Would City end the season with a whimper or a roar?
That was the question being asked in football circles ahead of this clash with West Brom and it was answered emphatically.
There may have been the more thunderous rumbles in the Premier League jungle this season than this 4-0 hammering but there was enough reverberation to suggest that those who have got the Blues dead and buried are being a little hasty with the obits.
Quite why the only team to give the defending champions a race over the course of a long season should be the subject of such recent scorn – Baggies boss Roy Hodgson being a notable exception in the build up to this contest – is a debating point but one thing is for sure – there is still bristling pride bubbling away in this Blues line up.
Shorn by injury of the influential Yaya Toure and by suspension of Mario Balotelli, manager Roberto Mancini went on the attack in front of home fans that had seen City surrender only two points in 16 previous home Premier League games.
In came Carlos Tevez for his first start since September 10 against Wigan, the Spanish speaking forward line was completed by his compatriot Sergio Aguero and David Silva – back from injury absence having missed the trip to Arsenal.
That managerial boldness paid off in only the fifth minute when a gaggle of defenders, distracted by the skittering runs of Nasri, Silva and Tevez, allowed Aguero to stride forward unchallenged and drill a beautiful 25-yarder into the bottom corner of Ben Foster’s net.
It was just what the Blue army needed by way of a pick-me-up and the stadium acclaimed the strike and its love for the home side for a good five minutes
...City 4 WBA 0
West Brom have though been on an upward curve ever since the arrival of Hodgson who is still mentioned in despatches every time the England coaching job – either temporary or permanent – is mentioned.
The Baggies have been moulded into a durable, efficient side no-longer attached to a label marked yo-yo.
For long spells after that first goal at the Etihad they frustrated City though the home side still made all the running with Foster saving well at his near post from Foster and Craig Dawson making a miraculous goal-line clearance from Micah Richards after Tevez’ exquisite pass had sent the defender charging into the box.
Joe Hart at the other end kept himself warm by shouting at his defenders not to retreat too far towards their own goal but in truth he hardly had any cause concern. Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry were so effective mopping up that Albion barely had a sight of goal.
City’s only fault in an otherwise thoroughly professional first half performance was some over-elaboration close to goal. Too often the perfect pass was sought but not found added to which was a reluctance to shoot.
A quick cure was found for the ‘ailments’ for nine minutes into the second half Samir Nasri and Silva exchanged passes and the former fed Aguero who swept the ball home and effectively ended the contest.
The excitement levels were increased by news that United had fallen behind at Wigan and went up another level in the 61st minute when Tevez scored his first goal of the season from close to the penalty spot after Aguero’s cross from the left was not cleared.
That was the elder Argentinian’s final touch as he was replaced by Adam Johnson but the scoring continued apace with Silva chipping a sumptuous fourth after yet more delicate but purposeful and movement.
Still advantage United but game still very much on!