Manuel Pellegrini hails Kevin De Bruyne as Manchester City deliver knockout Boxing Day blow to Sunderland

Manchester City put four past Sunderland

Manchester City put four past Sunderland

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'Normal' service was resumed for a rampant Manchester City side as they tore struggling Sunderland to shreds.

Ahead of the Boxing Day match, title-chasing City had tasted defeat to league rivals Arsenal.

But they were back to their most scintillating best against a confidence-drained Sunderland.

How Sam Allardyce would love a little normality at the moment.

His Black Cats side can't buy a point never mind three, with the 4-1 defeat in front of a record crowd at the Etihad Stadium the club's fourth consecutive defeat.

With injuries to key players taking its toll over the busy festive period, Sunderland have gone backwards in recent weeks.

Younes Kaboul is proving a major loss. Seb Larsson too, while Lee Cattermole did at least make a second-half cameo appearance on his return to full fitness.

Back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke City were supposed to be the catalyst that resulted in Sunderland slowly climbing the league.

Instead, a daunting December fixture list has proved to be just that.

The home defeat to Watford was a poor result but that has been compounded with defeats at Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City with Liverpool to come on Wednesday night.

A poor run of form made worse by relegation rivals Bournemouth and Swansea City picking up points, Newcastle United too before their defeat to Everton.

Much to ponder for Allardyce ahead of the visit of Liverpool then, as he prepares to wield the axe with his underperforming players ahead of the new year.

For City manager Manuel Pellegrini, it was a very happy Christmas indeed, the Blues boss left to hail a fine attacking display from his side.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring after just 12 minutes before Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony added two more in quick succession.

The outstanding Kevin De Bruyne claimed a deserved fourth early in the second half before Fabio Borini netted a Black Cats consolation.

De Bruyne was the key architect in City's other 4-1 demolition of Sunderland this season, the Capital One Cup defeat in September.

And at the Etihad Stadium he was again in sublime form.

Pellegrini said: "It was a very important victory, not only because we won the three points but also in the way we played.

"We returned to our normal performance - playing attractive football, scoring goals.

"I said after we lost against Arsenal it was very difficult to talk about positive things but I think we had more than 60 per cent of possession of the ball.

"That gave me a sign we were returning to our style.

"It was very important to score four goals and create at least four more clear chances.

"When the team has a good performance, it is because they all play well.

"We made good moments in attack and it is impossible for a team to have a good performance without high individual performances.

"Both things work together.

"Some players raised their performance and the team played the way we normally do every day of the week.

"That's why we brought Kevin [De Bruyne] here.

"Technical players working together - such as Kevin, David, Yaya Toure and Kun - make a difference and they did."

The only downside - from a City perspective - was the injury to captain Vincent Kompany who came on as a second half sub only to go off nine minutes later with the same calf problem.

Pellegrini added: "It is really difficult to understand what happened.

"We will see with the doctor's report but it is the same injury, the same calf."

A blow for City.

But Sunderland were left punch-drunk after taking one blow too many on a bruising Boxing Day in the North West.