It was not just the sight of Manchester City running up another avalanche of goals and playing football from another planet that will have disheartened their immediate rivals here. With 15 minutes still to go in the latest exhilarating demonstration of show-stopping football that had swept Pep Guardiola’s team to the title with five games to go, Benjamin Mendy returned to the pitch almost seven months to the day since rupturing his cruciate ligament injury.
A season in which City still threaten to break all manner of records has been played largely without the most expensive full-back in the game and the sight of the France defender returning to the fray merely underlined the challenge the rest of the Premier League will have trying to rein this team in next season. They have yet to spend again, which they will do, and already they are stronger.
City need just two wins from their final four league games to break Chelsea’s record Premier League points haul of 95. Six more goals and they will also eclipse the record 103 goals Chelsea scored in 2009/10. By the end of an intoxicating afternoon when Swansea City became a punchbag, the Manchester City supporters could not contain themselves.
Flooding the field at the final whistle, they mobbed their triumphant players, blissfully ignoring subsequent calls to vacate the pitch as they stood in their hundreds in front of the tunnel cheering and chanting. It was quite the scene although it is still likely to invite a charge from the Football Association, not least when you consider that Wigan Athletic were charged after their fans invaded the pitch following February’s FA Cup win over Manchester City.
“We have become champions with five games left but that doesn’t mean we can now stop and put our feet up,” Guardiola said in his programme notes. Not when there are records to break. Not when Manchester City still have a big say in what happens at the opposite end of the table. Not when a carnival atmosphere demanded more carnival football which, unsurprisingly, they duly delivered, their opponents left dazed and confused on the passing carousel.
Swansea City’s top flight status was not going to be determined by what happened here and, for all the wonders Carlos Carvalhal has worked since taking charge of the club in December, he will have known it was going to take something very special to rain on the host’s parade. Within 16 minutes, though, it had simply become a case of damage limitation.
Survival is firmly in Swansea City’s hands but it is not unfeasible goal difference could still have a bearing on who stays up and hoping Guardiola’s side did not run up a cricket score will have been uppermost in the Carvalhal’s mind once Raheem Sterling scored his team’s second goal four minutes after he had helped fashion the opener for David Silva. By the end, he will probably have been relieved to keep it to five such was the chasm in quality.
The first two goals were what everyone would now characterise as classic Manchester City team goals – you know the sort by now: the blur of passes, the stealth like movement, the calm close range finish. The first was beautifully orchestrated – Sterling to Fabian Delph to Aymeric Laporte to De Bruyne who, spotting Sterling making a dart to the byline, stroked a sublime pass with the outside of his right boot in behind Kyle Naughton.
Sterling had the presence of mind to pull the ball back from Silva – how his final ball has improved – and the Spaniard did the rest, holding off a stretching Mike van der Hoorn to volley home. In doing so, he became the sixth Manchester City player this season to reach double figures in all competitions. Poor Naughton.
It was mayhem on his side and, before long, he was being picked on again, this time Silva cushioning a beautifully weighted pass in behind the Swansea City wing back for Delph to latch on to and square a pass for Sterling to tap home for his 23rd goal of the campaign.
They punish you mercilessly, Silva and De Bruyne, with the unerring accuracy of their passing. It required a double take initially but Manchester City completed an astonishing 542 passes in the first half. To put that into context, five of Guardiola’s players completed more passes individually in the opening 45 minutes than the entire Swansea City team. It was that one-sided. Alfie Mawson managed a speculative shot on target for the visitors in the 44th minute but that was as good as it got for them.
If the team goal does not do for beleaguered opponents, though, there’s always the moment of individual brilliance to leave them utterly deflated. Step forward De Bruyne. Tom Carroll played an ambitious pass out to Jordan Ayew that might have had a chance had the Swansea City striker not been dozing.
Laporte nipped in front and prodded the ball to De Bruyne who, surveyed the scene, spotted a clearing and then launched a blistering 30-yard drive into the far corner as the Etihad rose to acclaim its beloved Belgian.
There was plenty more for the natives to gorge over. Local boy Phil Foden produced a tantalising cameo, weaving past three bodies before sticking a cross on Gabriel Jesus’s head that the Brazilian seemed certain to dispatch only to head straight at Lukasz Fabianski. Jesus had already missed a penalty by then when Federico Fernandez scythed through Sterling only for his blushes to be spared when Bernardo Silva tucked home the rebound.
It did not look like being Jesus’s afternoon but then Yaya Toure floated a fine pass over Swansea City’s ramshackle defence and this time the striker made no mistake with a smartly controlled header.
City win 5-0. They are just too good to be playing teams like Swansea on a weekly basis.
Fans stream onto the pitch to celebrate and every one of the City players look terrified, except Benjamin Mendy, who is absolutely loving it.
90 mins +1
Gundogan nearly gets in on the act but puts his first time effort over the bar.
Two minutes added on. No Swansea player wants to play these final two minutes.
GOOOOAL! Jesus has his goal!
If you give Toure time to pick a pass 40 yards from goal he does it as well as anyone on the planet. Jesus runs off the final defender to meet Yaya's chipped through ball and he heads into the far corner to make it 5-0. Unstoppable.
Everyone wants a goal! Kompany is hanging on the shoulder of the last defender, and runs onto a dinked Yaya Toure through ball like a seasoned centre-forward.
He doesn't quite take it down in hit path properly, and it bounces up before he heads just wide.
Lovely from Foden, who jinks past three Swansea players out on the left and hangs a cross up into the six-yard box, and perfectly onto the head of Jesus, but his effort is straight at the keeper.
A patient passing move eventually finds its way to Mendy, but he mis-hits his shot which bounces harmlessly into Fabianki's arms.
Foden whisks past a challenge in midfield and is scythed down by Van der Hoorn. The referee blows for a free-kick but the ball had fallen to Silva, who swiftly slipped Sterling in on goal. That should have been advantage played, but the whistle went too quickly.
Yaya Toure fires the free kick into the wall, and Swansea race up the other end with Abraham making good ground. He lifts a cross up to the back post, and the arriving Sam Clucas skews his volley horribly wide. Poor.
Given the experience English football has of Mendy - that of the joker he plays on social media - it's a little unusual to see him taking things so seriously or, well, without a smile on his face, out there.
One of the biggest cheers of the afternoon...
...and it greets Benjamin Mendy's return to action. He replaces Delph at left-back.
Tammy Abraham comes on for Martin Olsson for Swansea.
Another City sub
Foden replaces Sterling.
A whipped cross into the Swansea box is flicked on by Mawson, and rebounds off the inside of the post and down to a black shirt to be cleared. It remains four-nil, for now.
Substitutions for each side
De Bruyne given a standing ovation as he is replaced by Yaya Toure.
Sam Clucas and Kyle Bartley replace Ki Sung-yueng and Federico Fernandez.
GOOOOALL!! 4-0 to City.
Gabriel Jesus nonchalantly wanders up to the spot, Fabianksi guesses right and saves the spot kick, pushing onto the post!
But he's so so unlucky, with the rebounding coming out across goal and straight into the path of Bernardo Silva, who's first to react.
PENALTY MAN CITY!
Silva slips Sterling in, he toes the ball past Fernandez and draws the foul. Craig Pawson points to the spot. Jesus to take.
Player of the season?
He gets my vote.
5 - Kevin De Bruyne has now scored five goals from outside the box in the Premier League this season; the most of any player. Smash. pic.twitter.com/17kNulRJFe— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 22, 2018
Swansea win a corner and Ki's corner is met by Mawson, unchallenged, in the six-yard box... but he heads over the bar. A rare Swansea chance, and a wasted one.
WHAT A GOAL!!!! De Bruyne makes it 3-0!
What a stunning strike that is! City pass, pass, pass, taking their time, but then Swansea get a foot in but only manage to half clear their lines. De Bruyne decides passing any more isn't worth it, and absolutely spanks one from 25 yards and out to the right. He connects with it so perfectly and it rockets into the left side of the goal with Fabianski left helpless.
Swansea are doing a better job of breaking up play with little fouls and tackles, and City's fluency has thus been disrupted a little so far this half. Little action of note to report. De Bruyne shoots into the side netting from a tight angle.
Danilo whips a great cross across the face of the Swansea goal but no one is there to tap home.
45 minutes to go
Is this just a case of damage limitation for Swansea, then? Probably.
Can they keep the deficit to two goals? Probably not.
The second half is under way.
It's been, just like so many other matches for Manchester City this season, oh, so easy. They are simply a cut above every other team in this league and have been all season. The difference between them and the teams fighting relegation is frightening, and Swansea simply don't have a chance. City are 2-0 up and there's no way back into this one for the Swans.
One minute added on.
Swansea have their first shot on target, and it comes from a run from deep from an unlikely source in Alfie Mawson. Ultimately it's an easy save for Ederson, but still something to cheer for the travelling fans.
Anyone got any idea how Swansea get back into this one?
Swansea looks like they might have a chance to get at the City goal after De Bruyne charges out to intercept a long ball and misses it. Olsson controls and drives at Danilo, drops his shoulder and then takes it around him on the outside. His touch is poor, though, and he knows it, throwing himself to the ground in a desperate attempt to con the referee. Craig Pawson isn't moved, and gives Olsson a yellow for simulation. Good decision.
Jordan Ayew wants a free-kick in the centre circle but it's adjudged a good tackle by Delph, and he sets Jesus on his way down the right. The Brazilian drills a low effort at goal but Fabianski is equal to it.
Good save from Fabianski to keep De Bruyne's low effort from the edge of the box. The rebound falls to Sterling, but he is correctly flagged offside. Fabianski saved his effort, anyway.
Swansea are finally growing into the game a little, but chances are still way beyond them.
David Silva the 6th City player into double figures for the season now. That was his 10th of the campaign in all comps. Others: Aguero 30, Sterling 23, including one here v Swansea, Jesus 14, Sane 13, De Bruyne 11 #MCFC— James Ducker (@TelegraphDucker) April 22, 2018
It hits the wall, and City scramble it clear.
Sterling is adjudged to have pulled back King after City clear, and Swansea have a free-kick in a decent position. Olsson is over it, 25 yards from goal, right of centre.
Delph tries the most audacious of first time volleys, hitting Sterling's ball out to him back across goal, but it flies wide of the post.
Swansea haven't even got close to touching the ball within 30 yards of the City goal, and it has just been one way traffic so far. Carvalhal said Swansea had a plan to stop City, but there is no way back from this now. It's just a question of how many City get.
GOOOOOAAAAAL! Sterling makes it 2-0!
Delph stands Naughton up, plays a swift one-two with Silva, and drills low across goal where a grateful Raheem Sterling is waiting to tap home his 18th league goal of the season.
Celebrations galore at the Etihad:
GOOOOOOOAAAAALL!!! David Silva puts City 1-0 up
Just like that (see last post) Silva is in fact on the end of a move, after De Bruyne picks Sterling out with a lovely ball with the outside of his boot around the defender on the City left. Sterling runs onto it, and cuts back to Silva, who takes one touch before thrashing home from an angle. 1-0 City and it's just so easy for them.
Silva is running things in midfield, seeing plenty of the ball between the lines, and it surely won't be long until he picks out a killer final ball. Swansea already making a few desperate challenges to stay level.
Olsson just took the worst cross I have ever seen. It went at about 90 degrees away from the direction he'd intended. Real Sunday League stuff. Truly beautiful.
"Stand up for the champions" is being sung in the Etihad stands. Haven't yet heard anyone sing 'if you're happy and you know it'. Yet
City settling into plenty of early possession. Swansea are working very hard indeed. This could be a long afternoon.
Off we go
Let's get on with the footy! City get things started.
We've just had a guard of honour for the champions.
Sky have just shown a clip of Swansea's back five warming up by moving in a line back and forth, side to side, in perfect co-ordination. They'll have to play like that to for 90 minutes to get anything from today's game.
Carlos Carvalhal talks
"I understand the past: City have only lost one game at home, usually scoring three, four, five goals. They are champions, they are the best team and one of the best in Europe.
"We know about all of this. From our side, we have a strategy to try and stop them, it won't be easy because they are so strong, but we also have a strategy to try and play and our football and score goals.
"We will do our best to try and achieve something. Let's play!"
They've let the fans get hold of the trophy outside the ground
(I think it's probably a replica trophy.)
At the other end of the table
After Stoke's draw with Burnley, Swansea remain four points clear of safety with one game in hand over Southampton and two over Stoke.
They have every chance of survival, but they will still want to try and get something from today's game. Away to the champions, though, they will be up against it.
It's good to have him back
Benjamin Mendy returns to the squad
Your Champions line-up like this! ��— Manchester City (@ManCity) 22 April 2018
City XI: Ederson, Danilo, Kompany (C), Laporte, Delph, Gündogan, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Silva, Sterling, Jesus
Subs: Bravo, Walker, Sané, Mendy, Otamendi, Touré, Foden
Presented by @HAYSWorldwidepic.twitter.com/W6TduoN1X5
Stand up for the champions
The banners are ready and the champagne on ice for Manchester City, who are having at party at the Etihad Stadium against Swansea City.
City's season did seem to be winding down to an anti-climactic finish after defeats in the Manchester Derby and the Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool.
A comprehensive performance and victory over Spurs was a worth exclamation point at the end of their league campaign however, and they were confirmed as champions when West Brom won at Man Utd.
Team news to follow...