- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - During his 11 trophy-laden years at Manchester United from 1996-2007, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a central figure in some of the most free-scoring teams English football has witnessed.

None of them, though, were as rampant as Manchester City’s class of 2013/14, and Solskjaer found out to his cost on Saturday.

The Old Trafford great returned to Manchester for the first time as a coach and saw his Cardiff side overwhelmed 4-2 by City, which became the fastest team in the Premier League era to pass the 100-goal mark in all competitions.

It’s taken City just 34 games to reach the milestone. The previous record was held by Chelsea, who brought up the century in its 42nd match last season.

“There’s no doubt this is a terrific team,” Solskjaer said, sidestepping a question about whether this current City lineup compared favorably to the United sides he graced around the turn of the century. “We got tested against some of the best players in Europe.”

Edin Dzeko brought up City’s century of goals with a scruffy opener that dribbled just over the line in the 14th minute at Etihad Stadium, with the validity of the strike confirmed by the Goal Decision System on the giant screens in the corner of the ground.

Craig Noone equalized for Cardiff in the 29th minute but Jesus Navas restored City’s lead three minutes later and second-half goals by Yaya Toure and substitute Sergio Aguero kept up the team’s 100 percent home record in the league.

“It’s not easy to score 103 goals by the middle of the season,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “It reflects how we think this team must play. We are always an attractive team.”

Fraizer Campbell scored an injury-time consolation for the visiting Welsh side, which finds itself at the bottom of the table to ensure a miserable return to Manchester for Solskjaer. He has lost both of his league games since joining Cardiff from Molde last month.

“I knew what I was up against when I came here,” Solskjaer said. “I didn’t come here and think everything was going to be all-singing and all-dancing.”

Cardiff competed gamely, with Noone consistently threatening on the right wing as City’s attacking left back, Aleksandar Kolarov, went forward at every opportunity. Yet if City’s finishing had been at the level Solskjaer regularly demonstrated in his pomp at Old Trafford, Cardiff could easily have lost by a nine- or 10-goal margin.

As it was, the hosts had only a narrow halftime lead to show for their dominance.

Dzeko, under pressure for his starting place with the return to fitness of Aguero after a month out, set City on its way after 14 minutes by turning in a short cut-back from David Silva. Referee Neil Swarbrick pointed to his watch to indicate the goal was valid, and replays on the big screens were cheered by home fans.

Alvaro Negredo wasted two great chances before Noone ran onto Jordon Mutch’s pass, shimmied past Vincent Kompany and beat Joe Hart at his near post.

Cardiff’s players barely had time to celebrate before they were behind again. As Dzeko prepared to shoot from the edge of the box, Steven Caulker slid in with the tackle but the ball fell to the inrushing Navas, who sidefooted into the corner.

The visitors made it to the hour mark unscathed, but they were given no respite as Aguero was thrown on by Pellegrini to help secure the three points.

He did just that, setting up Toure for the midfielder to drive a low left-footed shot into the bottom corner in the 76th minute. Aguero then scored himself three minutes later by twisting and turning his marker to smash a powerful strike past goalkeeper David Marshall for his 21st goal of the season.

“We are playing fantastic football at the moment,” Pellegrini said. “We play with fantastic intensity and that is how we must continue. The best way to play is the way we are playing now.

“I know it is easier to go back with 10 players in our box and try and have a couple of counter attacks, but that is not my way, it is not the style I think this club wants.”

Cardiff was well beaten and will spend at least the next week-and-a-half at the foot of the table. It is level on points with Sunderland and West Ham, the other teams in the bottom three.

“We can stay up,” Solskjaer said. “No doubt about that.”



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