Mark Hughes felt Stoke City could have embarrassed Premier League leaders Manchester City after sealing a 2-0 win at the Britannia Stadium.
Marko Arnautovic scored a brace inside the first 15 minutes and the Austria international passed up three further chances to claim his hat-trick as Manuel Pellegrini’s team performed shambolically in defence, while being unable to match their hosts’ fluency in attack.
Former Manchester City boss Hughes paid tribute to his players for carrying out their tactical instructions to the letter.
“On the day we were exceptional,” he said. “We had a game plan. We had a real view of what we needed to do well.
“You can talk all you like about tactics and formations. The guys themselves have to go out there and execute what you tell them to do and that’s exactly what they did.
“We never allowed Man City to have a foothold in the game. We were always positive, always on the front foot and releasing creative, exceptionally talented players ahead of the midfield three.
“That was causing Man City problems all day long. We had any number of chances. I think in terms of clear-cut chances created in the game we were way ahead of Man City on the day.
“We could very easily have made it embarrassing if we’re honest but we’re happy with 2-0.”
Stoke’s swashbuckling display came after Hughes left the more robust talents of Jon Walters on the bench and unleashed a fluid front three of Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic and Arnautovic, with Ibrahim Afellay scheming behind them.
Shaqiri sumptuously set up both Arnautovic goals and Hughes conceded that a Manchester City defence without their talismanic captain Vincent Kompany was ripe for such an approach.
“I’ve gone with different personnel today. I’ve thought long and hard about it over the last few weeks,” he added.
“It’s something that I’d hoped to use, playing Bojan and the two guys either side of him but I probably wasn’t brave enough myself to go with it in other games.
“I felt today was the perfect game for it and it’s paid off. They all worked exceptionally hard to make it work.”