It will take more than a Carling Cup win over humdrum opposition to convince the sceptics but perhaps Manchester City's transformation does extend to more than just their bank balance.
Shaun Wright-Phillips' well-taken second-half goal and, more significantly, Carlos Tevez's first strike in City colours ensured Championship side Crystal Palace did not join Brighton, Chesterfield and Doncaster in heaping humiliation on the Eastlands club in this competition.
That in itself is hardly a surprise, given manager Mark Hughes has spent an eye-watering £120m this summer and Palace have been unable to even pay a transfer fee for over 12 months, but it still represents progress for a club whose propensity for prat-falls has made them the butt of a hundred cruel jokes.
"It's a case of once bitten, twice shy for us," said Hughes, who took no chances last night by picking all his galacticos, including his new £24m signing Joleon Lescott, who endured a shaky night.
"Last year we went to Brighton and went out at the first hurdle, and I'd made changes that day. That maybe shaped my thinking today in terms of the team selection," Hughes added. "Even now there are examples of teams going out when they don't give the competition the respect we deserve. We're not in Europe this year so we want to do as well as we can in the competitions we're in. It's one that is high on our agenda."
Ultimately, this was a satisfying night for Hughes, and not just because of his side's progression to the third round. Wright-Phillips was excellent, his pace a constant menace, and the Welshman now expects Tevez to embark on a spree after netting for the first time since his protracted move from Manchester United.
"I was hoping he'd get opportunities against a team that weren't from the Premier League and thankfully he's off the mark now," Hughes said. "I thought he did very well and the more he plays, the better he'll be. His general link-up play, his energy and enthusiasm, all shone through."
Even so, it would not be City if they did not give even a routine victory like this a twist of anxiety. Sure enough, the visitors found themselves pressed back for long spells in the first half against a Palace side clearly determined to make light of the disparity in resources.
The quicksilver runs of Freddie Sears, the West Ham striker currently on loan at Selhurst Park, and Victor Moses, whose development is being tracked by a clutch of top flight clubs, were a constant menace but, crucially, Palace failed to make the most of the rare chances that presented themselves.
Shay Given twice made good saves from Sears – the first while sprawling at his near post, the second when he raced out to chest the ball clear after the striker appeared certain to round him – and Darren Ambrose shot marginally over and City took ruthless advantage after the interval.
It took them just five minutes to forge ahead, when Wright-Phillips, whose speed provided Palace with a constant headache, tore clear after being set clear by Stephen Ireland and slammed a shot into the net at Speroni's near post.
The goalkeeper was suddenly under siege, saving well from Emmanuel Adebayor and then watching helplessly when Wright-Phillips accepted Robinho's pass and clattered the bar with a rising shot. Palace might have hoped to capitalise on that reprieve but their luck ran out with 19 minutes remaining, as an unmarked Tevez nodded in Wright-Phillips' corner.
Neil Warnock, the Palace manager, was his typically phlegmatic self in the aftermath, although he could not resist a dig at least one of City's superstars. "I thought it was great that City played their first team – great for the fans and it was a real mark of respect for us as well," he said. "It got everyone excited. My kids wanted to see Adebayor so I brought my son, William. I told him he wouldn't get a kick, and I was right, as it happened."
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Speroni; Clyne, Fonte, McCarthy, Hill; N'Diaye, Derry, Danns; Moses (Carle, 80), Sears (Scannell, 72). Ambrose (Smith, 72). Substitutes not used: Flahavan (gk), Lawrence, Lee, Butterfield.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Given; Richards, Touré, Lescott, Bridge; Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Barry, Robinho (Bellamy, 73); Tevez (De Jong, 86), Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Onuoha, Zabaleta, Taylor (gk), Petrov, Weiss.
Referee: D Deadman (Cambridgeshire).Reuse content