James Lawton: Blue half of city learn how far they still have to travel

City came into this competition with huge hope but last night there was hard reality

In America they say that you can take the boy out of the country but not the country out of the boy.

For quite some time last night City brought the old-time theory back to mind when they once again looked uncomfortable, at times even gauche, on the Champions League stage that is apparently so much more challenging than anything hovering even remotely on the domestic horizon.

Was it really true that, for the moment at least, you could take City out of the Premier League but not the Premier League out of City? That had to be the continuing suspicion as Bayern Munich, though denuded of their most luminous talent, imposed a terrible hush on a crowd fearful of the outcome of Napoli's drive for the victory in Spain which would ensure City's brusque exclusion from the serious end of the great tournament.

This was the stratum of football City were supposed to invade with the depth of their wealth and the strength of their ambition.

However, Bayern, from their somewhat contemptuous chairman, the great old striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, down, made no attempt to conceal their sense of easy superiority. This, was, though, only up to the moment that David Silva reminded us that he has the skill and the imagination to produce exquisite action at more or less any football altitude.

It was not the least poignant aspect of a night when between them City and their equally angst-ridden neighbours Manchester United fought desperately for survival at the highest level of the game. Here was Silva producing the kind of brilliance threatening to burn off all Premier League competition, there was the exit door swinging opening with the news that Napoli had finally broken down the resistance of Villareal.

Napoli's president, the film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis, had sneered that City's wealth would make the situation "very interesting" but soon enough in Spain it looked as if it might have been something he had picked up off the cutting room floor of an old Godfather movie.

Last night was not so much about skulduggery as divisions of competitive experience – and the impracticality, perhaps, of the idea that City could come sauntering into Europe and knock down old hands like Bayern.

City have to make a huge leap, one that they have the resources and personnel perhaps to accomplish as early as next season and if we doubted this there was plenty of evidence of frustrated ability and power last night.

Sergio Aguero showed moments of cutting-edge talent that will surely be a regular source of encouragement and when Yaya Touré doubled the lead there was perhaps a growing sense of hope that City might yet preserve their Champions League life.

Villarreal were, after all, still holding out in their former fortress of a little stadium and any worry about the ultimate shame of City being kept in check by Bayern reserves had been comprehensively dismissed.

However, such survival would surely not have banished the suspicion that City would still have had much travelling to do along the road of football sophistication. Yes, they have wealth and cover a huge tract of country in a brief time, but City now know as well as their manager Roberto Mancini that the higher echelon of European football is slow to let slip its most vital secrets.

City, like the country boy with so much talent but still lacking a vital sheen of finish, have their lessons to learn – and one of them is maybe to be a little harder on themselves than their accomplished captain, Vincent Kompany.

Before the anticipated ejection from Europe, he said the reason, unquestionably, was that they had drawn the strongest group. Of course, it was not. It was because they had failed to carry hardly a fraction of the authority they had produced in the Premier League into a superior level of challenge.

They came into the Champions League with enormous hope and almost as much expectation but last night they had to deal with a hard reality.

It was that money and even the most accomplished talent is no good unless you can meet every new set of demands. The one that City failed is the one that their much more experienced neighbours United now have to contemplate with a new edge of doubt. It is that in Europe no one can afford to rush their fences or forget certain standards.

United have plainly fallen below the ones that became such an intrinsic part of their experience. City, still, have to understand quite how deep they run. It meant that in Manchester last night there was a rare sense that in football you cannot quite put aside the fear that you may be not quite as strong as you once imagined.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam