If Roberto Mancini's travelling troupe of entertainers carry on in this manner, they will prove worthy successors to the last Manchester City team to become champions of England, which was achieved in 1968 by winning the final match of the season 4-3 away from home. This time, fixtures on the last day, Sunday 13 May, happen to be the reverse of the weekend just gone, so Queen's Park Rangers will be the visitors to the Etihad Stadium on the day City hope to be holding up the trophy.
The evidence from a thunderous evening's entertainment on Saturday was that both clubs could be celebrating, for Rangers proved that with further judicious strengthening in January they should secure another season at this level. The caveat in both cases is that a refreshingly positive approach needs to be tempered by better defending.
With the possible exception of City's left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, not one player in the back four of either side could be satisfied with his performance here. The defending was particularly poor against crosses, which led to four of the five goals and numerous other chances, including a late header by the excellent Heidar Helguson that came back off City's crossbar, denying Rangers a deserved point.
Micah Richards, City's captain for the day in the absence of a badly missed Vincent Kompany, said of his team's football "Sometimes I just watch and admire" – an inadvertent admission of a lack of concentration that has caused Fabio Capello to doubt his international credentials. He was watching, if not admiring, when Jay Bothroyd first headed the opening goal following a soft free-kick and later forced the equaliser with another header in off Helguson, who was played onside by Kompany's inadequate replacement, Stefan Savic.
Even before that second goal, City were planning an adventurous substitution by sending on Mario Balotelli. In contrast to last season's negative strategy in some away games – notably those against top opposition – their approach is now one more associated with Kevin Keegan, who was watching from ESPN's studio.
There is more to it than that, however, as Mancini's assistant David Platt explained afterwards. "What the manager's done is bought offensive players and if you're going to play them, then you've got to be offensive because that's what the characteristics are," he said.
"The manager will be disappointed we've conceded two goals but it's good firepower to have. Last year we had a very good defensive record and we had a group of players that came in and had to get used to each other. We had to get used to David Silva wandering all over the pitch, to pretty good effect. We retain possession now, Gareth Barry covers him. We've worked a lot on the defensive side and still do, but we want to have the ability to be able to shore things up or go at teams."
Scoring five goals at Tottenham and six at Old Trafford gave City's coaches what Platt called "that Ready Brek glow, nice and warm, when you're winning 4-1". Saturday's feeling was more the Frosties, or even the All-Bran, effect, as Bothroyd opened the scoring and should have doubled the lead amid more poor marking. Fine goals by Edin Dzeko and Silva put City in control for perhaps 15 minutes, and after Helguson's equaliser the plan to push Yaya Touré further forward and play on the break worked perfectly when he headed in Kolarov's cross for the winner.
Balotelli came on anyway, shaming himself and his club within three minutes with a ludicrous dive over Luke Young's leg. The best bet of the day, apart from City scoring three goals or more, would in fact have been yellow cards for Balotelli and Joey Barton, whose hack at Silva may have been born of frustration but was unworthy of a man entrusted with the Rangers captaincy since his arrival in August.
At the end both sets of players were entitled to their Ready Brek glow of applause. All acknowledged it apart from Balotelli, who ignored entreaties to do so and headed down the tunnel. Like Neil Warnock with the maverick Adel Taarabt (absent ill here), City have not yet converted him into a team player.
Scorers: QPR Bothroyd 28, Helguson 69. Manchester City Dzeko 43, Silva 52, Y Touré 74.
Substitutes: QPR Puncheon (Bothroyd, 77), Smith (Mackie, 84), Hill (Traoré, 90). Man City Johnson 5 (Aguero, 68), Balotelli 4 (Barry, 75), K Touré (Dzeko, 88).
Booked: QPR Barton. Man City Balotelli.
Man of the match Dzeko. Match rating 8/10.
Possession QPR 52%. Man City 48%.
Attempts on target: QPR 9 Man City 8.
Referee M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Attendance 18,076.Reuse content