Easter is a time for resurrection, rebirth and second comings, but a Man-of-the-Match performance from Samir Nasri has probably arrived too late to save his Manchester City career.
For once it was magnifique as opposed to merde, from the French maestro as he displayed the guile, creativity and heart of which he is capable and why Roberto Mancini shelled out £24m two summers ago.
Nasri was the pivotal player as City scanned the barcodes of Newcastle United and dispatched them down a conveyor belt of misery with this comprehensive 4-0 demolition.
Oft maligned, viewed as cowardly and insipid, Nasri was an outstanding Gallic presence on a pitch brimming with more Frenchman than you’d see drooling at a late night showing of the Moulin Rouge, awash with scantily clad Parisian beauties.
Bare-breasted exotic dancers aside, it was the Toon ‘warriors’ who were overly exposed, offering all the resilience of a soggy piece of brie as Mancini’s marauders set about the ‘cheeseboard’ , slicing and dicing Newcastle’s pathetic impression of French resistance.
Last season, when all hope of winning the Premier League title had seemingly evaporated with an abysmal 1-0 defeat at Arsenal, City responded with a crushing 4-0 demolition of WBA.
The rest is history.
That they annihilated a team in stripes by the same margin after a pathetic 2-0 defeat at Everton this season, when any lingering title aspirations had been dashed, is sadly where any comparison concludes.
City’s cherished title is gone – long gone – this time around, but there was no doubting their determination to secure second spot from the southern challenge of Spurs and Chelsea and serve notice that they will be back – big time – next season.
This was Newcastle’s 13th attempt to down their nemesis but rather than perform like birds of prey they were more akin to sparrows at play as City’s irresistible attack picked apart the Magpie defence.
Toon stand-in keeper Rob Elliot’s blatant time-wasting, within the opening quarter of the match, set the tone for the afternoon’s proceedings. Alan Pardew’s men had come to survive – end of!
In fairness a Papiss Cisse volley from an extreme angle did hit the foot of Joe Hart’s post in the opening exchanges, but the England keeper had it covered.
The fact that Newcastle held out until the 40th minute owed more to City’s profligacy and ill judgment in front of goal than stout defending.
It was all City attacking movement from the off, albeit not at a tempo that might have borne richer pickings. Gareth Barry was the chief culprit, blasting over from five yards out when simply hitting the target would have guaranteed a goal.
Nasri wriggled Houdini-esque, away from Gutierrez and Gouffran on the byline, sending a pass across the face of the goal. The ball ricocheted to Barry who shot skywards.
Next up, the majestical David Silva latched onto a Barry through ball in the box and dispatched the ball into Eliot’s net – alas from an offside position. Had he left it to the onside Zabaleta then it would have been a legitimate score.
Tevez delivered the inevitable goal – his seventh in six games and 16th of the season – surging forward to connect with a teasing Gael Clichy cross inside the six-yard box.
The spoils of the day were virtually City’s when Silva lashed home the second goal after Nasri had beaten three United defenders and laid the ball into the Spaniard’s path.
Pardew obviously put a rocket up the Toon’s rear at half time and the visitors looked full of purpose at the beginning of the second period. The feisty Cabeye fired just inches wide with City’s central defence wide open.
It gave the travelling Toon Army hope…false hope.
City notched it up a gear and that rarest of sights – a Gareth Barry right foot rocket – was deftly deflected by the heel of returning skipper Vincent Kompany, beyond a helpless Eliot.
Eliot was keeping the score respectable, producing two superb saves from a frustrated Edin Dzeko whose efforts deserved a goal.
Man mountain Yaya Toure added to City’s haul, sweeping past the totally plucked Magpie rearguard and powering a strike from an oblique angle. The slightest of deflections helped defy the laws of trigonometry and the ball flew off Eliot’s palms into the net.
It was one of 11 on target shots for City in a game where they played like the champions they are, and will be once again, only not this May.
City’s forgotten man, Scott Sinclair came on for a lively cameo and a deliciously crafted curving drive was spectacularly parried away by Eliot when a goal looked certain.
Sinclair had replaced an injured Silva in similar style to Aguero coming on for the hobbling Nasri. Kompany was withdrawn as a precaution and Garcia introduced.
With the title now gone, City played with a freedom and fecundity most pleasing to the eye, but frustrating to the soul – why had they not done so on more occasions this season?
Mancini was lauded with the familiar strains of Volare from an adoring Etihad packed house, so Frank De Boer of Ajax – the latest speculative media punt to replace Roberto – need not start house hunting in Cheshire anytime soon.