A scrappy match for those who no longer had to scrap. City appeared content to luxuriate, safe in the knowledge they will again be gracing the Premiership next season, while Boro appeared content to rest on their laurels with a major trophy, the Carling Cup, already safely in their cabinet for the first time in 128 years.
Along with the FA Youth Cup, the silverware was paraded after the game, and it was the most polished performance of the afternoon.
The pattern was cast by the first goal after eight minutes. Richard Dunne galloped across like a shire horse to cover Massimo Maccarone out on the left, but the Italian's deft touch unseated him. He tumbled to the turn as Maccarone bore down on David James. The angle, though, was too tight for a shot so England's number one anticipated a cross to Szilard Nemeth on the back post. His near-post, then, was embarrassingly unguarded when Maccarone miscued the ball into the net.
After such an inauspicious start, the game got messier by the minute. Makeshift Middlesbrough, who had four central defenders missing, had the tidier players in Gaizka Mendieta and Jonathan Greening. Franck Queudrue converted quite comfortably from left-back into the middle of the back four although he did have Nicolas Anelka ambling amicably alongside him for most of the match.
The second goal continued the theme. Some tidy work by Mendieta in the 32nd minute allowed Danny Mills to cross. Not noted for his aerial presence, Joseph-Desiré Job jumped unchallenged and guided the ball down to Nemeth, who toe-poked home.
"When you start like we did, give teams a two-goal start and give the impression that it's just a fixture we have to fulfil, it's never going to be easy to turn it around,'' said City's manager Kevin Keegan. "Our second half was OK, but after a bad start we got nothing.''
To be fair, the turnaround attempt began minutes after Boro's second. Paul Bosvelt dispossessed Mendieta in midfield and he passed to Paulo Wanchope, whose waggling feet bought enough time to shoot past Mark Schwarzer.
But this moment of brilliance proved as rare as a Middlesbrough cup winning team. Mercifully, a grey Tees mist rolled in as if to draw a discreet veil over the littering of hand-balls and misplaced passes of the second half. City pressed most, but only with occasional pop-gun efforts firing wide of goal.
"We have already given the fans an historic season and we wanted to finish on a high because it would have been disappointing to have lost and then paraded the cup, so the day for us has gone very well,'' the Boro manager Steve McClaren concluded.
Maccarone 8, Nemeth 32
Manchester City 1
Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 34,734Reuse content