London (AFP) – Pep Guardiola challenged Manchester City to make history after the champions equalled the Premier League record for most wins in a season with an imperious 4-1 victory at West Ham on Sunday.
Guardiola’s side now have 30 wins this term, matching the record set by Chelsea last season, and will take sole possession of the milestone with one more success in their last three games.
Sweeping West Ham aside with their trademark swagger, City went ahead through Leroy Sane before an own goal from their former defender Pablo Zabaleta doubled the lead.
Aaron Cresswell’s free-kick reduced the deficit before half-time, but Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho netted for City after the interval.
Simply untouchable for most of the season, City are bidding to cement their status as one of the all-time great Premier League teams by rewriting the record books.
“We have a chance to be the best team in the history of England, with more points, we are trying to do it next Sunday (against Huddersfield),” Guardiola said.
“Always you have to play for something. Once we won the Premier League, the target was the numbers.
“We have a chance to break the records, but it’s not easy, we have to play good. It’s good to fight.”
City have scored 102 league goals in 35 games, making them the fastest English top-flight side to reach the century mark since Everton in 1931-32.
They are one goal short of the Premier League record of 103 set by Chelsea in 2009-10.
Guardiola’s team also need three more points to eclipse Chelsea’s 95-point Premier League record from 2004-05.
“We are professional. We didn’t celebrate the moment we were champions,” Guardiola added.
“The numbers are there, Hopefully we will achieve one more win to get 96 points.”
Ominously for their title rivals, Guardiola believes City can be even better next season.
“Always you can do better. Football is never done otherwise I wouldn’t be here next season,” he said.
“Next season the target will be to keep this consistency. In the recent past, teams couldn’t do that.
“Our level was so high, but there are 20 guys winning the Premier League for the first time. We are a young team. That’s good.”
West Ham have won once in their last eight league fixtures and sit just three points above the relegation zone.
“I’m not as anxious as when I first came in because we were in the bottom three then,” Hammers boss David Moyes said.
“If we can win one of our home games I think we’ll be ok.”
After being given a guard of honour by West Ham’s players before kick-off, City set about dismantling their generous hosts.
– Normal service resumed –
It was Sane who landed the first blow in the 13th minute, although the German winger’s 14th goal of the season owed more to good fortune than great inspiration.
Taking possession on the right-hand side of the West Ham area, Sane was granted too much time and space by the home defence.
He took full advantage, unleashing a powerful strike that took a wicked deflection off West Ham defender Patrice Evra on its way past the wrong-footed Adrian.
When City struck again in the 27th minute, the farcical manner of the goal left the ragged Hammers red-faced.
Adrian’s rash sprint off his line let in Raheem Sterling for a shot that was headed clear, but the ball was worked wide to Kevin De Bruyne.
De Bruyne sent over a low cross which Adrian could only deflect towards Hammers defender Declan Rice, whose panicked clearance hit Zabaleta and trickled into the net.
City paid for a brief dip in the 42nd minute when Cresswell bent his free-kick over the wall and through Ederson’s weak attempted save.
But normal service was resumed in the 53rd minute when Jesus bagged his 16th goal of the season.
Sterling, picked out by Jesus, made a fine run and pin-point pass that allowed the Brazilian to steer home from close-range.
City weren’t finished yet and Fernandinho buried Sterling’s pass in the 64th minute to seal the rout.