Manuel Pellegrini hailed the impact of Kevin De Bruyne after he inspired Manchester City to a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth.
The Belgium international played his first game for City since injuring knee ligaments in January and was instrumental in the victory at the Vitality Stadium.
He linked up well with Sergio Aguero and David Silva and the three pulled apart the Cherries defence as De Bruyne marked his return with a stunning volley in the first half for his 12th goal of the season.
The 24-year-old was then taken off in the 56th minute with the Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday.
Pellegrini said: “I think that Kevin played the same way he was playing before he was injured. He was a very important player for our team and unfortunately he was away for two months.
“He played 55 minutes and I think that he did very well. I hope in the future he can carry on performing like before his injury.”
City went into the game in poor form with their fourth spot under pressure from West Ham United and Manchester United, who were both just a point behind.
And with just one win in their last six Premier League games and only two victories from their last 11 Premier League matches away from home, there was a danger that City could slip below West Ham.
But goals from Fernando, De Bruyne, Aguero and Kolarov sealed an impressive win while the Hammers could only draw at home to Crystal Palace. And with United playing Everton on Sunday, City have tightened their grip on the crucial final Champions League spot.
Pellegrini said: “I’m happy we won again. It’s very important for the team for the future to have the trust to win games in the way we did today.
“Our team must know that we should play in the way we normally do and I think that today we did that.
“We pressed high, we scored goals and playing this way I’m sure that we are going to have the victories that we need to continue to the first position of the table.”
Meanwhile, Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted it was a tough watch against City, who also thrashed his side 5-1 at the Etihad earlier in the season.
He said: “The first goal was probably the most disappointing one because it was from a set-play, a poor ball in really, and we have not dealt with it.
“When you give a good team an early goal it gives them a lift and it makes it very difficult.
“It was a long game from 3-0 down so credit to the players that they did not cave in but it was a difficult watch, especially early on.”