It was another day, another Manchester City cup demolition job as the Blues put a plucky Burton Albion to the sword at the Etihad this evening with an unbelievable 9-0 victory. Following on from the relative 7-0 obliteration of Rotherham last Sunday, Pep Guardiola demonstrated just how seriously he is taking City’s cup fixtures this season, his side ruthlessly blitzing Nigel Clough’s Brewers with all the quality one might expect of a side fifty-three league places above their opposition.
With Kevin De Bruyne kicking off proceedings with only five minutes played, there was little to faze City as they sought to put this Carabao Cup semi-final to bed before it ever really began. Nonetheless, there were some notable team changes as well as some surprising performances in what was a record-threatening performance not just for the Blues, but for Pep Guardiola as well. Here’s how we rated the players…
Aro Muric – 6
It seems criminal to rate a player so lowly given the thunderous scoreline, but the fact of the matter is that Muric was probably the least involved City player since Javi Garcia donned a sky blue shirt. He had hardly anything to do, but a start in a League Cup semi-final still shows confidence in the young Kosovan.
Kyle Walker – 7
Though it was a second start for Walker since being losing his league place to Danilo, questions remain as to how ready he is for a potential return to league football. With Guardiola gesturing toward the defender’s calves prior to the second half (and no, it wasn’t just to make fun of his socks), a few moments of hesitation when City were rarely without the ball might have been telltale signs that the Englishman is still in need of some good TLC. It’s just a symptom of the match disparity that he still managed to score a goal!
Eric Garcia – 8
Thrust into the limelight on his 18th birthday, Garcia showed City fans glimpses of the poise and maturity that have brought him to be involved with the first team so young. Admittedly, the young Spaniard was hardly being bombarded with crosses and darting runs from Burton, but he stood up to the mental challenges of being involved in a Carabao Cup semi-final with ice-cool professionalism.
Nicolas Otamendi – 7
The General lived up to his name in surprising fashion tonight, left to marshal City’s own half more often than he was actually needed to make a challenge. Young Garcia will take more plaudits with his tender years, but Nico remains up to the task despite seeing far fewer minutes this season than he did last.
Oleks Zinchenko – 7
I’m tempted to just brand Zinchenko a myth and get on with the rest of these ratings. The man defies logic. Only he could be seen to be culpable for a rare Burton chance whilst scoring from a ludicrously fortunate shot – or was it a cross? I believe the Ukrainian is fully aware of his square-pegged place in Guardiola’s squad, yet his unwavering dedication earns him all the love from City fans that he so rightfully deserves. It cannot be forgotten how his contributions allow for key players like Delph and Mendy to be rested either.
Ilkay Gündogan – 10
If his outstanding performance against Rotherham was Ilkay Gündogan’s cry for more game time, then this was his roar. We know by now that the German is no Fernandinho, and equally that he was not going to face a defensive examination by Clough’s Brewers. Nevertheless, Gündogan showed his class tonight, performing the deep-lying ‘regista’ role with outstanding success. His perfect passes and great vision were a testament to his often-forgotten star quality, thoroughly pushing his claim for further inclusion. Just how lucky are we to have such unbelievable quality at the ready?
Kevin De Bruyne – 8
In his few appearances since returning to the first team set-up, King Kev has exhibited just how dynamic he remains within Pep Guardiola’s team. Whilst many thought his absence this season would be an insurmountable hurdle, the Belgian’s injury issues have not presented as much of an issue as many would have first thought. Yet this is an even greater testament to his immense quality when he returns to the side, his very presence driving the team on to greater heights as though they had been driving the City car without the engine even switched on. Scoring a rare headed goal, De Bruyne proved once again that he can be the spark that ignites City’s performances, whilst showing oh-so-tantalising glimpses of his mercurial connection with David Silva.
David Silva – 9
I have run out of words to describe David Silva. Well, that’s not exactly true, otherwise I would’ve just stopped. ‘El Mago’ remains as intangible as ever, his feet and brain indistinguishable from one another, executing passes many wouldn’t see and certainly wouldn’t be able to make with all the calmness of, well… David Silva.
Riyad Mahrez – 9
Scorer of the ninth goal, winner of a nine rating. Whilst Mahrez is still showing minor signs of acclimatising to the rhythms of Manchester City, there can little else to remedy a drop in confidence than an assist from either wing and a goal. The signs are there that a truly remarkable player lingers just beneath the surface, his exquisite ball control and quick feet appearing in flashes. Watch this space.
Leroy Sané – 8
Tireless yet tranquil. Ruthless yet relaxed. It is of little doubt that Leroy Sané possesses one of the highest ceiling’s of any Manchester City player, the German’s lightning runs and smooth passing making him one of the fiercest wide players in the Premier League, if not in world football. However, the one major question mark that hangs over Sané’s head is regarding his consistency, with many questioning whether he is able to maintain his high standards over a period of games. In this respect, it is why I can smile ear-to-ear to tell you that against Burton, Leroy did as Leroy does: provided a quality performance and left the pitch with fans singing his name.
Gabriel Jesus – 10 (Man of the Match)
In many ways, I’ve left the best until last. It’s a rare occurrence you get to talk about a player who scored four goals in a match, but Gabriel Jesus silenced all his doubters with a Man of the Match performance. What better way to do it than that? The Brazilian, still only 21 years old, put in a shift as ever, plaguing the poor Burton defenders with his usual persistent pressing. Though it is remarkable that some City fans (this one included) have questioned his quality, the most important thing is that Jesus is doing all the right things to go on to greater things.
Phil Foden – 8
Many may feel have felt aggrieved that Phil didn’t start tonight, such were the respective sizes of the opposition and of the occasion. In retrospect though I can see why Guardiola would want to prioritise getting Kevin De Bruyne up to match fitness with an eye on the rest of the season, and I’m certain that of any player, Foden would be the first to give up his position for the good of the team. Nonetheless, his performance in what amounted to just over a half hour deserves credit, with his second senior goal both at the Etihad and within a week no doubt doing his confidence a world of good. Like David Silva before him, the best parts of Phil’s game are watching him see acute passes. In time, they will only become more important.
Bernardo Silva – 7
Given the sheer amount of miles Bernardo covered against Liverpool, I don’t think anyone would blame him if he took the rest of the month off. Here again though was Bernardo, squeezing in a trademark bubblegum-like touch here and a brawler’s challenge there. His biggest transformation this season seems to have been in sheer brawn and heart, wherein he looks almost more accustomed to occupying De Bruyne’s box-to-box duties than the more creative knit-work of his namesake David.
Danilo – N/A