Classy City will be hard to catch
Aguero not missed as Pep's men put on masterclass against Chelsea
There are many reasons Chelsea will always have a complicated relationship with Jose Mourinho, but one in particular should really worry Manchester United supporters.
His name is Kevin de Bruyne.
Antonio Conte tried to be diplomatic about Manchester City's ginger genius, but the raised eyebrow said it all.
How could Mourinho's Chelsea sell such an astonishing footballer, a complete midfielder and arguably the best in his position in the English Premier League?
De Bruyne's masterclass at Stamford Bridge yesterday (Singapore time) ensured that Sergio Aguero's absence was immediately forgotten.
City missed their leading striker and barely broke stride.
Chelsea lost their main centre forward in Alvaro Morata and essentially collapsed, their title defence imploding before their very eyes.
Conte's tactical acumen and decent resources will be enough to defeat most, but not Pep Guardiola's men.
Conte doesn't have de Bruyne. Nor does he have David Silva, or a forward line to rival the breadth of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.
Nor does he have as many options at fullback, or a bench that includes the quality of Bernardo Silva, Danilo and Ilkay Guendogan or a squad that could go to Stamford Bridge without Vincent Kompany, Benjamin Mendy and Aguero and defeat the champions.
The title holders were not just beaten, their spirit was broken.
City's masters treated their opponents like submissive pets, grabbing them by the throat and rubbing their noses in the smelly stuff.
Every collective and individual battle went in City's favour. Conte was criticised for replacing the injured Morata with Willian, but the dispiriting reality was it didn't matter and the Italian knew it.
City's John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have cut back on the clowning and the immature impersonations of Franz Beckenbauer and gone back to basics.
They defend first and dribble later. Morata and Eden Hazard meandered down one blind alley after another.
“To show in the first minute to the people in Stamford Bridge that these guys came here to try to win the game, that is what I want to give to the club and the team.”Man City manager Pep Guardiola
In goal, Edersen really did have a touch of Beckenbauer about his distribution. His boots were made for walking, right out of the box to send City on their way.
Chelsea rarely saw the ball.
In a different era, Sir Alex Ferguson failed to solve a problem like the merry-go-round of Guardiola's Barcelona. Two Champions League final defeats left him no closer to stopping what he called the "carousel" of possession football.
The Catalans danced around and around United and no one dressed in red ever found an "off" switch to stop the machine.
At Stamford Bridge, Guardiola found the "on" switch again.
For the first time during the Spaniard's era, City played close to his ideal of dictating every aspect of the game.
The visitors' 62 per cent possession rate ensured that the Blues' 38 per cent was their second-lowest in a home Premier League game since the 2003/2004 season.
That stat will almost certainly please Guardiola more than his first win at Stamford Bridge in eight games in all competitions. He was going to get that particular monkey off his back eventually.
For Guardiola, the manner of victory is paramount. The execution is everything. Against Chelsea, they were almost a perfect 10 and the positive stats are mounting.
City have kept four successive clean sheets in the EPL for the first time since September 2015. Only one goal has been conceded in seven games in all competitions.
But another individual's statistics should leave the Chelsea faithful crying in their beer and the rest fearing a one-horse canter.
De Bruyne's searing finish was throughly deserved, but he has now had a direct involvement in 15 goals in his past 17 EPL games.
The Belgian boasts three goals and 12 assists and there's a sense that he's just getting started.
He's still only 26. Astonishingly, Mourinho allowed him to leave Chelsea for Wolfsburg, just three years ago, for a derisory £16.7 million (S$30.4m).
No other midfielder currently rivals de Bruyne's ability to fashion a game's complexion. He's a puppeteer without peer.
And yet, Mourinho had no patience for him. Guardiola watched him play for Belgium and decided to build his City side around him. Who's sorry now?
At the moment, the sobbing is confined to Stamford Bridge. In time, the weeping will spread to Old Trafford.
City went to Chelsea without their first-choice striker, centre back and left back and dismantled the champions with a methodical display that was devastating in its total control.
Conte, a wily, Machiavellian magician when it comes to a tactical whiteboard, had no answer. None.
There's only one manager left who can realistically stop City turning the title race into a procession.
Ironically, the EPL must rely on the man who turned his back on de Bruyne.