Champions are able to score five unanswered goals without playing particularly brilliantly at a pace that suits them.
Champions are capable of going 36 matches unbeaten in front of their own supporters, and champions force implosions upon lesser teams.
Manchester City wore an initially well-drilled Aston Villa outfit down, finding the net four times in 20 second half minutes, during a patient performance indicative of a season in which they attempt to retain their Premier League crown.
“We played well and had a lot of chances. In the last two games I think we’ve changed something in our mind. We have found good spirit like last year,” Mancini said. “For us it is important that we start to play well.”
Roberto Mancini’s side equalled the 36-match unbeaten record held by neighbours United between 1998 and 2000 at the end of a week when Patrick Vieria chose to publicly back the manager amid a recent frenzy surrounding his future. Vieria’s comments showed the unfamiliarity of the scrutiny they are placed under, but the view that Mancini’s job is anything but secure is laughed at. Quite rightly, too.
Villa were initially dogged in their staunch refusal to lie down although Paul Lambert’s attacking options were generally laborious when venturing forward on the break. Even so, they might they have gone in front when Enda Stevens’ centre found the rising Christian Benteke, beating fellow Belgian Vincent Kompany in the air, bringing a super stop from Joe Hart.
The England goalkeeper has endured a troublesome patch. Much like his manager, serious questioning of Hart’s ability are borne out of previous excellence. To be expected, if not slightly unfair. “He got criticised after the international game, but that is part of our life. Sometimes you have a bad game, but you have to have a strong character,” said Mancini.
Getting the job done is how best to describe both team and Hart – especially in this one – and something that ought to be lorded. United have dined out on that concept for years.
It does not matter when or how you score, only that you do. From a corner, the havoc wreaked saw Kompany and Carlos Tevez pass up opportunities to score before David Silva’s clever side-foot beat Brad Guzan. Hard on Villa, who equipped themselves well for the most part, but a goal that had been coming.
Benteke found himself unfortunate not to have scored earlier in the piece, and Lambert has a dearth of goals in his own side. They have found the net just three times on the road this season and can only dream of a fully fit and firing Darren Bent - his lacking recent productivity after an £18m outlay is reason enough for Randy Lerner to tighten spending further.
Expenditure in Manchester is not likely to be curbed altogether, despite Mancini’s flat refusal that the club are interested in acquiring Luis Suarez. The would-be Financial Fair Play implications incurred via the striker’s wages and transfer fee probably put pay to any deal being talked seriously, but City may dip into the market for another attacking prong. Mario Balotelli missed out again, this time through injury.
All the money in the world can’t buy the gift of decisions, and an over-enthusiastic linesman, by way of Adrian Holmes, waving furiously for a non-existent handball against Andreas Weimann put an end to this as a contest. Lambert fumed, perplexed, as Sergio Aguero coolly found the corner from the penalty spot. In a glaring indication as to the difficulties facing the visitors this season, they were quickly to implode. “We had a foothold in the game – it was a woeful decision. That is the main talking point, and we were still in it at 1-0,” Lambert said afterwards.
Holmes was later correct in flagging for a Barry Bannan handball in the box. Tevez took responsibility, ending in the same result, while Aguero speculatively beat Guzan at his near post to make it four. Tevez tapped in a fifth to end the rout, and even Scott Sinclair got some game time. This ended up all too easy – a nice way to warm up for Real Madrid in three days’ time where the test will be a whole lot sterner.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Maicon, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy (Kolarov, 73); Toure, Barry; Silva (Sinclair, 76), Tevez, Nasri; Aguero (Dzeko, 68)
Aston Villa (4-4-1-1): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Stevens; Weimann (Holman, 62), Westwood, Bannan, Agbonlahor; Ireland (Albrighton, 62); Benteke (Bowery, 83)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Man of the match: Aguero (Manchester City)
Match rating: 7/10