Only the Georgian might have found it in him to disrupt Sunderland's orderly progress and no amount of application by his colleagues was about to take them to parts where it mattered. It was City's seventh home defeat of the season and Sunderland's 17th consecutive match without defeat.
"I thought the best team won. I thought we were second best for most of the game," said City's manager, Frank Clark and when he spoke the words he might have felt his burden increase. "We kept at them, the spirit was there, the effort was there but...." and his words tailed off briefly.
"I'm disappointed with the way we played, we can do better than that. But we've had a problem all season putting two results together let alone three," he said referring to the successive wins City had achieved going into the match and which by their standards represented a run.
Sunderland were much too solid for them and have a goalkeeper in Lionel Perez capable of stunning and, if you happen to be the opposition, disheartening saves, as he managed in denying Uwe Rosler. They passed with more assurance, without holding a masterclass, but above all they were well regulated, which comes both from not losing since October and being unchanged for 10 matches.
In an unending list of runs being sustained, at least by one of the sides, that of Kevin Phillips was conclusive. He had scored in the six previous matches (and eight out of the last nine to complicate matters) and by extending it to seven equalled a record set by Tommy Wright in 1953. For the latest, his 18th of the season, he headed home Nicky Summerbee's cross from the right.
Peter Reid, Sunderland's manager, declined to say much about City, who sacked him four years ago ("I had a great time") and was pragmatic about his side's form. Good effort, temporary loss of shape, players did not want to be beaten, did not, clearly, wish to tempt fate. Since their most important run of all, that of being the top division's most enduring club, ended 40 years ago, Sunderland have had seven relegations and six promotions. Equalising the figures is a serious prospect.
Goal: Phillips (55) 0-1
Manchester City (4-3-1-2): Wright; Edghill, Symons, Brightwell, Shelia (Van Blerk, 83); Wiekens (Brannan, 67), Brown, Russell; Kinkladze (Conlon, h-t); Dickov, Rosler.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Perez; Holloway, Craddock, Williams (Makin, 79), Gray; Summerbee, Clark, Rae, Johnston; Quinn, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Smith, Ball
Referee: M Messias (York).
Bookings: City: Edghill, Rosler, Brown, Dickov. Sunderland: Holloway, Gray, Rae, Craddock.
Man of the match: Clark
Attendance: 31,715.Reuse content