Roberto Mancini confessed that when Samir Nasri left the pitch, he wanted to punch him – not because the midfielder had played badly but because he had performed so well.
When the Manchester City manager talks of the self-satisfied men who gave "50 per cent" when it came to defending their title, the slight 25-year-old from Marseilles is the footballer he most has in mind.
It was perhaps for this reason that it had been over a month since Nasri last started a Premier League game – the 3-1 loss at Southampton – which made his performance in Saturday's 4-0 rout of Newcastle all the more extraordinary. He was superb.
"I would like to punch him because a player like him should always play like this," said Mancini, only half-jokingly.
"I cannot understand why someone with his quality doesn't play like that every game. It is always difficult to win the title again and sometimes the player can think it is enough to perform at 50 per cent. Probably we have had that problem this year."
To Mancini a swaggering performance was proof the 15-point gap that separates the two halves of Manchester was not a fair reflection of the two competing clubs. He reckoned six or seven would have been a more realistic indicator of the differences between the two sides.
"United have this mentality that comes from winning everything for the last 20 years," he said. "They won a lot of games and scored a lot of goals. We had a chance at the start of the season when we could have changed [team] but did not take it."
Goals: Manchester City Tevez 40, Silva 45, Kompany 56, Perch og 69. Subs: Man City Aguero (Nasri, 72), Garcia (Kompany, 73), Sinclair (Silva, 83). Newcastle United Perch 5 (Obertan, h-t), Gosling 5 (Gouffran, 62), Bigirimana (Cabaye, 74). Booked: Newcastle Anita, Cabaye. Man of the match Nasri. Match rating 7/10. Possession: Man City 63%. Newcastle 37%. Attempts on target: Man City 11. Newcastle 1. Referee N Swarbrick (Lancs). Attendance 47,201
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