MANCHESTER CITY rarely have one man who stands out.
But even on a clear night like this, one star shined brighter than the rest.
And Raheem Sterling was simply dazzling as Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League.
In the week he agreed a new improved contract of £300,000-aweek the 23-year-old striker gave immediate payback with two goals and three assists.
It was a performance that had Pep Guardiola purring but it came in a display of incredible power from City, whose only blemish on a perfect afternoon was their first conceded goal in the league since September 1.
“It should have been 10”
Man City fans
If Sterling was brilliant – and he was – he was rivalled by several others.
Sergio Aguero, Bernardo, David Silva, Fernandinho and Leroy Sane – on another day any one of them might have walked off with the champagne.
Aguero scored his 150th Premier League goal in his 217th game, a rate bettered only by Alan Shearer who did it five games quicker.
The Argentine epitomised the display which married hard graft to constant movement and sublime touch.
Picking out the best goal of the half dozen was hard enough but his perfectly weighted pass to tee up Sterling for his second and City’s fifth should just about top the highlights.
Southampton fought hard, particularly in the second half, a point acknowledged by City manager Pep Guardiola.
But it was like trying to put a dent in the front of a steam train. “City have the capacity to run right over the top of you,” said Saints boss Mark Hughes.
“They just keep creating situations and they pick you off.”
The carnage started on six minutes with a move started and finished by defender Wesley Hoedt.
Aguero stole the ball on the edge of the area and fed David Silva.
The Spaniard put in Sane, whose shot on the angle was turned in by Hoedt.
Two and three came on 12 and 18 minutes, Sterling setting up Aguero before teeing up Silva who artfully crashed a left foot shot in from the left.
Given the regular rhythm of the scoring in multiples of six minutes Hughes was no doubt relieved to past the 24th without conceding another.
And to be fair there was a reversal of the tide with Southampton pulling one back on the half hour mark after Danny Ings converted a penalty after Ederson felled him racing out to cut off a pass from Ryan Bertrand.
But it proved rather like poking a stick in a wasp’s nest and, with Southampton within sight of the relative safety of the dressing room, City added a fourth on the stroke of half time.
One of the more impressive features of Guardiola’s side this season has been the work rate off the ball.
And once again it was Aguero’s harrying of Cedric as he tried to usher the ball out for a goal kick which won back the ball.
His cut back for Sterling allowed him to sweep home from 12 yards.
Hughes’s side might have reduced the lead to one goal had it not been for two excellent saves from Ederson early in the second half.
Making up for his first half blunder, the Brazilian denied Ings twice, first from close range and then with a fine save at his near post after the Southampton man met a corner from the left.
Yet City were not done and added another two before the end, Sterling and Sane both striking home from inside the box.
Rather uncharitably perhaps the home fans taunted their counterparts with a chant about how lucky they had been.
“It should have been 10,” they sang and you got the feeling against someone else it probably soon will be.