What was it Fergie once said you need to have following a negative result? Bouncebackability. That is precisely what City found yesterday at the Etihad. Everton is always a potential banana skin as we have seen over the years, but this was to be no time for a pre-Christmas treat for our Blue-nosed brethren from the wrong end of the East Lancs Road.
Despite having de Bruyne and Aguero fit again, Guardiola decided to wrap up in the ubiquitous cotton wool and opt for Gundogan and Bernardo in the 8 & 10 roles with Mahrez and Sane out wide either side of the maligned de Jesus, whose performances have not exacerbated by goals in recent weeks, but whose work rate, running and general play have been excellent.
And today was going to be his day, his match. With the return of Sergigol around the corner, the Brazilian showed us a masterclass in modern centre-forward play showing his opposite number Richarlison, a player I quite like, how it’s done.
With the Evertonian having already let City off when getting a good sight of goal and sending his volley into level 2, City woke up, took the game by the scruff of the neck and very quickly got themselves ahead. With a series of rapid passes, de Jesus cut across the box, bending his run to perfection before easily beating the so-called England Number One, Pickford.
City, once in front, could ease through the gears, well mainly one and two as Everton, effectively playing nine across the defensive third had difficulty in finding Calvert-Lewin, let alone supporting him.
That City didn’t have this game in the bag before the break was simply down to their netminder. He made an excellent save off one of his own defenders struggling to deal with a cross in Exocet form from Sane and then made an equally good save from Mahrez after de Jesus had cleared defenders out of the way with an intelligent run.
However early in the second half a fantastic interchange of pass and run by Sane and Fernandinho saw the German set one up to meet de Jesus run and his bullet header gave Pickford no chance.
Generally, that would have been that, but for a moment of insecurity when, with the ball bouncing in the wrong places, Otamendi panicked a bit and allowed a cross onto the head of the unattended Calvert-Lewin, who headed home to reduce the arrears.
As the Etihad expected an Everton onslaught in search of an unlikely equaliser, City powered on. A disappointed Sane was replaced by Sterling and his first touch was to head home in similar fashion to de Jesus, to secure the points.
De Bruyne was given the last fifteen minutes to stroll around and get his passing range and an attempt to bring on Foden for stoppage time didn’t happen because there were no stoppages in play.
This was City getting back into gear. This City getting another three points to send them back to the top of the table. This was City bouncing back.
As much as Liverpool fans wanted Everton to collect points off City, the word around the Etihad was more in support of Stretford’s finest. But how can you rely on mid-table cannon-fodder for a result?
For Gabriel de Jesus it was telephone time. Two excellent goals and a lot of unselfish running, moving defenders all over the place. He easily deserved to me Man of the Match