Kevin De Bruyne says he is excited to work with "top striker" Erling Haaland at Manchester City, admitting the arrival of the 21-year-old might enable him to build on his already impressive assist figures.

De Bruyne was named Premier League Player of the Season as City won their fourth top-flight title in five seasons last month, with the midfielder top-scoring for Pep Guardiola's men with 15 league goals during the 2021-22 campaign, also adding eight assists.

Despite his impressive goalscoring return, the Belgian fell some way short of his tally of 20 Premier League assists in the 2019 -20 campaign (a joint single-season record in the competition, along with Thierry Henry in 2002-03) – but De Bruyne's attempts to record similar figures in the future could be aided by the presence of Haaland.

The striker scored 86 goals in 89 appearances for Borussia Dortmund after joining from RB Salzburg in January 2020, and is expected to thrive with De Bruyne providing him with service after agreeing a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Speaking to Belgian outlet HLN, De Bruyne said City's acquisition of Haaland was good news for both the team and himself.

"Erling Haaland is a top striker. His move should help us to grow as a team," he said.

"Everybody expects a lot. They [the club] have always been looking for a number nine, but I think it'll be good to have that striker that maybe scores 20 to 25 goals a season."

Asked whether the Norwegian's arrival would help him to up his own already outstanding creative numbers, De Bruyne added: "Maybe. There have been years that I have more assists.

"But my chance creation and other things have remained consistent. Numbers are a part of football but they never tell you the full story."

No other City player came close to the 87 chances De Bruyne created in the Premier League in 2021-22, with fellow midfielder Bernardo Silva second on 59.

Meanwhile, De Bruyne, who will turn 31 later this month, was also asked whether the upcoming World Cup in Qatar – at which Belgium will face Canada, Morocco, and Croatia in Group F – could be his last.

The midfielder, who says the Red Devils are "slightly more of an outsider" to win the tournament than they were in 2018 when they reached the semi-finals in Russia, plans on playing international football until at least Euro 2024 but will not give any assurances beyond that date.

"I will continue with the national team," he added. "I don't know how long. In any case, until the European Championship in 2024 – if bad things don't happen. 

"We'll see how I feel. Quality trumps quantity for me. 

"It is also difficult to find the perfect balance between the family and the life we lead. My wife understands that, the children occasionally. They sometimes regret that daddy cannot be there. Later they will understand."

Son Heung-min can count himself unlucky after the Tottenham star missed out on a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year.

Spurs forward Son scored 23 Premier League goals in the 2021-22 season, sharing the competition's Golden Boot award with Mohamed Salah.

The Liverpool talisman is included on the list of six nominees, alongside team-mates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane.

Son's strike partner Harry Kane does make the cut, while Kevin de Bruyne is the sole representative of champions Manchester City.

His team-mates Bernardo Silva and Rodri may also consider themselves hard done by, having both enjoyed wonderful campaigns.

Cristiano Ronaldo could not take Manchester United into the Champions League on his return to the club, but his 18 league goals have seen him receive a nomination.

The PFA also confirmed the list of nominees for the Young Player of the Year award, with City attacker Phil Foden joined by Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka and his club-mate Emile Smith Rowe.

That trio will go up against Chelsea pair Conor Gallagher, who shined on loan at Crystal Palace this season, and Reece James, as well as Aston Villa's Jacob Ramsey, for the award.

Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min were more deserving winners of the Premier League Player of the Season award than Kevin De Bruyne.

That is according to Liverpool legend Phil Thompson, who also told Stats Perform that Erling Haaland will not necessarily make Manchester City a stronger side next season.

City playmaker De Bruyne last week edged out Son, Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo, Jarrod Bowen, Bukayo Saka and James Ward-Prowse for the award.

The Belgium international played a key part in City's successful title defence with 15 goals in 30 league appearances and a further eight assists.

Remarkably, the 30-year-old's 15 goals came from an expected goals (xG) return of just 6.2, meaning he scored nine goals more than expected from the quality of his chances.

However, his 23 direct goal involvements were fewer than Salah (36), Son (30) and Harry Kane (26) managed, albeit having played at least five games fewer than any of those.

De Bruyne ranked above each of those players for chances created (87), though, and was behind only Alexander-Arnold (90) and Bruno Fernandes (89).

But Thompson believes that Liverpool forward Salah and Tottenham's Son – who shared the Golden Boot with 23 goals – were more consistent than De Bruyne over the season.

"I think it has to be Mo. I know the players have all given it to Kevin De Bruyne and he's a wonderful player," Thompson said. 

"He's been wonderful for the last couple of months, but it's over a season and people get swayed by people who finish the season well. 

"That is still in their minds when they're just putting their name on that form, or whether it's all done on phone now. 

"But I would like to think over the whole year, and yes, Mo hasn't been rattling them in for the last six weeks or so, but overall, he has been.

"They were talking around Christmas time that this is the best player in the world. He's not gone from being the best player in the world to playing second fiddle to De Bruyne. 

"I'm sorry. Mo Salah was the player of the season and then probably Son has probably been more consistent over the whole nine months."

City's title triumph was their fourth in the past five seasons and they have already moved to bolster their squad with the signing of Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund, a tally only bettered by Kylian Mbappe (90) and Robert Lewandowski (123) since January 18, 2020. 

But, citing a rather mixed campaign for British record signing Jack Grealish, Thompson questioned whether Pep Guardiola will get the most out of Haaland.

"He is a wonderful player, a great player," said Thompson, who won 17 major honours across 13 years playing for Liverpool, before a stint coaching the Reds.

"Is he a missing piece for the jigsaw for them in the Champions League? They can still do things, but it might upset them a little bit. 

"As you see with Grealish, who was £100million, has that worked? He's playing as a left-winger because it's the system that Pep likes. 

"So you've got an out-and-out centre-forward who, yes, is full of energy, but he doesn't understand the press that City use. It'll be a change for them. That might change things." 

Liverpool, who have seen Luis Diaz hit the ground running since joining from Porto in January, are themselves expected to be active in the upcoming transfer window.

A deal for Fulham teenager Fabio Carvalho is already in place, but Thompson is not sure if signing a big name is really necessary in order to keep pace with champions City.

"We have a set pattern, though I still hope that we'll sign a couple of players," he said.

"I do believe that's what you have to do all the time to give that little bit of a buzz in the dressing room, to change things up on the pitch. And we have just come up short."

The 92 points accrued by Liverpool this season is the joint-eighth most in Premier League history, yet it was not enough to pip City, who finished one point better off.

Thompson added: "We have to find the magic ingredient to go that extra couple of points to win that league, but we don't have to do too much. 

"Chelsea signed Romelu Lukaku and he played well those first half a dozen games. They were going to win the league the way the season started and look how that's unravelled.

"It's not necessarily a gimme that it always works."

Kevin De Bruyne expressed his pride after Manchester City sealed a dramatic Premier League title win on the final day of the season, highlighting how his side had to be consistently "excellent" in the face of Liverpool's challenge.

City went into their home contest with Aston Villa knowing a win would confirm their fourth top-flight title in five seasons, though things looked desperate for Pep Guardiola's men when Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho gave Steven Gerrard's men a 2-0 lead.

But an Ilkay Gundogan brace, scored either side of Rodri's leveller, sparked jubilant scenes as City retained their crown despite Liverpool's 3-1 victory over Wolves, with De Bruyne providing the assist for the all-important winner.

The win marked the first time City had come from two goals down to win a Premier League game since beating Norwich City 3-2 in February 2005, while Liverpool finished second with a massive 92 points – the second-highest tally amassed by a team to not win the title after their own 97 in 2018-19.

Jurgen Klopp's side pushed City all the way after going unbeaten through their last 19 games of the season, winning 16, and De Bruyne said overcoming Liverpool's relentless challenge was a great source of pride.

"It's hard because Liverpool push you that far, and you need to be excellent all the time," he told Sky Sports. "There's never a moment where you can play a little bit less, losing some points means it's the end.

"We feel so proud because they've pushed us that far for years and years, but we've still managed to find a way."

De Bruyne was named the Premier League's Player of the Season after top-scoring for Guardiola's men with 15 league goals, also adding eight assists and either scoring or laying on a goal in 14 of City's last 20 league outings.

The Belgium international also joked his cross for Gundogan's winner was his best of the campaign, as he hailed the Germany midfielder - and fellow substitute Oleksandr Zinchenko - for changing the game.

Asked where his assist ranked, De Bruyne replied: "The best, the best, honestly!

"It's not the best cross but Ilkay is there, I just wanted to put it in a place where we could score. Ilkay and Zinchenko changed the game for me.

"He [Gundogan] has got a real good timing when going in front of goal, and he won us the game."

Meanwhile, just 12 minutes and 22 seconds separated Villa going 2-0 up and Gundogan completing the turnaround, and De Bruyne admitted City were beginning to panic before scoring their first.

"Maybe [we panicked] a couple of times! But I think it's normal in this situation, it's so different, you can't really explain it," he added. "We tried to stay as calm as possible, but sometimes there was a little bit.

"2-1 just changed the whole situation, you see the whole stadium changes, the atmosphere, and we just didn't look back. 

"You just go for it, you're losing anyway, and you just want to change the situation, and that's what we did. 

"It changed quickly with the first and the second goal, I think we created more chances before that, but it is what it is.

"I knew it was 1-1 at half-time [in Liverpool's clash with Wolves] but after I'm not too sure – I think it was 1-1 for a long time.

"Even then, I think we looked at ourselves and if you see how we tried to change the situation, we tried to force it ourselves and didn't want to look at Liverpool. Luckily, we managed it."

Kevin De Bruyne has been named the Premier League's Player of the Season.

The Manchester City star has driven Pep Guardiola's team to the verge of a fourth title in the space of five seasons with some sensational displays.

Despite having a rather stuttering start to the campaign after suffering an eye injury in last season's Champions League final, and then sustaining another problem during Belgium's Euro 2020 quarter-final defeat to Italy, the 30-year-old has gone on to score 15 goals in the Premier League so far in 2021-22.

Remarkably, those goals have come from an expected goals (xG) value of just 5.8. He has also provided seven assists.

Four of those came in City's 5-1 thrashing of Wolves earlier in May, with De Bruyne becoming the first player since Harry Kane in May 2017 to score three goals in a Premier League game with his weak foot, while he is the first midfielder in the competition's history to do so.

Indeed, he has contributed to 13 goals across his last nine Premier League appearances to truly take the reins of City's title charge.

While City still need to beat Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa on the final day to ensure the title is theirs, De Bruyne's stellar efforts have been rewarded.

The playmaker previously won the award in 2020, after matching Thierry Henry's Premier League assists record, while a City player has taken the prize for a third successive season, with Ruben Dias having won the accolade last year.

City may be signing Erling Haaland ahead of next term but this season they have once again operated without a recognised number nine, though De Bruyne's 15 strikes put him as the team's leading scorer.

Over his last 19 league matches, De Bruyne has registered a goal involvement every 81 minutes, edging out his single-season best from 2019-20 (85 minutes per goal involvement). He is also the only player to average over three shots and over three chances created per 90 minutes this season in the Premier League.

De Bruyne's triumph seals a fine day for City players, with Phil Foden having been selected as the league's Young Player of the Season.

Golden Boot contenders Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min were also on the eight-man shortlist for the Player of the Year award, which included Joao Cancelo, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jarrod Bowen, Bukayo Saka and James Ward-Prowse.

Three of Manchester City's five previous Premier League triumphs have gone right to the wire, where margins are so fine the title battle can be settled by a single man in a single moment.

Sergio Aguero of course set the standard in 2011-12 with surely the most iconic goal of the Premier League era, defeating QPR at the death and clinching a first City championship in 44 years.

Then, in 2018-19, it was Vincent Kompany's turn. Although the departing City captain made only 17 league appearances that year, he will forever be associated with the title win after his thunderous strike secured a vital late-season victory over Leicester City.

"Where do you want your statue, Vincent Kompany?" asked Sky Sports' Gary Neville. Both Aguero and Kompany – and those celebrations – have since been committed to steel structures outside the Etihad Stadium.

The City hero was perhaps not quite so clear-cut in 2013-14, when Liverpool's collapse took centre stage, but Yaya Toure's 20 goals from midfield kept his side in touch. While City spent only 15 days of the season at the summit, the win that put them there in the final week perhaps provided the defining image of the champions' campaign, as Toure charged through the Aston Villa defence to score a goal that BBC Sport's Alan Shearer considered "like watching a 15-year-old against under-12s".

Three City legends have had seasons to call their own. Kevin De Bruyne, until now, had not.

De Bruyne was the PFA Players' Player of the Year in consecutive years, but the 2019-20 campaign in which he equalled Thierry Henry's 20-assist, single-season record ended with Liverpool on top. The 2020-21 season played out largely without fans and ultimately without a serious challenge to City, robbing their leading man of his platform.

Consistent excellence had for so long characterised the midfielder's career rather than any particular peak.

Now, however, 2021-22 might be remembered as the De Bruyne season – a most unexpected conclusion given how the campaign started, as perhaps his worst in a City shirt.

'Difficult physically and mentally'

The player of the year he may have been, but De Bruyne's 2020-21 season did not finish in the manner he would have wished.

The former Chelsea man lasted only an hour of City's Champions League final defeat to the Blues last May, suffering facial fractures that impacted his preparation for Euro 2020. De Bruyne found form again at the finals, only to hobble out of Belgium's last-16 win over Portugal with an ankle issue.

Although De Bruyne played in the next round, as Belgium lost to Italy, he continued to be hampered by the injury at the start of this season, appearing in City's Premier League opener but then not again for almost four weeks.

"It's been a bit difficult physically and mentally," the 30-year-old told the MIDMID podcast in November, revealing he had played through "some serious pain".

"It's going to be a little more difficult this year than usual," De Bruyne suggested, and that seemed a fair prediction.

The City superstar, who also missed time with COVID-19, made his 10th league appearance of the season in a 1-0 home win over Wolves on December 11. At that stage, he had scored only twice in the competition and failed to provide a single assist – averaging a goal involvement every 246 minutes.

The only comparable De Bruyne season in a City shirt was in 2018-19, when two knee ligament injuries meant his 10th league appearance did not come until early February. Over 465 minutes up to that point, he scored once.

That is the sole other example of De Bruyne not contributing an assist through his first 10 league outings in a season for City; in fact, he had tallied at least four assists and six goal involvements by that point in each of his other five campaigns prior to 2021-22.

A week before De Bruyne's podcast appearance last year, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was also asked to address his star man's form, acknowledging the "scrutiny" he faced while underperforming in a team as talented as City's.

"I'm not worried at all," Martinez said. "We feel that his best football is coming back."

De Bruyne added: "I just needed more time than expected."

'Now he scores a lot'

De Bruyne's 11th game of this campaign was very different. In a 7-0 City win over Leeds United, the team's talisman doubled his seasonal tally by scoring twice, including a thunderous 25-yard drive for his second.

"For the whole team, it's a booster," De Bruyne told NBC Sports – although that surely applied more to the two-goal star than his team-mates, with City moving four points clear at the top of the table with the victory.

"There's been a lot happening this year, a little bit out of my control, so the only thing I can do is try to work hard and come back as quick as possible," he said.

It was clearly a turning point for De Bruyne, who has scored 13 goals and provided seven assists in 19 matches from the Leeds game onwards. A goal involvement every 81 minutes over this period just beats his single-season best from 2019-20 (85 minutes per goal involvement).

Yet De Bruyne's role has altered in the past two years. He will not match his outstanding 33 goal involvements from the year Liverpool won the title, but 15 goals already represent a career high with one game still to play on Sunday.

The reason for that change perhaps has more to do with De Bruyne's City team-mates than the player himself.

In 2019-20, six of De Bruyne's 20 assists were for record goalscorer Aguero – more than for any other player. Of course, Aguero has since departed.

The retired striker was City's leading marksman in six of his 10 league campaigns in Manchester, including each of his first four playing alongside De Bruyne.

With Aguero gone and Erling Haaland not arriving until next term, City needed someone to fill the void in front of goal. De Bruyne, whether used in midfield or attack, has done that in the second half of the season.

Despite the slow start, City's top scorer has scored with 20.3 per cent of his shots in 2021-22; his previous high, in his debut 2015-16 season, saw a shot conversion rate of 14.3 per cent.

"I like it a lot," Pep Guardiola said in April after De Bruyne had netted four in four games – including two against Manchester United and one against Liverpool.

"He is not just a player to make assists – now he scores a lot of goals. I've said to him many times, 'I know you enjoy making a lot of assists, for you and your team-mates, but you have to score goals to reach another stage'. Now he is doing that, a lot of goals and chances."

'We have to move on'

De Bruyne has either scored or assisted in 13 of his past 19 games, but he saved his best performances for when it mattered most – at least in the league.

There were suspicions City's season might fall apart when Real Madrid's remarkable semi-final recovery eliminated Guardiola's side from the Champions League at the start of May. With Liverpool in hot pursuit in the Premier League, the leaders were afforded little time to regroup as they headed straight into matches against Newcastle United at home and Wolves away.

"We are going to play against Newcastle thinking about [the Madrid defeat], for sure," said Guardiola in an enthralling news conference, revealing two days before the Newcastle match: "We didn't speak. No words can help what all of us feel. It's just a question of time."

Time, and Tottenham drawing at Liverpool, as it turned out.

A rare slip-up at Anfield on the eve of City's game against Newcastle eased the pressure on the champions. Then De Bruyne got to work.

Briefly restored to his 2019-20 vintage, De Bruyne attempted only a single shot at the Etihad but created six chances in a 5-0 win – his most in a single game this season – including an assist for Rodri's goal.

That performance prompted Jamie Carragher in the Sky Sports studio to declare De Bruyne "the greatest player to ever play for Manchester City", "the best midfield player in the world right now" and "the best player in the Premier League for the past three or four years".

Yet better was still to come at Wolves, where City became the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by a margin of at least three goals. De Bruyne alone outscored Wolves by three, netting four in a 5-1 victory.

The first hat-trick of his City career was completed inside 24 minutes – the third-fastest in Premier League history – to blow away a Wolves team who had briefly threatened to cause their visitors some problems.

"It should have been five, to be honest," De Bruyne told Sky Sports, before conversation turned back to the Madrid match.

"It's very difficult to explain because it was just a mad five minutes," he said. "It's not that we played bad or something, it was just five minutes that you can't explain as a player. I don't know what happened. I was out of control on the bench anyway, so you feel a little bit in shock. It's not nice and the feeling is still not nice.

"But you need to move on. We're trying now to win the title and whatever happened unfortunately happened. We have to move on."

The Wolves display would have been fresh in Carragher's mind on Monday when he named De Bruyne his personal player of the season. Whether established individual end-of-season honours beckon for De Bruyne is another matter, though. He was nominated for the official Premier League prize, but many such awards are voted on well in advance of the final weeks of the campaign – before De Bruyne had done his best work.

Mohamed Salah is the FWA Footballer of the Year; he has scored three goals in his past 10 games – fewer than De Bruyne managed on one night in Wolverhampton.

A Premier League title, defined by his clutch performances, would not be a bad consolation.

Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min have joined Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold in being nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

De Bruyne, who won the award in 2019-20 despite Manchester City missing out on the title to Liverpool that season, is enjoying his best goalscoring campaign for the club.

He netted four goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves on Wednesday, taking him to 19 in all competitions.

Salah is the only other past winner to be up for the award, having scored 22 goals and provided 13 assists (both league-high tallies) in another outstanding campaign as Liverpool battle City for the title.

Fellow Reds star Alexander-Arnold is also on the shortlist after racking up 12 assists in 31 appearances, as is Tottenham forward Son, who scored his 21st league goal of the campaign in Spurs' 3-0 win over Arsenal on Thursday.

Despite hitting 18 and 15 league goals respectively this season, Manchester United and Spurs strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane are among the highest-profile players to miss out being nominated.

The other players on the eight-man shortlist are City defender Joao Cancelo, Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse, and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

Bowen is one of just three Premier League players to record double figures for goals and assists this season (both 10, along with Salah and Chelsea's Mason Mount).

Meanwhile, both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are in contention to be named Manager of the Season at the end of another enthralling title race between their teams.

Guardiola has already won the award on three occasions (in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2020-21), the same amount as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Only Alex Ferguson, with 11, has won it more often.

Klopp won the award when he led Liverpool to their first Premier League title in 2019-20, while the other three nominees all manage sides currently in the bottom half of the table.

Brentford's Thomas Frank is among them after leading the Bees to safety in their first top-flight season since 1946-47, as is Patrick Viera after an impressive first campaign with Crystal Palace.

Newcastle United's Eddie Howe is the final boss on the five-man shortlist, after the Magpies became the first side to go winless through their first 14 games in a Premier League campaign and avoid relegation (three had done so and gone down - Swindon Town in 1993-94, QPR in 2012-13, and Sheffield United in 2020-21).

Public votes will contribute towards deciding the winner of each award, with Premier League club captains also getting a vote on the players' award and a "panel of football experts" helping to choose the winning manager.

Pep Guardiola labelled Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City's "key man" after the midfielder scored four in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves, while he expressed his excitement to manage Erling Haaland next season.

City ran riot at Molineux to restore their three-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit, and now need just four points from their final two games to win a second consecutive league title.

De Bruyne became the fourth different player to score four goals for City in a Premier League match (after Edin Dzeko, Gabriel Jesus, and Sergio Aguero – who did so on three occasions), as City bolstered their goal difference, which could yet prove to be crucial in the title race.

City are now unbeaten in 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws), and have become the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive games by a margin of three or more goals.

Guardiola's men also became the first team to have five or more shots on target while scoring each in a Premier League game since Liverpool in December 2019 (a 5-2 win against Everton), thanks in large part to De Bruyne's incredible display of finishing.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the win, Guardiola hailed the midfielder as "incredible" after he reached 19 goals for the season in all competitions, saying he had been City's most important player in the run-in.

"The way he's playing in the last two or three months, especially in the Premier League, has been outstanding. In the Champions League as well," he said. "He has been our key man in the last part of the season. 

"It's not just what he creates and the goals and everything, I'm happy because he always had a sense for the assists and was so generous, always thinking what's best for the team.

"But we always tried to push him, [saying] 'you have to win games, you have to score goals', and this year I think is his most prolific season in this sense."

City were widely criticised after falling to a 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals last week, but responded with consecutive thrashings of Newcastle United and Wolves.

Guardiola was keen to praise his team's character after they produced a dominant performance on their first away trip since Madrid.

"Did you have any doubts after what these guys have done in the last five years? They have personality, they have character, they have everything," he added. 

"We were in control, we started really well, scored a goal, and one moment where we didn't defend the transition properly we conceded a goal [Leander Dendoncker's equaliser]. After, we found the goal quick and it helped us a lot."

Although City have already hit 94 Premier League goals this season, their attack will be further bolstered after the announcement that Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland has agreed a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said he was excited to work with the Norway star, who has hit 85 goals in all competitions since joining Dortmund in January 2020, and believes the 21-year-old will have no problem adapting in England.

"It's a decision for the club to make a good signing for the future, he'll come for many, many years, hopefully. I'm pretty sure he'll adapt perfectly to our team, but it will be next season," he added on Haaland.

"I'm excited in my job and of course, I like to work with good players, because the players make you a good manager. 

"Of course, he's an incredible young talent with a perfect age, and I'm pretty sure we're going to help him settle as quickly as possible."

Kevin De Bruyne hailed his four-goal haul as "special" after Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the top of the Premier League by thrashing Wolves 5-1 – but said he should have scored more.

After watching Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday, City ran riot at Molineux as De Bruyne scored four goals, the first three coming in the opening 24 minute to help put Pep Guardiola's team within four points of the Premier League title.

De Bruyne's initial treble represented the third fastest hat-trick at the start of a Premier League game, after Sadio Mane's 16-minute salvo against Aston Villa in May 2015 and Dwight Yorke's 22-minute feat against Arsenal in February 2001.

The Belgian then added a fourth after an hour, becoming just the second City player to hit a quartet of goals in an away Premier League game after Edin Dzeko against Tottenham in August 2011.

De Bruyne, who is enjoying his best goalscoring season for City after reaching 19 strikes in all competitions, was delighted with his showing, but insisted he should have added a fifth when striking the post late on.

"[It was] pretty nice! When you score four goals its always something special, it should have been five to be honest," he told Sky Sports. 

"I think we played well, maybe except a couple of counters in the first half, I think we controlled the game well.

"We could even have scored more, and to do that against a Wolves team that's really defensively sound was impressive. I think our front four were able to find the right moments to go deep or come in, and it worked really well. 

"My right foot is my stronger foot, but I'm not afraid to shoot with the left. Even if it doesn't go in, it creates a problem for the opposition".

Wolves coach Carlos Cachada, meanwhile, said the hosts could do little to stop De Bruyne's talismanic display, telling Sky Sports: "When it comes to players like this they can score four goals and finish the game, with that performance, we can do nothing about it."

City's dominant win saw them extend their unbeaten Premier League run to 10 games (eight wins, two draws), and they now need just four points from their final two games to wrap up the title. 

De Bruyne, however, insists Liverpool could still make up the required three-point and seven-goal swing, saying the two teams had set a "crazy" standard.

"We know at the moment we have a little bit of an advantage in goal difference, but even with seven, with Liverpool that can happen," he added. "We just need to concentrate on Sunday, it's going to be a really tough game at West Ham, so we need to recover and be ready.

"It's a little bit crazy, the standards we both set, you can only respect it. We know how hard it is, and both teams have ultimate respect. We play hard, that's all we can do."

The Premier League title is the only major trophy available to City this term after they crashed out of the Champions League with a stunning 6-5 aggregate loss to Real Madrid last week.

While De Bruyne, who was substituted before Madrid launched their remarkable comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu, was still disappointed with that loss, he said it was time for City to move on. 

"Its very difficult to explain because it was just a mad five minutes. It's not that we played bad or something, it was just five minutes that you can't explain as a player," he recalled.

"I don't know what happened, I was out of control on the bench anyway, so you feel a little bit in shock, it's not nice and the feeling is still not nice.

"But you need to move on, we're trying now to win the title and whatever happened unfortunately happened, we have to move on."

Kevin De Bruyne recorded an astonishing four-goal haul as Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win over Wolves.

In Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker, Pep Guardiola's team were missing several key defenders as they looked to respond to Liverpool's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday, but recorded a routine victory courtesy of a talismanic showing from De Bruyne.

The Belgian's hat-trick, sealed with a stunning left-footed strike from long range, put City in charge after Leander Dendoncker briefly restored parity in an absorbing first half.

De Bruyne grabbed a fourth to make the points safe before Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring late on, as City took another huge step towards defending their title.

Guardiola's men needed just seven minutes to hit the front, with De Bruyne playing a brilliant one-two with Bernardo Silva before drilling a low effort into the bottom-right corner. 

Wolves responded within four minutes when Dendoncker converted Pedro Neto's cut-back following a devastating counter-attack, but the visitors were back in front after 16 minutes when De Bruyne latched onto a loose ball to fire into the roof of the net.

The midfielder secured his treble nine minutes later as he arrowed a terrific strike into the bottom-left corner after 24 minutes.

The visitors were denied a fourth as Sterling was flagged offside having tucked home two minutes after the restart, but ended the contest when De Bruyne steered in after Rayan Ait Nouri's weak clearance after 60 minutes. 

De Bruyne teed up Phil Foden to side-foot against the post before Sterling wrapped up another dominant City win by tapping home a late fifth, with De Bruyne then striking the woodwork himself at the end of a terrific performance.

What does it mean? City remain in pole position

De Bruyne's brilliance saw City overcome their defensive injury crisis to extend their unbeaten run to 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws) as they edge closer to consecutive titles.

With only West Ham and Aston Villa to play, Guardiola's men require just four points to beat Liverpool to their eighth top-flight title.

Devastating De Bruyne stars

De Bruyne's four strikes took him to 19 goals in all competitions this term, his best tally in a single season for the club, and restored City's all-important advantage over Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the Belgian became just the second City player to score four goals in an away Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko did so at Tottenham in August 2011.

City extend record away run

The victory ensured City stretched their unbeaten away run to 17 away Premier League matches (14 wins, three draws) – the longest such sequence in the club's league history.

However, Dendoncker's goal prevented Guardiola's side from keeping a sixth consecutive away clean sheet in the competition.

What's next?

City continue their push for the title when they travel to West Ham on Sunday, while Wolves host relegated Norwich City on the same day.

Kevin De Bruyne says winning the Champions League would "change the perspective" through which people view Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola's team prepare to face Real Madrid in the second leg of their semi-final tie.

De Bruyne opened the scoring in City's thrilling 4-3 first-leg win over Carlo Ancelotti's team at the Etihad Stadium last week, but Karim Benzema's double means the encounter remains in the balance.

The Belgium international has won 10 domestic trophies since joining the club in 2015, though European success has so far evaded Guardiola's men, who lost last season's final to 1-0 to Chelsea.

Before travelling to the Santiago Bernabeu for Wednesday's second leg, the in-form playmaker, who has contributed 15 goals and 12 assists in all competitions this term, acknowledged a European title would alter the way the club is viewed.

"It would change the perspective," De Bruyne, who went off injured in last year's final, said at a pre-match news conference. "As a player, you want to win trophies, and we want this one.

"We have fought for it for numerous years and been to the latter stages, and we have been doing well.

"Obviously, it’s a cup competition and the quality is really high, so it's very difficult to win it and there are different circumstances, but if you look at how we have performed in the last seven years, we've done really well. If we win it, it would change the narrative."

However, De Bruyne refuted claims that the team needed to win the competition, highlighting the quality of City's competitors and saying he was happy with his own accomplishments.

"For myself. It doesn't change how I look at myself as a player. I know what I have done: good and bad in my career. I'm pretty happy with what I have done," he added.

"Obviously, I want to win every trophy but that's a hard task. I would obviously love to win the Champions League."

De Bruyne has registered 18 Champions League assists since making his first City appearance in the competition in September 2015, a tally that is only bettered by Neymar (25) and Kylian Mbappe (20) during that time.

Meanwhile, City's first-leg success over Los Blancos was only the second semi-final first leg in Champions League history to see seven goals scored (along with Liverpool 5-2 Roma in 2017-18), but the midfielder said his team would need to be at their best to make their advantage count.

"I think if we play the way we played last week, we have the potential to be one of the best teams, but we have to show that," he added. "If we play below that, Madrid can win because they are also one of the best teams, and the quality they have is amazing.

"But I back my team to perform at the high level needed to win the game. I think we are in a very good way. The fact we have not won it yet is the only criticism we can get. The rest, we have been there loads of times, fighting to win it.

"I remember when we played [against Madrid in the 2015-16 semi-finals] it wasn't the greatest end to the season. Madrid was a powerhouse at that time. We are in better shape now. I think we are a better team with a better set-up, we play better, and we have more experience. Hopefully, we are better prepared.

"It's two attacking teams who like to play football. We played a very good game [last week] but that's in the past. We have a different game ahead of us tomorrow and it starts back to 0-0 so we need our A-game to win."

City have won their last three Champions League matches against Los Blancos – only two sides have ever won four in a row against them in European competitions, with Ajax doing so between 1973 and 1995 and Bayern Munich replicating that achievement between 2000 and 2002.

Kevin De Bruyne now considers Phil Foden simply "one of the guys" at Manchester City and hopes the 21-year-old can play a decisive role against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Foden was long seen as the most promising young prospect at City but had to wait for his opportunity to feature regularly in Pep Guardiola's first team.

Although the midfielder made his senior debut in the 2017-18 season, he was kept on the fringes for his first two years.

Even in 2019-20, when making 38 appearances, scoring eight goals and assisting nine, Foden was restricted to just 18 starts.

Since then, though, the England international has gone from strength to strength, following up 26 goal involvements last term (16 goals, 10 assists) with another 24 this time out (13 goals, 11 assists).

Foden netted against Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in a 4-3 first-leg win in City's Champions League semi-final, and De Bruyne believes his team-mate can make another important contribution in the return leg.

"He's been amazing," De Bruyne said. "I've seen him from a little boy who had massive potential.

"Whenever you come up to a first team, you are a little bit shy, and it takes time and more playing time to get comfortable in that situation.

"But the last two years he has been in a very comfortable situation, and you see the difference in the way that he plays. He's not a young talent any more, he's one of the guys.

"It's a big step to make, but now everybody looks at him to make a difference because he can. He's proven that lots of times, and he probably will do much, much more for this club in the future.

"I'm hoping he does the same that he's been doing. If you're playing constantly very well, that is all you can do. He doesn't play with ups and downs, he just does what he needs to do for the team."

De Bruyne has had to rediscover that consistency himself after enduring a tough start to the season following an ankle injury that he initially tried to play through.

The Belgium midfielder did not look his usual self as he scored only three goals and provided a single assist in his first 17 club matches of the campaign.

However, since then, De Bruyne has 12 goals and 11 assists in 23 outings, including the opening goal in the first leg against Madrid.

"The first months [of the season] were really hard," he added. "I've never experienced the pain I had.

"I was trying to come back, but it wasn't something I enjoyed. Mentally, it was hard to overcome.

"Once the pain was gone, I started to feel more confident in myself, in my body, to get back to where I belong. Now, playing all these games, I feel back to the level I was before.

"I try to be as consistent as I can, and this year I've done that."

Carlo Ancelotti appeared to feign ignorance when asked about reports that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is set to sign for Real Madrid. 

Thomas Tuchel revealed at the weekend that Rudiger had informed him of his desire to leave Stamford Bridge when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

The Germany international will reportedly finalise a deal to join Madrid this week. 

Asked about Rudiger by beIN SPORTS after Madrid's 4-3 Champions League semi-final defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday, Ancelotti replied with a smile: "Toni? Who is this? 

"He's a Chelsea player until... He's still a Chelsea player and I cannot say anything about this." 

Ancelotti highlighted Madrid's defending as a key factor in their loss to City. 

Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus found the back of the net inside 11 minutes at the Etihad Stadium – the earliest Madrid have conceded twice in a single Champions League game. 

Karim Benzema pulled one back on his 600th appearance for the club and Vinicius Junior found the back of the net after Phil Foden nodded in a cross from Fernandinho in the second half. 

Bernardo Silva restored City's two-goal cushion before Benzema gave Madrid a sliver of additional hope with an audacious Panenka following a handball in the box by Aymeric Laporte. 

"You cannot cover a position with four defenders, You have to help with a midfielder," said Ancelotti. 

"There were losses in individual duels, so we have to be more attentive. With the ball, we had opportunities. We suffered a bit without it, though. But we have to have confidence. 

"We came out of the first leg with a result that isn't good, because we've conceded four goals and not defended well. 

"We hurt City with the ball, but what we have to do is defend better. The result can change in the second leg. They're a very strong team – they showed it tonight – but we competed. Defending better is the key to reaching the final." 

Madrid will be crowned LaLiga champions if they get a point at Espanyol on Saturday, but Ancelotti has no intention of denying the players a chance to celebrate ahead of Wednesday's return game against City at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

"If we are able to win the league, of course we'll celebrate. And it will help us for Wednesday's game," he added. 

On April 26, 2016, Manchester City and Real Madrid played out a tepid 0-0 draw in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium. 

Back at the same ground, in the same round of the same competition six years later, they produced a spectacle that had the contrast cranked up to the maximum.

It was the joint-highest scoring semi-final in the competition's history, and it was a story that twisted and turned from the first minute until the last.

But the opening chapter reached its conclusion with City holding a 4-3 advantage after an enthralling 90 minutes.

A start for the history books 

City pressed Madrid high from the off and it was shortly after regaining possession in the final third that Kevin De Bruyne made a phenomenal dart into the box to head home Riyad Mahrez's pinpoint delivery. 

There were just 95 seconds on the clock, making it the quickest goal in Champions League semi-final history. The previous mark was 2 minutes 44 seconds, which was set by Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich against Madrid in May 2018. 

It did not stop there, though. De Bruyne picked out Gabriel Jesus, who, after a somewhat fortuitous first touch, guided a cool finish beyond Thibaut Courtois to make it 2-0. 

Madrid had never before conceded twice in the first 11 minutes of a Champions League match and it looked like they could be seriously up against it with Mahrez, Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko all going close. 

Benzema brings it back 

It has already been the best season of Karim Benzema's career and he showed just how important he has become to Madrid in his 600th appearance for the club – the most by a non-Spanish player. 

He got in front of Zinchenko to steer home a brilliant volley from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute for his 40th goal of the season. The Frenchman now belongs to an exclusive club of just five players to hit that mark in a single campaign for Los Blancos, joining Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez. 

No let-up 

Madrid lost their best defender in David Alaba at half-time and the momentum they had built before the break quickly dissipated. 

Los Blancos concede an average of five more shots per game when Alaba does not feature and City had already had four efforts on goal – two of which came when Mahrez hit the post and Foden saw his goal-bound follow-up blocked by Dani Carvajal – before restoring their two-goal cushion through Foden in the 53rd minute. 

Makeshift right-back Fernandinho, who replaced the injured John Stones in the first half, set up Foden with an excellent cross but his defending belied his years of experience just two minutes later. Vinicius Junior got the better of his fellow Brazilian with a clever dummy by the halfway line, and no one could catch him before he tucked the ball into the bottom-right corner. 

It was the first time two players aged 21 or younger had scored in the same Champions League semi-final match.  

Don't look away

The drama was far from over, though. Bernardo Silva capitalised when referee Istvan Kovacs wisely played the advantage following Toni Kroos' challenge on Zinchenko by slamming the ball into the top-left corner in the 74th minute.

City consequently became the first English side to score four against Madrid in the Champions League since Liverpool in March 2009. It would have been five had Mahrez been able to add a finish to his coruscating run.

But Aymeric Laporte inexplicably handling a cross enabled Benzema to score his ninth goal of the knockout stages – a Panenka from the penalty spot moving him one adrift of Ronaldo's record (10) from Madrid's triumphant 2016-17 campaign. The Portugal captain (13) is also the only player to have scored more Champions League semi-final goals than Benzema's seven.

Madrid were unable to stop Pep Guardiola claiming a 12th win in his 20 meetings with them across his entire coaching career, though. The Catalan's record in the semi-final has been met with a lot of questions, but he has never been eliminated after winning a first leg at this stage.

He will hope to get the job done at the Santiago Bernabeu and get a chance at redemption after last season's final defeat to Chelsea.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the fastest goal in Champions League semi-final history to give Manchester City a phenomenal start against Real Madrid. 

Belgium international De Bruyne headed in a brilliant delivery from Riyad Mahrez after just 95 seconds of the first leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday. It was also the fastest goal scored in the Champions League this season. 

The City midfielder's effort beat the previous record set by Joshua Kimmich, who scored in the third minute of Bayern Munich's May 2018 meeting with Real Madrid. 

Nine of De Bruyne's 12 Champions League goals (75%) have come in the knockout stages, which is the highest share among players to find the net at least 10 times in the competition. 

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