Manchester City are used to Silva running the show from midfield. This season, though, it is a little different.
In Saturday’s win at Cardiff City, David Silva took a rest. Bernardo Silva did not.
Covering 7.1 miles, more than any other City player, he was the man picking the champions up from the canvas of their midweek defeat by Lyon.
After a quiet first season in England, Bernardo is now giving the Premier League a glimpse of what he does best. He is the most talented Portuguese player since Cristiano Ronaldo and a man who can ensure City see off Liverpool’s pursuit of their title.
City rarely needed to get out of second gear to beat Cardiff but when they did Bernardo was often the man in the driving seat.
He can score, create, mix it in midfield, provide intelligent touches and find a way around opposition who stack players into their back line.
At Cardiff he created the first goal for Sergio Aguero and scored the second. That was as good as game over long before Ilkay Gundogan and substitute Riyad Mahrez, netting twice, completed the rout.
European Championship winners Portugal will build a team around Bernardo one day.
He has an ability to perform brilliance with ease and his goal, a flicked backwards header at the near post that looped over Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, was evidence of that.
Pep Guardiola takes his team to Oxford City in the Carabao Cup tomorrow night and has spoken of how many of his players need rest. Bernardo, a starter in all but one game this season, is not one of them. He will likely get a night off anyway but he doesn’t need one.
‘The guy is skinny and his recovery is one day, two days then he’s ready again,’ Guardiola says. ‘He made again another outstanding performance.’
The key has been a move in-field. Guardiola made it obvious he wanted a new midfielder this summer with Jorginho the target. Napoli sold him to Chelsea instead, Kevin De Bruyne got injured and Bernardo has picked up the slack. At Monaco he had a licence to drift in-field from wide and that area is now his responsibility. Guardiola loves a quick-thinking, smart central midfielder — a ‘free 8’ as De Bruyne puts it — and Bernardo fits the bill.
‘He’s an incredible player, he plays a lot of minutes,’ Guardiola adds. ‘Big matches ask a lot from us and it’s a little bit more complicated. But here he recovered.’
That a player who made only 15 league starts last season is now such a key man emphasises how strong this City squad is.
Their Champions League defeat of last week raised questions but any team who can leave Gabriel Jesus, David Silva and Vincent Kompany on the bench, as City did here, demand respect.
All the talk is of Liverpool surging ahead this season but Guardiola gave another reminder of his squad’s depth when saying that 18-year-old Phil Foden, a substitute with 21 minutes to go, deserved more game time.
There will be plenty more days like this, when City give one of the league’s lesser lights a real pasting.
It will take some effort from title- challengers Liverpool to amass the same points as City from these routine fixtures against sides outside the top six this season.
Aguero, on his 300th appearance for the club, smashed in his 205th goal for City after 32 minutes on Saturday and from there Cardiff looked defeated.
Bernardo guided the second in with his head without looking and Gundogan curled a third into the top corner from 20 yards before half-time. Mahrez came on and provided the finishing touches for the fourth and fifth but there could easily have been more goals from Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Foden.
City have the ability to just run away with games like this, and if Liverpool and Chelsea slip, perhaps the ability to run away with the title again too.
Cardiff, meanwhile, might have to endure more days like this. Neil Warnock speaks like a man who has written off the 12 games he has to play against the big six.
Before the end of October they will make trips to Wembley to face Tottenham and to Anfield to play Liverpool.
Home games against a recovering Burnley and the impressive Fulham are in that run too. A first win back in the top flight looks like it might be hard to come by.
Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds was being sung by the home fans long before full time at the Cardiff City Stadium, but, contrary to that ditty, they should be worried.
Strikers Bobby Reid and Danny Ward do not look like scoring the goals they need right now and Cardiff are ropey at the back, too. Centre back Bruno Manga summed it up, lazily giving the ball away inside his own box to allow Mahrez to score his second goal with a minute to go.
Lee Peltier, their top defensive performer, now faces some time on the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder suffered in the second half on Saturday. The outlook is bleak.