FOR once, it wasn’t raining in Manchester. But it poured on Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium.
Everything that could go wrong, seemingly did go wrong.
It was awful, and the club’s heaviest defeat of the season could have been heavier.
It took just 28 seconds for the evening to unravel.
A poor pass, a heavy touch and a clumsy challenge led to a penalty.
And Sergio Aguero rarely misses from 12 yards.
The gameplan was to stay in the game for as long as possible, and get at a Manchester City side which can leave itself over-committed in the opposition half.
That didn’t happen.
The game was all but gone with just 12 minutes on the clock at the Etihad Stadium, when Samir Nasri kept his head the box when those in black and white were losing their heads to beat Tim Krul with a neat left-footed shot.
Game over. It was just a case of how many from that moment on.
There was a shake of the head from coach John Carver on the touchline, but his players couldn’t shake off their lethargy.
The team didn’t get close enough to City to put in a challenge.
Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer labelled the performance “pathetic” on Match of the Day.
It was pathetic.
Edin Dzeko made it 3-0 midway through the half with a clipped half-volley after chesting down a beautiful ball from David Silva.
Jack Colback let his frustration get the better of him just before the half-hour mark and threw the ball away. Colback’s needless booking, his 10th of the season, means he will miss the home games against Aston Villa and Manchester United.
It would have been easier to take if he’d earnt the yellow card for a challenge.
But tackles from visiting players were at a premium.
Papiss Demba Cisse tested Joe Hart after the break, but two quick-fire goals from Silva, outstanding for City, soon followed.
Some United fans left the stadium, and you couldn’t blame them.
Most had paid £44 to watch an embarrassing performance.
Newcastle might be the 19th richest club in the world, and it will only get richer if it stays in the Premier League over the coming years, but that financial wealth hasn’t been brought to bear on the pitch.
Of course, City, bankrolled by Sheikh Mansour, are far, far richer.
There was a time when the two clubs breathed the same air and shared the same dreams. Not now.
City are now preparing for a Champions League fixture against Barcelona.
United, sadly. fans can now only dream of a return to the Europa League, having become mired in mid-table mediocrity since finishing fifth in 2012.
A walk around the sprawling and newly-completed £200m Etihad Campus next to the stadium itself tells its own story.
Newcastle, by contrast, last year put up for sale the tiny plot of land behind the Gallowgate end of St James’s Park which offers the only chance of expanding the stadium.
United, unlike loss-making City, make money.
But more of the club’s income needs to find its way on to the pitch if the disconnect between supporters and the club is ever to be repaired.
The man who takes charge of the team next season needs to be backed by money, not words.
Incidentally, Remi Garde – who held talks with United about succeeding Alan Pardew last month – was at the Etihad Stadium to commentate on the game for French TV.
Maybe it was an eye-opener for the Frenchman.
But Garde also saw the club’s defeated players, remarkably, applauded by those left in the away end at the final whistle.
Those supporters deserve better.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 6; Janmaat 5 (R Taylor, 71, 6), Coloccini 4, Williamson 4, Haidara 4; Sissoko 5, Anita 3 (Abeid, 46, 6), Colback 5; Perez 5, Cisse 5, Gouffran 4 (Obertan, 86). Subs not used: Woodman, Ameobi, Armstrong, Riviere.
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov, Nasri (Lampard, 70), Fernandinho, Toure, Silva (Navas, 59), Dzeko, Aguero (Bony, 60). Subs not used: Caballero, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernando.
Man of the match: Tim Krul. Kept the score down.
Highlight: The sight of Ryan Taylor back in a black and white shirt.
Lowlight: The calamitous first 28 seconds which set the tone for what was to follow.
Goals: Aguero 2 (pen), Nasri 12, Dzeko 21, Silva 50, 53
Bookings: Anita 1, Colback 29, Kompany 37, Toure 39, Dzeko 83
Referee: Chris Foy (St Helens)