Manchester City 4 Newcastle United 0: From his vantage point on the touchline, hands in the pockets of his suit, like a headmaster who had casually strolled outside to watch sports day, Manuel Pellegrini will have wondered at, well, just how easy his evening was.
His Manchester City team of millionaires and multi-millionaires attacked Newcastle from the start with the kind of direction and focus you might expect of a team playing for their contracts. Long after the game had been won, and Newcastle struggling badly with ten men after Steven Taylor’s needless dismissal, so City’s players pushed on and on in search of more goals.
This summer, Pellegrini came to a club that had been blighted by dressing room dissatisfaction, training ground fights and a previous manager who worked on the basis that a perpetual state of conflict was best for all concerned. At this stage it is impossible to say what the new man has changed, just that it is obvious that something has changed. There was a bit more joy about City last night and there was a team that wanted to score goals.
You could see it best exemplified in Edin Dzeko who was arguably his team’s best player and at the very least could be said to have reacted to the arrival of Stevan Jovetic, not even on the bench last night, and Alvaro Negredo a late debutant. David Silva, who scored the first for City, was outstanding. There was the usual solid performance from the likes of Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, and even Samir Nasri looked hungry for the action when he came on as substitute and scored City’s fourth.
No less than one might expect for a team that has spent the best part of £90m over the summer, you might think. But there was a bit more to it than just the introduction of a few expensive new faces. There was a different mood about the place. The only concern was a late injury to Kompany which forced him out the game and, Pellegrini said, means he could miss a couple of weeks.
Pellegrini will recognise that not every opponent will come to the Etihad this season in quite such a state as Newcastle. It was not all Alan Pardew’s fault. His midfielder Yohan Cabaye had travelled to Manchester on Sunday but was not included in the squad having been the subject of a £10m bid, rejected, from Arsenal. It did not get any better for Newcastle.
It required only three minutes for City’s first two chances on goal and within six they had taken the lead. The home side never looked anything less than a team which believes it can win the title, and required no second invitation to prove a point.
In many respects City’s opening last night was on a par with the aggression and dominance of the opening stages of Chelsea’s victory over Hull on Sunday. There were new players in this City side eager to announce themselves. Jesus Navas, operating primarily on the right wing, but comfortable of playing anywhere along the attacking three, was the pick of the bunch but he had some competition.
It is a simple premise that Pellegrini is working upon. A platform of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure screening the defence and then three attackers wreaking havoc on the opposition, behind a striker of Dzeko’s stature. Both goals were worked from deep, the second coming from when Kompany won the ball in his own area and ploughed forward. From there it took a flick from Dzeko before Aguero went wide to the right and then beat Tim Krul at his far post.
In the sixth minute, Dzeko had cut in from the left; his shot had been blocked by Taylor and when it rebounded, David Silva sprung first to head the ball back past Krul. It was Taylor who was tracking Aguero when he scored City’s second goal, but the evening was about to get much worse for him.
There is a sense of sadness that, as the only Englishman in Newcastle’s starting XI – along with five Frenchmen, two Argentines, one Senegalese, one Ivorian and one Dutchman – Taylor looked so far out of his depth. His red card in injury-time at the end of the first half put him out of his misery. It was not much of an assault on Aguero, but it was enough to justify his immediate dismissal.
The forearm cuff with which he felled Aguero was clumsy and, if anything, poorly executed. The replays showed Taylor glancing across at his opponent in the build-up, as if to size him up, and certainly Andre Marriner had no hesitation in plucking the red from his back pocket. Pardew, already obliged to replace the injured Jonas Gutierrez with Vurnon Anita, brought on another Englishman, Paul Dummett in place of Yoan Gouffran to shore up his defence.
Pardew’s team had struggled to keep pace with City from the start. Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy both got themselves booked needlessly. There were brief moments from Hatem Ben Arfa that looked promising but you could see by the way Pardew went straight over to encourage the French winger at half-time that Ben Arfa was losing faith.
After half-time, Newcastle had no chance of containing City. There was an excellent save by Krul from a Dzeko header that the striker really should have put out the reach of the goalkeeper. Then Toure curled a brilliant free-kick past Krul after a foul by Debuchy on Aguero on 51 minutes. With 15 minutes left, Nasri ran through after hesitation in Newcastle’s defence, especially on the part of Debuchy, allowed him in to score.
There was a debut for Negredo for the last 10 minutes, on in place of Silva. Every one of City’s three substituted players was treated to a standing ovation from the home fans. There was not even a place on the bench for Gareth Barry whose time at City could be coming to an end a year after his England career was similarly curtailed.
These are the decisions of the new manager and, one game in and top of the league, you can hardly argue with him. “Spend some f**king money,” the Newcastle fans sang at Pardew towards the end. Not a complaint that could be levelled at City’s board.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart 6; Zabaleta 7, Kompany 7, Lescott 7, Clichy 6; Navas 7, Toure 7, Fernandinho 7, Silva 8; Dzeko 8, Aguero 7.
Subs: Aguero/Nasri 61, Garcia/Kompany 71, Silva/Negredo 80
Newcastle (4-4-1-1): Krul 7; Debuchy 4, Taylor 2, Coloccini 4, Yanga-Mbiwa 5; Ben Arfa 5, Sissoko 6, Tiote 5, Gutierrez 4; Gouffran 5; Cisse 5.
Subs: Anita/Gutierrez 40, Dummett/Gouffran 45, Sam Ameobi/Ben Arfa 65
Booked: Manchester City Dzeko, Fernandinho Newcastle Yanga-Mbiwa, Sissoko, Debuchy.
Sent off: Taylor
Man of the match: Dzeko