That was unwise, as Bruce and his players had deserved most, if not all, of the criticism that had come their way following the quarter-final defeat earlier this week.
“I have to say the histrionics which has gone on around it is quite ridiculous at times, but that's what it is at a club like ours,” said the club’s head coach.
The comment was a bizarre one given that Bruce had acknowledged the shortcomings of his team – and pledged to “accept what was coming our way” – after the 1-0 loss.
It also angered fans, who felt he was questioning the validity of their reaction to the game.
Newcastle’s performance at the Brentford Community Stadium was certainly hard to take – and had led to calls from fans for Bruce to be sacked.
Those same supporters, also reeling from last week’s 5-2 loss away to Leeds United and a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Fulham, had feared another embarrassment against Manchester City tonight.
Bruce – who had claimed after the Brentford game that he had not lost the dressing room – had needed a reaction from his players.
What fans watching at home saw was a spirited performance from a limited United side, who were beaten 2-0 in the festive Premier League fixture.
Karl Darlow helped keep the score down at a sodden Etihad Stadium, where there had been a surprise in the starting XI.
Matty Longstaff, with just 29 minutes of Premier League football to his name this season, was recalled to the starting XI by Bruce. Jonjo Shelvey, so poor against Brentford, was not involved, and Federico Fernandez wore the skipper’s armband in the continued absence of club captain Jamaal Lascelles.
Federico Fernandez – who had been fatigued after recovering from Covid-19 – was recalled to a five-man defence along with Fabian Schar.
Callum Wilson was named as a substitute because of a knock, while 18-year-old midfielder Elliot Anderson was named on the bench. Jamal Lewis also dropped down to the bench.
Newcastle started positively and probed away for the first few minutes, but they were behind with 14 minutes on the clock. Raheem Sterling set up Ilkay Gundogan for a simple finish after teasing United’s defence.
Newcastle retreated after that, though they had one or two attacks. Joelinton should have done better with a header after Miguel Almiron delivered a dangerous ball into the box from the left. Schar just missed it at the far post.
City took their goal advantage into the break, and an unchanged Newcastle tried to take the game to their hosts in the second half. Pep Guardiola’s side, however, eased further ahead thanks to a goal from Ferran Torres. Torres was left with a simple finish after Fernandez cleared the ball to him.
Miguel Almiron, nowhere near his best this season, had given the ball away for the goal.
That’s how the game ended. United’s fans were spared the kind of embarrassing defeat that had been predicted on Tyneside – and Bruce was spared more “histrionics”.