Using all his considerable charm, the Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn, has tried to persuade supporters on Wearside that it is better to go to matches than watch them in pubs.
Quinn made the journey to Manchester yesterday but those who had crammed the hostelries in Roker and Seaburn would barely have had time to let their first pint of Guinness settle before realising they were watching a hopeless cause. If they remained to the end, they would have wanted whisky or maybe absinthe.
Manchester City's chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, had joined Quinn in the directors' box and this was the kind of performance that the oil men from Abu Dhabi would have envisaged when they took over the club.
Lately, Manchester City had been playing as if infected by a deep weariness and Roberto Mancini suggested that elimination from the Europa League by Dynamo Kiev had contributed to this result as much as Sunderland's defensive ineptitude. "When we play every three days we became very tired," the City manager said. "When we play Saturday to Saturday there is no problem." Asked if they could overtake Arsenal to finish second, Mancini said the gap was only three points and that Manchester City were improving. Asked if he could win the title, he laughed.
Sunderland, in contrast, are in a deep spiral of decline. This was their seventh straight defeat in the blue half of Manchester and it was, by a distance, the most embarrassing. Sir Alex Ferguson was in attendance and once, when he had seen City put five past his defence in 1989, he had returned home and without saying a word to anyone gone straight to bed and put a pillow over his head. When he woke, Ferguson said he "felt like a criminal". But at least the United manager would know that, even if he continued playing Ryan Giggs at left-back, his defenders could not perform as ineptly in the FA Cup semi-final against City as Sunderland did here.
For Steve Bruce, this competes with the 5-1 humbling at St James' Park as his worst day as Sunderland manager. His side has one more point in April than they had in January and have failed to score a goal in four successive matches. When asked if they were safe from relegation, he delivered an emphatic "no".
"Brutal is the right word for this," he said. "We got what we deserved which was our backsides kicked. At Sunderland we pride ourselves on our performances against the big clubs but this was dreadful. We had two or three who performed OK and for the rest there are no excuses.
"We have been on a horrific run with a half-fit squad and Titus Bramble had a scan before the game and could miss the rest of the season. Frazier Campbell twisted his knee in training while Phil Bardsley had an injection in his knee, tried to put his game on the line for us and was found out."
Bardsley was at fault for the first goal, failing to close down Adam Johnson after the boyhood Sunderland supporter had completed a one-two with Yaya Touré at pace; then gave away the penalty for the second; and did not reappear after the interval.
However, some of the play Manchester City produced, particularly when David Silva was at the centre of things, was breathtaking. It was his chip forward that Tevez had controlled before he was fouled by Bardsley and the Spaniard deserved the fortune that came with his goal as Mario Balotelli's shot was blocked by Michael Turner and the ball spun towards him. With one flick of his boot, Manchester City were three up.
On the touchline, Mancini seemed supremely relaxed, trapping a loose ball with patent leather shoes as if he were still captaining Sampdoria.
When he brought on Patrick Vieira, the Frenchman scored with his first touch of the afternoon, connecting with Aleksandar Kolarov's fierce drive across the edge of Sunderland's area. Although Simon Mignolet scooped the ball clear, the linesman judged correctly that it had crossed the line.
However, if one goal summed up Sunderland's day it was the fifth and final humiliation. Their captain, Lee Cattermole, was forced further and further towards his own goal and his decision to pass back led to an inch-perfect cross for Touré, who latched on to it and scored.
Amid the ruins, it seemed astonishing that Balotelli did not score. He was denied by Mignolet's studs and by the Sunderland goalkeeper's gloves with what proved the final kick of the game. But as Mancini pointed out, the young Italian walked off smiling and that, at Manchester City, is progress.
Substitutes: Manchester City Vieira 7 (A Johnson, 66), McGivern 6 (Boyata, 70), Wright-Phillips (Silva, 78) Sunderland Elmohamady 6 (Bardsley, h-t), Zenden 6 (Henderson, 59), Colback (Muntari, 72).
Booked: Manchester City Kolarov, Vieira. Sunderland Bardsley, Mensah, Turner.
Man of the match Silva. Match rating 7/10
Possession Man City 52% Sunderland 48%
Attempts on target Man City 13 Sunderland 4
Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire) Att 44,197
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