Love is in the air… and on this Valentine’s Day, City have plenty of admirers!
The Blues’ emphatic 4-0 triumph at Basel, earned courtesy of an Ilkay Gundogan double, plus goals from Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero, have press and fans in complete adoration and eager to see more of Pep Guardiola’s men.
‘Irresistible, stylish, impressive, special, a class above…’ The superlatives are endless – and we’re loving it!
Let’s start with Jack Pitt-Brooke’s endearing reflection in the Independent. He scribed: “Away games are meant to be difficult, especially in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League, but this Manchester City team are no longer playing by football’s usual rules.
“Here in Basel they turned a challenge into an exhibition, controlling the whole match and recording a 4-0 win that should really have been six or seven.
“What was so impressive about it was that City did exactly what Guardiola promised they would try to do, imposing their game on the opposition in their home ground.
“This is a Swiss fortress, the national stadium, but City took control in the first half and never let go. The noisy home crowd and the freezing temperatures made not the slightest bit of a difference.
“What was so impressive about this City performance was that it was not like Sergio Aguero’s four-goal binge against Leicester City on Saturday, or any number of barely believable Kevin De Bruyne masterclasses this season.
“This was a proper team performance, everyone working in unison, keeping the ball and cutting Basel open with almost every attack.
“There is no other team like City when it comes to turning it on and ripping a game away from the opposition before they even realise what has happened.
“That is what happened here, with three goals in a nine-minute spell that ended the whole contest.”
ESPN’s Jonathan Smith echoed: “Ruthless, fearless and simply a class above, Manchester City showed why they are seen as one of the favourites for the Champions League, even if manager Pep Guardiola isn’t sure if his side are quite ready to compete for the trophy yet.
“City took their swaggering Premier League form to Basel and destroyed the Swiss champions with the tie effectively over inside 23 minutes.
“Basel knew it was going to be a big ask to overcome City, but after beating Manchester United and Benfica in the group stage, they at least went into the game with hope.
“That hope was clinically wiped away by a City side that stroked the ball around St Jakob-Park with their trademark effortless freedom and style.
“The notoriously lively atmosphere was silenced, with the Basel supporters only able to sit back and admire as City opened up the home side with ease.”
The Manchester Evening News’ Stuart Brennan purred: “They combine Spanish flair and technique, Italian tactical discipline and German drive and efficiency, all channelled by a master coach who tolerates no slacking.
“The result was that they stormed to a victory which not only makes the second leg a formality, it also eases their fixture congestion and gives respite for weary legs.
“City could afford to take long breathers during the game, just as they did at Cardiff, as beaten, bewildered and bedraggled Basel failed to take this game beyond being a light training session.
“They clearly decided to try to put this tie to bed at the first attempt, and swept into Basel like the blistering winds which were sweeping down the Rhine as City fans did their sight-seeing in the afternoon.”
Wrote the Mirror’s David McDonnell: “Pep Guardiola might not like to admit it, but with City in this kind of irresistible form, they will never have a better chance of landing a first European Cup.
“Tougher tests and more dangerous opponents lie ahead in the tournament, but the ruthless manner in which City demolished Basel showed Guardiola’s team have come of age in Europe.
“An unassailable 16-point lead at the summit of the Premier League means he can focus his attention on the Champions League, which has assumed such importance for City as they look to win it and take their place alongside Europe’s elite clubs.
“Much will depend on who they draw in the quarter-finals, but with Guardiola’s side in such formidable form, they will surely fear no-one. And, having finally beaten Barcelona last season, they have proved to themselves they can take on the very best in Europe and win.
“City arrived at St Jakob-Park looking to avoid the fate that had befallen Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United twice in losing to Basel in the Champions League. But any notion of City going the same way as their flaky Premier League colleagues was swiftly and brutally crushed.”
While the likes of De Bruyne, Aguero, Gundogan and Bernardo Silva soaked up the acclaim, former Blue Frank Lampard reserved praise for one of his former teammates.
Speaking as a pundit on BT Sport, he hailed: “This guy is incredible. I would go as far as to say: when he (Guardiola) picks his team of superstars, Fernandinho is the first name he picks.
“He’s so fundamental to the way they play at the base of the midfield. Driving through midfield, he starts so many things.
“When you want to play as a team on the front foot – we keep talking about winning the ball back – you want some security in midfield.
“He’s always prompting, everything seems to land at his feet and what he does brilliantly – which is sometimes unrecognised – is that he plays the simple pass and the right pass; he’s in the right position.
“At the end of the season, maybe De Bruyne will walk away with all the accolades – Player of the Season, etc. – but if you asked the players who is it that’s most relied upon, Fernandinho would be right up there in their minds
“There are so many important players but he really deserves his moment of praise – he does it game in, game out and although he’s sometimes unnoticed, he’s at the centre of the way they play.”
Happy Valentine’s Day, Blues! Tell us what you loved about the win over Basel on Twitter @ManCity!