TEAR up the tactics manual, kick down the whiteboard, trash the laptop filled with data analytics – and just give us more of this please.
We usually end up accusing Pep Guardiola of ‘over-thinking’ stuff at this stage of the Champions League – but it would be ridiculous to imagine that very much meaningful thought went into this belting semi-final first-leg.
City will take a slender lead to the Bernabeu next Wednesday after a thrillingly anarchic amphetamine dream of how elite football isn’t supposed to be.
Guardiola has presided over similar Champions League victories here before – the 5-3 against Monaco in 2017 and the 4-3 with Spurs in 2019. City lost both ties.
The City boss and Real’s Carlo Ancelotti, with five European Cups between them, might as well have popped down the boozer and had a night off.
The throbbing tempo, the breathtaking quality, the hare-brained defending, the absence of any discernible structure made this an extraordinary night.
It could not have been more different from City’s quarter-finals against Real’s killjoy crosstown rivals Atletico.
This was magnificent. You couldn’t take your eyes off it. You sure as hell couldn’t explain it. And you absolutely will not want to miss next Wednesday’s second helping from the Spanish capital.
City seized a two-goal lead inside 11 minutes, then again early in the second half and then again 17 minutes from the end.
Each time, Real swiftly pegged them back to a single-goal advantage – Karim Benzema scoring a sublime volley and an audacious penalty, either side of Vinicius embarrassing elderly stand-in right-back Fernandinho.
But City’s right-back crisis told – with Kyle Walker injured, Joao Cancelo banned and a half-fit John Stones making way for the 36-year-old Fernandinho, who was kippered by road-runner Vinicius for Real’s second.
Despite some mass flag-waving the pre-match atmosphere was hardly the stuff of the bearpit.
At least not until the locals started booing the Champions League theme, a tradition as well-observed as pie, chips and gravy from the Maine Road Chippy.
Still, the relative calm didn’t matter – City were ahead after 94 seconds.
Riyad Mahrez was hugging the touchline but immediately showed murderous intent, zigzagging past three Real players and dinking a delicious centre to the far post.
There, De Bruyne was almost decapitated by Dani Carvajal as he stooped to head home.
The theme for the evening was truly set. No jugular would ever be safe.
Foden was in party mode, controlling with his chest on the touchline and swivelling past his man, then laying back for De Bruyne to feed Jesus, who turned a static David Alaba with ease and popped it home.
Guardiola’s men were two-up after eleven minutes and yet there were already signs that their defence was wonky, Ederson having one of his easily-distracted evenings.
Foden, though, had the devil in him, producing the kind soft-shoe take-down of a long pass that would have made Dimitar Berbatov blush.
The defending was slapstick – Eder Militao conceding a corner with a wild back-pass, then a Ruben Dias blunder which saw him hit his own post, after another Ederson brain-fade.
De Bruyne was magnificent, in his intent and technique. The Belgian ploughed through two defenders, before Mahrez blazed into the side-netting when Foden was free.
Guardiola went thermonuclear, delivering a pop-eyed rant at the Algerian.
As the merry mayhem continued, De Bruyne arced a saucepot pass to release Foden who dragged wide.
Waste this many chances when Benzema, though, is on the prowl and you are always likely to pay for it.
So it proved, when Modric won a feisty tackle and Ferland Mendy centred from deep on the left where the deadly Frenchman wrapped his leg across Oleksandr Zinchenko’s body and steered a volley in off the post.
Real’s defenders seemed to have ignored any half-time instructions from Ancelotti to, you know, maybe not be completely all over the shop.
Militao waved through Mahrez, who fired against the post, Foden’s weak follow-up effort cleared by Carvajal.
Foden did not have to wait long, though. As Real got stung trying to play out from the back, Fernandinho pounced, played a one-two and centred for the England man to net with a downward header.
Fernandinho’s glory was short-lived, Vinicius beating him with a dummied nutmeg on the halfway line and sprinting away on the angle to find the far corner for a stunning riposte.
City’s fourth arrived when Zinchenko went down expecting a foul and Bernardo picked up the loose ball, looked up, spotted a gap and walloped it into the top corner.
This one brought the house down. For the want of anything more useful to do, Guardiola started cheerleading manically.
There was no suggestion whatsoever that it would end 4-2 – and so Aymeric Laporte headed an attempted clearance on to his own hand, ref Istvan Kovacs pointed to the spot and Benzema clipped home with casual cruelty.
It was his ninth goal in four Champions League games and his 46th of the season overall.
Perhaps it helps City that they have scrapped the away goals rule. Not that you’d bet against Real winning the second leg 5-4.
So from Madchester to Madrid we go. And don’t expect it to get any saner.