Miles Starforth's match analysis: Manchester City 3 Newcastle United 1

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Monday, 22nd January 2018, 11:00 am
Manchester Citys Raheem Sterling fires in a shot while under pressure from Newcastle Uniteds Jamaal Lascelles.

That was the message from the away end at the Etihad Stadium.

The message was loud and clear. However, contrary to a rumour before Saturday’s game against Manchester City, Mike Ashley wasn’t there to hear it.

Newcastle United’s owner, presumably, was watching the game on TV.

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The club’s 3,000 travelling fans saw another committed performance from their team.

Rafa Benitez had wanted his team to stay in the game as long as possible, and, in the end, they were in the game until the 83rd minute, when Sergio Aguero completed a perfect hat-trick at the opposite end of the pitch.

After last month’s 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge, I wrote that better Newcastle teams had suffered more comprehensive defeats to worse Chelsea teams.

And it was much the same at the Etihad Stadium, where United had been beaten 6-1 and 5-0 on their previous two visits.

Aguero had also run amok in those two fixtures.

And his record against United now stands at 14 goals from 12 games.

Benitez – who made four changes for the game – fielded a five-man defence against the Premier League leaders.

And, for 34 minutes, they kept Pep Guardiola’s team at bay.

Benitez’s frustration was that when they did have the ball, they lost it too easily.

United, playing on the counter-attack, needed to use the pace of Jacob Murphy and Christian Atsu and break out of their half, but they were wasteful in midfield.

And there was an inevitability about City’s opening goal.

Aguero got the faintest of touches to a left-wing cross from Kevin De Bruyne with his head.

Benitez was also unhappy with the second-half penalty awarded to City after Raheem Sterling went down under a challenge from Javier Manquillo.

Yes, it was “soft”, but there was still enough contact from Manquillo.

Aguero stroked the ball past Karl Darlow to make it 2-0.

Newcastle, however, weren’t finished.

Four minutes later Ciaran Clark played the kind of ball Murphy and Atsu had been waiting for.

The defender sent Murphy clear, and the winger delicately lifted the ball over the grounded Ederson.

United had chances – Mohamed Diame tested Ederson with a shot after powering into the box – before Aguero put the game beyond them.

Aguero turned and shot after a superb run down the left.

In the end, City’s class told over the 90 minutes.

Guardiola’s team cost hundreds of millions of pounds more than that fielded by Benitez, which wasn’t much different to the one which won the Championship last season.

Without investment, this team could be back in English football’s second tier next season.

As it stands, Newcastle are just a point above the relegation zone.

That’s too close for comfort.

Benitez needs to strengthen several positions before the window closes. He needs more quality and more competition in several key areas.

Quality doesn’t come cheap, so how much is Ashley prepared to spend between now and the end of the month?

We can only hope that Ashley has got Benitez’s message, having spoken to him twice in recent weeks.