For saying it was the War of the Roses, Leeds United offered petal garlands rather than a thorny fight as they were pruned, plucked and deadheaded by a resurgent Manchester City.
Whereas the team from Yorkshire were as threatening as garden gnome with a limp fishing line City went at their trans-Pennine opponents with the football equivalent of razor sharp secateurs, cutting them down to size with brutal ferocity.
Neil Warnock’s men were FA Cup compost within just five minutes of this 5th Round tie, with the only prickly element on display being the temperament of feisty ex-City midfielder Michael Brown.
What could have been a tricky road to redemption for a City side wounded by their own ineptitude just a week before, became the proverbial stroll in the sunshine, with Leeds looking and playing like a load of vanilla tarts.
It’s not often that a 4-0 loss flatters a team, but City could have easily doubled their tally had they not been so profligate in front of goal. The upside was that this was a mean and hungry City, stung by a cacophony of criticism and aspersions cast from every corner.
If the ESPN (Especially Scathing Pernicious Nerds) commentary boys of Jon Champion and Craig Burley had rolled up to ridicule City and Mancini, they were to go away disappointed.
The 6,000 strong band of travelling supporters set the tone of a remarkably relaxed and even comedic afternoon’s entertainment, with laudable self deprecating sentiments.
In a very welcome change to Leeds’ traditional away day capers of wrecking the joint, the white, yellow and blue hordes resorted to humour instead of hooliganism.
At 2-0 down they sang to their hosts : “You’re nothing special, we lose every week.” At 3-0 down they sang : “ How sh*t can you be, you’ve only scored three.”
By the time Sergio Aguero topped a Man of the Match showing with a clinical finish for City’s fourth, the Leeds fans were venting their spleen on Warnock and ‘Marching Altogether…’ presumably to oblivion, stopping off at jeopardy and obscurity en-route.
The tie was effectively over after just a quarter-of-an-hour when Aguero planted a penalty kick into Jamie Ashdown’s net. Admittedly it lacked the pure theatre of a Balotelli spot kick, but it garnered the same net result.
Referee Mark Clattenburg must have been having a ‘funny five minutes’ plus another 85 or so, because he actually performed fairly and squarely – will wonders never cease?
Sharpshooter Sergio earned the penalty after being impeded by Leeds’ defender Tom Lees. He dispatched it almost effortlessly. It doubled City’s lead, achieved so imperiously 10 minutes beforehand when Yaya finished an intricate 10-pass movement involving Garcia, Kolarov, Silva, himself and Tevez, with clinical precision.
It was vintage Mancini’s City. How the media vultures must have suffered indigestion as they choked on their bile.
The fact Costel Pantilimon made his one and only save of the match in the 44th minute from a Ross McCormack free kick, reflected City’s overwhelming superiority. Messrs Revie and Bremner must have been turning in their graves as Leeds simply capitulated.
Mancini had promised wholesale changes after the Southampton defeat and he wasn’t bluffing. Clichy, Lescott, Barry, Dzeko, Nasri and Hart made way for Kolarov, Nastasic, Kolo, Milner, Tevez and Pantilimon, albeit the goalkeeping switch was always going to happen.
The second half bought no respite for Leeds and the inevitable occurred when City scored their third via Tevez, ending his nine game goal drought.
Aguero surged into the Leeds penalty box in the 51st minute, slightly overran his own shooting angle, but squared the ball beautifully for Tevez to prod the ball home from two yards out. It was now a case of whether the score line was going to become an embarrassment for Leeds?
Sadly, from a Sky Blue perspective, there was just one more successful strike when, that man Aguero scored in emphatic fashion in the 73rd minute following a David Silva through ball.
The Argentine icon latched onto Silva’s pass and sprang into life in the Leeds 18-yard box, stroking the ball home.
There is a perception that Aguero hasn’t matched his own exemplary standards set last season, but with 13 goals scored he is just four off the pace at the same time as last year.
Mancini says if, Sergio hits the same form as 2012 from hereonin, scoring 14 goals in the process, City could yet have a chance of retaining their Premier League title. It may be a tad fanciful, but never say never.
A return to Wembley however, is wholly more realistic, with more Yorkshire opposition in the shape of Barnsley coming to the Etihad to contest the quarter final.
The doom and gloom merchants can lament the seeming loss of City’s champion status, but I wouldn’t be alone in relishing the prospect of a sixth FA Cup success.
Who among the Sky Blue Army at Wembley on May 14th, 2011 will ever forget the sheer elation of seeing City pick up a major trophy after 35 long and barren years? If Bobby Manc can do it again, then he’ll do for me.