MANCHESTER, England — Kevin De Bruyne scored a clever free kick and played a part in the other three goals as Manchester City beat Bournemouth 4-0 with another scintillating attacking display, maintaining its 100 percent start to the English Premier League on Saturday.
City manager Pep Guardiola labeled De Bruyne as one of the best players he has managed after seeing the Belgium midfielder inspire the team to a fifth straight league win and a club-record eighth victory to open the season.
“When we talk about (Lionel) Messi, maybe he can sit alone in the table, with no one else allowed,” said Guardiola, a former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach. “But in the table beside, Kevin can sit there.”
The creative force behind City’s 2-1 win at Manchester United last weekend, De Bruyne ran the game at Etihad Stadium, too, opening the scoring by shooting a free kick underneath a jumping wall in the 15th minute.
But possibly his moment of the match came in the 66th when he found space to thread a perfect angled through-ball to Ilkay Gundogan, who ran into the area to meet the pass with a first-time low finish that outfoxed goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
No wonder De Bruyne was afforded a standing ovation by City fans when he was substituted late on.
“He is a special, outstanding player,” Guardiola said. “He makes everything. Without the ball he is the first fighter, and with the ball he is clear — he sees absolutely everything.
“Every time, he makes the right decision. That is why he is a player on another level. We are lucky to have him and I hope he can enjoy playing his amazing football with us.”
In between those moments of class from De Bruyne, young forwards Kelechi Iheanacho and Raheem Sterling set each other up for goals on the counterattack as Bournemouth was continually picked off. But De Bruyne played his part.
The 19-year-old Iheanacho, filling in for the suspended Sergio Aguero, notched his third goal in as many games this week by adjusting his feet and tapping into an empty net in the 25th after Sterling got in behind Bournemouth’s defense from De Bruyne’s pass before squaring the ball across the face of the six-yard box.
Iheanacho returned the favor to Sterling after halftime — and again the catalyst for the flowing move was De Bruyne, who slipped another pass through to the striker. Instead of shooting, Iheanacho cut the ball back for Sterling to bundle home his finish.
Aguero will be back for City’s next league game but Nolito faces three matches out after his 86th-minute red card for motioning a head-butt at Adam Smith as they squared up and went forehead to forehead. The incident was sparked by Smith running into Nolito off the ball.
Guardiola said he had no issues with the red card.
City has 15 goals in five league games so far, and started a second successive league campaign with five wins in a row. This was also the first clean sheet in the league under Guardiola.
City’s previous best start to a season was seven straight wins in 1897.
“Numbers are numbers and records will be beaten,” said Guardiola, who took charge over the summer. “What’s important is we won a game just three days after a Champions League game, which is always tough.”
In a little dig at Man United, Guardiola added: “Bournemouth were until now the best team with the ball (City has faced) — the other teams have played long balls.”