the end of the season, but Silva is also putting together his best goalscoring campaign in the Premier League with seven in his last 12 games.
His second of the game was a thing of beauty as he turned onto Kyle Walker’s pass and curled the ball high into Bachmann’s right-hand corner.
Grealish was then inches away from his first goal since August as the £100 million signing’s deflected effort came back off the crossbar.
City have now won seven consecutive games with their form looking ominously like the beginning of a similar run to the 21-game winning streak that started last December and saw them streak towards the title.
However, they were denied a clean sheet to round off a fine performance when Cucho Hernandez slotted home at the second attempt after his initial effort came back off the post.