ETIHAD STADIUM — With all hell breaking loose over at their noisy neighbours – the man of the house busy collecting his belongings off the front lawn having been turfed out following an underwhelming three-year relationship – all was calm, as always, next door.
An Everton side struggling to find their identity under a manager many in blue in fact want to fail, given his Liverpool success in the past, represented the perfect Sunday lunch guests for Manchester City on Sunday.
Without ever needing to break sweat, City enjoyed a serene Sunday at the Etihad with the fumes of Manchester United’s house fire still visible in the air. The goals were of the highest quality, the control never slipped, as the chasm between the two bitter rivals widened that little bit further.
The City team was somewhat experimental, as young Cole Palmer was handed his first Premier League start as a lesser spotted out-and-out striker at the Etihad, but the action unfolded in the most formulaic manner fans have grown so accustomed to on the blue half of Manchester.
City took a while to get going, as they often do. Given their penchant for possession, breaking through the lines early on is not top of the agenda. They get themselves into an often-unassailable position of authority first, and the goals will come naturally.
It took until the 27th minute for a City, very much in second gear, to really threaten the Everton goal, with Bernardo Silva denied by Jordan Pickford, before Ilkay Gundogan headed the rebound onto the crossbar.
Then, City turned it up a notch, and what came out was a real thing of beauty. Joao Cancelo, so much more than a regular full-back, picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch before arcing a sumptuous pass into the path of the onrushing Raheem Sterling – given a rare start by Pep Guardiola – with the eager-to-impress England forward stroking home on the half volley with effortless precision.
“Rafael Benitez teams are always so well organised, so we had to be patient and wait for our moments,” Guardiola said. “We gave Crystal Palace the first goal in our last match here. Today we were better with that. I am so pleased with the maturity of the team.”
Sterling, who had been denied a penalty after VAR intervened earlier in the match, was proving to be a real handful. The fact Guardiola can so readily overlook such a potent and often unplayable threat tells you all you need to know about the riches at his disposal.
City were operating in a different realm to Everton. The visitors had one shot, off target, all afternoon, and only 23 per cent possession. Not what you want when you are owners of a club who have invested almost half a billion pounds in the playing squad.
It was a matter of when City added a second, and it was worth the wait, as Rodri, who has taken his game to greater heights this term, unleashed a ferocious strike from 25 yards that if you blinked, you would have missed it. Four of the Spaniard’s eight goals for City in all competitions have been scored from outside the box.
Then it was party time. “Ole’s on the dole,” came booming down from the terraces as City fans continued to bask in their rivals’ demise and position of superiority in the city, with many missing Silva sneaking in a late third to complete the most comfortable of victories.
Paris Saint-Germain won’t be quite as easy to roll over in midweek, but the City machine is purring again, with so much more still to come.