SHEIKH MANSOUR has sent an ominous warning to the rest of the Premier League by saying Manchester City are ‘only halfway up their Everest’.
The Abi Dhabi billionaire who has bankrolled City’s transformation says he will carry on investing in star quality in the pursuit of more trophies – with the Champions League presumably at the summit of his ambitions.
In an open letter to City supporters in the matchday programme, the sheikh – who has just celebrated 10 years in control but has only attended one game at The Etihad – talked of his ambitions for the next decade.
He wrote: “It feels we are only halfway up our Everest.
There is much more to do and there is much more to win.
That is why you will continue to see us strive to recruit the very best talent into this club.”
But on the evidence of this comfortable victory – the champions scored 98 seconds into the first half and 97 seconds into the second period – boss Pep Guardiola does not really need any reinforcements with City looking in fine fettle as they launch their eighth attempt to win Europe’s biggest club prize against Lyon on Wednesday.
They netted three goals but as Guardiola said it “could and should have been five, six or seven” such were the chances they created.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic said: “The result is completely fair. They showed they are one of the best teams in the world. They showed great possession of the ball and great attacking weapons.
“They were fast and strong and we didn’t find our perfect level. But we didn’t make it easy for ourselves with the way we started the game and how we started the second half.”
There were always likely to be goals in this match considering that Fulham’s four previous fixtures had featured 16 goals, one more than in City’s four games.
But it was always going to be more a case of how many City would score.
The Cottagers faced the dilemma most teams face when playing the reigning champions.
If you try to sit back and frustrate as Newcastle attempted in the game before the international break, Guardiola’s men have the quality to eventually open a team up.
But if you have a go like Fulham did yesterday, City will exploit the spaces and rip you apart.
The London club did not help their cause by gifting their opponents the lead after trying to build from the back and falling prey to City’s high press.
Jean Michael Seri’s intended pass to Cyrus Christie was intercepted by Fernandinho who raced through before squaring the ball to Leroy Sane, who was left with an easy tap-in to celebrate the birth of his daughter.
It should have been two soon after when Bernardo Silva showed deft skill before sending through Raheem Sterling whose shot went between the advancing Marcus Bettinelli’s legs but deflected on to the bar.
But City did not have to wait long for another goal. David Silva crashed home a shot off the underside of the bar after his namesake Bernardo had turned the ball back from the byline and Sergio Aguero’s shot had deflected off Denis Odoi.
The goal means the Spanish Silva marked his 350th appearance for the club by becoming the fifth City player to score 50 for them in the Premier League – after Aguero, Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko.
Andre Schurrle underlined Fulham’s attacking intent by twice forcing Ederson into saves with long-range efforts but City could have been further ahead by half-time with the overworked Bettinelli denying Sane and Sterling.
City made a fast start after the break to kill the game off when Sterling tapped into an empty net after a low cross from Aguero, who came off soon after his assist feeling the effects of a jarred ankle which makes him a doubt for the Lyon game.
Replacement Gabriel Jesus, Sterling and Bernardo all missed chances to turn City’s dominance into a bigger win before they took their foot off the gas with one eye on their midweek assignment.
Guardiola said: “Sergio felt something in his ankle when he jumped. He finished the first half good but was uncomfortable at the start of the second half and there was no point taking a risk with it being 3-0.
“Lyon? We will see how he is tomorrow when he wakes up.”
The City boss purred over the skills of his two Silvas and said Portugal international Bernardo would be at the club for as long as he is in charge.
The Spaniard added: “It is almost impossible to be more pleased as a manager with him.
“As long as I am here this guy will stay here because he is special. As for David, he has to be so proud to play 350 games. To do that in England is a big compliment to his intelligence.”
However Guardiola reminded goal hero Sane to stay focused and said: ”Sometimes he has to realise what a professional has to do but I was delighted with his performance.”
The manager admitted he felt bad about not sending on Phil Foden but assured the highly rated youngster his time will come – and soon.
He said: “I feel guilty. He deserves to play and doesn’t play. But he is going to play a lot of games this season now we will be playing every three or four.”