Swansea City 4 QPR 1: Swans in cruise control
WERE he that way inclined, Michael Laudrup could have reached for a cigar in the 67th minute of Saturday's handsome victory over Queens Park Rangers.
There are not many moments where a Premier League manager can sit back, relax and enjoy the football on show in front of him.
But one of those sweet occasions came midway through the second half this weekend when, with the game all but won already, Swansea conjured a glorious goal to finish Rangers off.
The visitors were trying to press Swansea, to close them down in their own half to stop the passing game before it started.
But Laudrup's men were not flustered by the blue and white shirts in their faces.
They just kept playing, even going back towards their own goal — and as far as their own keeper — before working the ball back up the field and, ultimately, into the QPR net.
Initially Ki Sung-Yueng lifted the ball to Kyle Bartley, who was making his Premier League debut but is already getting to grips with the way Swansea want to do things.
Rather than thumping clear the centre-back rolled the ball back to Michel Vorm who, first time, passed wide to Angel Rangel.
Swansea's right-back controlled the ball on his knee and then sent a left-footed pass up the line to Kemy Agustien.
Two touches later Pablo Hernandez was in possession, and the gifted winger provided one of his trademark killer passes to send Michu in behind Chris Samba.
With a poke of Michu's left boot Julio Cesar was beaten, and Swansea were celebrating one of the finest team goals the Premier League will see all season.
"It was great to see, because that's what we train for," Laudrup said.
"We started from the back, there was a good combination in midfield — one and two touches — a great pass and a great finish from Michu.
"It's great when you score goals like that because that's what we work on every day and every week."
There will be more of the same in training this week.
The only thing out of the ordinary will be the temperature, for Swansea have jetted out to Dubai to get some sun on their backs ahead of next Sunday's rearranged trip to Liverpool.
Laudrup hopes the change of scenery will revitalise his players, that they will come back on Friday feeling refreshed for the final push in what is developing into another extraordinary Swansea season.
QPR are one of a clutch of Premier League sides who are also off to Dubai for a spot of warm-weather training this week.
Harry Redknapp's men will hope they are in a different hotel, for they saw enough of Michu and company over the weekend.
On the training field alongside Laudrup this week will be Morten Wieghorst, who watched on from the directors' box at the Liberty on Saturday.
Laudrup's new assistant manager must have been impressed, for Swansea dismantled a Rangers side who, although bottom of the league, had managed four clean sheets in five games before they came to Wales.
Swansea, meantime, had failed to score in five or their last six outings.
The form guides did not point to a thumping home victory, but such an outcome was very quickly on the cards once the game was under way.
Redknapp's arrival has added steel to Rangers but, as had been the case on the opening day of the season, they could not live with Swansea.
"We produced a very good team performance," reckoned Laudrup. "The first half was excellent, one of the best we have seen all season, and the second was good.
"The big moment was our third goal. QPR got a goal back and things could have been difficult for us after that, so it was a big relief that we scored again so quickly."
Swansea have wobbled before this season when they seemed in total control, so Laudrup's concerns were understandable.
His team had been utterly dominant in a first period where Rangers did not even manage an effort on goal, never mind one that might actually trouble Michel Vorm.
Redknapp spent most of the opening 45 minutes shaking his head as Swansea found space all over the place and cruised into a 2-0 lead.
The first goal was fortunate, Michu ending his six-game drought by following up when Nathan Dyer's long-ranger was only parried by Julio Cesar.
Did Michu mean to loop the ball into the net with the outside of his boot? Almost certainly not. Were Swansea complaining? Definitely not.
Michu threatened again before the hosts doubled their advantage, Angel Rangel scampering on to Wayne Routledge's clever pass and finishing at the second attempt after another Cesar parry.
Rangers could only get better after the break, and they threatened to make a game of it when Vorm saved Adel Taarabt's shot and substitute Bobby Zamora swept home with almost his first touch. Within two minutes, however, Swansea's two-goal lead was restored. Michu fed Hernandez on the left, and the winger tricked his way past Nedum Onuoha before rolling a cross-shot into the far corner.
Cesar, the Brazilian international goalkeeper, has had better days.
Rangers tried to fight back, and they should have had a penalty when Ashley Williams handled Andros Townsend's cross after being nudged by Zamora.
The officials failed to notice the offence, however, and Rangers were furious when Stephane Mbia's follow-up shot was hacked off the line by Bartley.
Then came Swansea's glorious fourth goal, which killed off the contest and allowed Laudrup to relax. Shaun Wright-Phillips hit the crossbar in stoppage time, but it would not have mattered either way.
By then the victory was in the bag, and Swansea were just one win away from the landmark that is 40 points with 12 league games of the season still in front of them.
"If you ask me if I ever thought we could have 37 points after 26 games and be in a cup final, I would say definitely not," Laudrup said.
"You can say we are ahead of where we expected to be.
"When you consider that in most of our games, half the team have been new to the Premier League this season, I would say we are ahead of where we expected to be in terms of style of play as well.
"The players have adapted quickly — they are quick learners."
Laudrup expects Swansea to be even better next season, for the Dane is excited about the new recruits being lined up for the summer.
He reckons Swansea can make further progress in 2013-14, and that is quite some prospect given the successes of this campaign.
Such has been the level of their achievements that Swansea's latest reunion with Brendan Rodgers is not that big a deal.
They can go to Anfield with the pressure off before the main event at Wembley seven days later.
And Swansea can put all their focus on the Capital One Cup final, for the hard work in the league is done.