There have been three months, a World Cup and six new signings in between but Stamford Bridge woke from its summer slumber yesterday to the news that Chelsea's Premiership life has changed not a bit. Jose Mourinho's team still exterminate the small fry and some of the football played in Roman Abramovich's Chelsea revolution still has much the same appeal as a summer holiday in Siberia.
Who could argue with three goals on the opening day of the season? Not Mourinho, who acclaimed a team who were, among other qualities, "defensively perfect". And not Frank Lampard, who scored Chelsea's second and looked more like himself without Michael Ballack alongside him. But if there was a complaint to be made then Andrei Shevchenko may have a case.
Central to Mourinho's adaptation to 4-4-2 is the conviction that Chelsea can service one of Europe's greatest strikers by asking him to chase long balls punted into the corners. Mourinho's side are ruthless, and John Terry and Lampard's goals had decided this match by the 26th minute, but there remains a strange lack of sophistication in the way they intend to use their £31m man.
"We need to let the birds fly," was Mourinho's cryptic analysis of Shevchenko's deployment - presumably a reference to his intention to give the striker the freedom to express himself. A difficult task for any striker when he is forced to out-muscle the likes of Richard Dunne to reach a ball struck high over his head. The Ukrainian was so desperate for his first Premiership goal he put the ball in the net in the 93rd minute when the flag had long been raised.
By then Bernardo Corradi had been sent off on his debut, Didier Drogba had added the third and Manchester City were reduced to ruins. The Italian £1m signing from Valencia was already booked when he lunged at Michael Essien by the touchline. The Chelsea midfielder grabbed Corradi's hair and earned a booking - Steve Bennett's red card sent the Italian down the tunnel.
Stuart Pearce pointed out that 15 minutes earlier, Corradi had his shin raked by Essien's studs. "I said to the fourth official, 'He's caught him there with his studs and the referee has missed it'," Pearce said. "I could see it coming, he's an aggressive centre-forward who punches his corner. As for the hair pulling, he's got lovely hair and I'd pull it myself."
By then City were already buried by two textbook goals. On 11 minutes, Ben Thatcher's crude foul on Paulo Ferreira won Chelsea a free-kick which Arjen Robben whipped across the the area. The Chelsea and England captain thundered on to the cross to glance it past Nicky Weaver.
Blighted by a succession of injuries, the Manchester City goalkeeper has not played in the Premiership for more than five years and if he was hoping to be eased back in gently then Stamford Bridge was the wrong place. Pearce had little choice, with David James departed and new signing Andreas Isaakson injured, but there was precious little Weaver could do.
The second goal was a rare piece of artful passing by Chelsea. Robben played a short ball into Essien, who sold Joey Barton a dummy and laid the ball off to Lampard in expectation of a return. The England midfielder had other ideas and wriggled into space to hit a shot that clipped Dunne and beat Weaver.
The outstanding performer was Essien, who dominated the midfield once again. Mourinho said the only problem he has his with Ghana international is trying to control his instinct to cover every blade of grass, "because then I won't have him in the areas I need him". He also promised that Essien would not be dropped after this performance.
Which makes you wonder where Ballack fits into a midfield that looked a lot more coherent than in the 25 minutes he played at the Millennium Stadium last week. The injured midfielder was presented to a rapturous crowd at half-time and perhaps there was a subliminal message in the rogue pitch sprinkler that soaked him: not everyone here can see a role for the captain of Germany.
One player Mourinho will find easier to leave out is Shaun Wright-Phillips who, against his former club, did nothing to advance his cause. Wayne Bridge, returning to the first team, did rather better, crossing for Drogba to head home for the third in the 79th minute.
Barton did his England prospects no favours by provoking the fury of Terry with one lunge as City were gradually steam-rollered by the great blue machine. Not everything this season, you suspect, will be quite so simple for Chelsea.
Goals: Terry (11) 1-0; Lampard (26) 2-0; Drogba (79) 3-0.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini; Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, Bridge; Wright-Phillips (Kalou, 71), Lampard, Essien, Robben (Diarra, 80); Drogba (Mikel, 82), Shevchenko. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Mancienne.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Richards, Distin, Dunne, Thatcher; Sinclair, Barton, Dabo (Vassell, 57), Reyna (Ireland, 71); Samaras (Dickov, 57), Corradi. Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Mills.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Chelsea Essien. Manchester City Dabo. Sent off: Corradi.
Man of the match: Essien.Reuse content