Date: 21st January 2018 at 2:16pm
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It was back to the Etihad for Manchester City after their trials and tribulations at Anfield last weekend. The Blues must have wondered what was going on when for the first time in an age they found themselves with almost a week off.

Newcastle United, under the watchful eye of Rafa Benitez provided the opposition for the second time in a month and many will recall the stiff resistance they created at St James Park. Would it be the same today?

City needed to restore business as usual after a mid-season collapse, which, although not quite like the England Cricket Team, has seen them gather only 4 points out of the last 9 available and generated hysteria in Stretford where the local team considers itself back on the trail with player after player taking to the press last week to declare that they can catch City.

The five o’clock new reels announced that United, after their enthralling 0-1 victory over Burnley, had reduced City’s lead in the table to “only” 9 points, instantly forgetting that the Blues were about to play at home against a team that would not be equipped to beat them.

And so it proved. With Delph and de Jesus injured, Guardiola lined-up his best available team, replacing Delph not with the inverted Danilo, but with another convertee in the shape of Zinchenko, whose performances so far this season in the first team have not really added any deficiency to City’s output.

The Mags brought the usual noisy 3000 fans with them and had one or two different players, especially the impressive Lascelles, but the outcome never really looked like being anything other than a home victory and the Stretfords were able to creep back into their holes 12 points adrift, but six months in front of the rest of the Premier League for next season.

The match got under way with the Mags looking a bit more ambitious than they had at their own Stadium over the Christmas period, but it was not long before City established their supremacy with a slick counter attack that saw Newcastle sliced open and Silva’s precise cross behind the defence slid home by Sterling. The eagle-eyed linesman somehow spotted that Raheem was a whisker offside. Had that stood, I suspect that the Magpies would have been staring down the barrel of a cricket score. They did however manage to re-group, re-shape and present themselves, once again, as a robust defence relying on luck and blocks to keep City at bay.

It was a strategy that proved reasonably successful as City bombarded them without the fortune of a goal. Silva and De Bruyne were a sensation in midfield, patiently and diligently creating for the pace of Sane and Sterling and Newcastle really didn’t have the answers their support deserved.

But just after the half hour the inevitable bore fruit. Building up down the left, De Bruyne drew the defenders before swinging in one of those delicious crosses that could also be a shot. This time Sergigol was in the right channel in front of the goalkeeper and used his haircut to very slightly deflect the cross just inside the far post.

This seemed to inject a new lease of life into the Mighty Atom as he teased and tormented The Mags both from the line and from deep, where they didn’t appear to have any responses and it was somewhat astonishing that it took City another half hour to double their lead. It came from the penalty spot after Sterling played the ball between two defenders, put on the after-burners and found himself wrestled to the floor, despite trying to stay on his feet. City had laid siege to the Newcastle penalty area, which was a scene of desperation with big numbers defending for their lives. But at least their work had kept them in touch. Sergigol did give the keeper a chance but the shot had just enough power to find its way home.

It looked as though the day’s work was done, but just as we have seen in a number of matches this season, City do give the opposition a sniff, and playing their usual high line, the Blues found themselves victims of an over-the-top that caught out Stones, Walker and Zinchenko, leaving Murphy with a free run at Ederson.

The Newcastle youngster just about had enough to chip the ball home to breathe new life into his side and give the faithful, piled high in the South Stand something to shout about.

This opened up five minutes of comic cuts from City, whose concentration seemed to exit in many ways like it had last week at Anfield. Thankfully, the Mags don’t have the quality up front that Liverpool enjoy, but Ederson still had to earn his money after recovering from his own error. That could easily have ended in a goal or a penalty and created a very different end-game.

But it was soon back to business as usual with the Sky Blue Tsunami offering no respite to Newcastle – all of the six players ahead of the back four went close as City clocked up almost record possession statistics.

With ten minutes left, the rejuvenated Sane, whose rest this week seems to have done him good, set off on a mazy run from deep. He accelerated like a gazelle between 2 defenders, drew a couple more, hurdled the scythes and slid the ball between 2 more to find Aguero, somehow unattended 12 yards out. Segigol had time to stop the ball, check his options and then place it past Darlow to claim a hat trick for himself and three points for his team.

Aguero has been under quite a lot of criticism, not least from the Pedmachine for his profligacy, but City’s withdrawal from the Sanchez auction seems to have given him a new spark. Today his work rate inside and outside the box was brilliant. At times he led the attack from deeper positions and at others created havoc in the penalty area. He saw his rewards on the scoreboard and also in the fact that against the background of a superb team performance, he was unequivocally man-of-the-match.

Plaudits must also go out to Zinchenko who had his hands full with goalscorer Murphy, but who is growing more and more into a first team footballer and does not weaken the overall team when asked to play.

Other than that, it was another match chalked off and another set of records for Aguero that sees City needing 10 more wins to secure the Premier League title.

At this stage, and based upon the style of football being played, I see Liverpool as potential runners-up if City do win the title. Stretford appear to have reverted to 1-0 football having at one stage clawed themselves to within 9 points of City.

We can now see that Guardiola et al took the correct decision to turn their back on Sanchez and leave the pathway clear for the Stretfords to spend ridiculous sums of money to secure his services.

As predicted, almost immediately, the Pug has allegedly been knocking on Maureen’s door saying “Sergeant, where’s mine?” He obviously deserves it after his astonishing performance against Stoke, where his almost uncountable number of passes from centre spot to defensive 10 metre circle really showed how you carve open the League’s poorest defence. You know, the defence who let in 9 in two matches against Chelsea, 7 at the Etihad, 5 against Spuds and 3 against Liverpool.

The 3-goal win at Sold Trafford will give them the platform to launch a bid for the title. I couldn’t believe the droll murmurings of the match commentator trying to persuade the bored watching audience that the Stretfords were exceptional. Still, it was business as usual against Burnley for United where their ruthless ration of goals-to-chances saw them win 1-0 scoring one of their two shots on goal. Immediately it went in, it was time for the wagons to be circled as Maureen parked the bus?again.

And in the Sunday papers we see one of them say “Welcome to Sanchezter” in reference to the mischievous sign that City deployed when Tevez signed for City. The Poor old scribe, as do United fans, has deluded himself. Did he not get the “jeux-de mots” when Tevez joined City? Dear Mr Scribe, whoever you are, the main idea of the Tevez poster was that United’s hovel of a stadium is not in Manchester and that when Tevez came to City, he moved from a team based outside the City limits to a team based inside the City limits. Maybe you didn’t get a geography CSE?

I think City have dodged a bullet there. People I have spoken to that I know at Arsenal suggest that Sanchez is poisonous and he was referred to this week as a cancer in the dressing room. Welcome to Sold Trafford, Senor Sanchez. Please keep your hand out and add to the underlying debt. If you need any more money, make sure to take the Pug with you for support.

It’s back to Cup action for City this week. A draw at Bristol will see City return to Wembley to face either the resurgent post-Sanchez (even though he hasn’t gone yet) Arsenal or Chelsea, unhappy campers at present. It’s a big match for the Blues, it will sell-out Ashton Gate and will entertain the watching audience.