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City 3 - 0 Liverpool - post match thoughts

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Perhaps not quite as thrilling or enthralling as the victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the tail end of last season, however this was undoubtedly the best performance witnessed during the Roberto Mancini era.

Patient in approach, effective in style and clinical in execution, this was a performance that confounded the critics who had suggested it would be some time before this side would begin to gel.

For the first time, we maybe saw the side as Mancini envisions it - functional and fluid, but above all able to get the points when it mattered. How this contrasted with last seasons dour goalless draw, where Mancini may not have trusted the side to get the victory without risking defeat. Perhaps now, he is comfortable with what he has at his disposal and the performances will begin to reflect this.

Granted, Liverpool were poor and without aura or air of dominance so often associated with their side, but credit must be given to the players for the performance, and Mancini for getting the approach spot on.

The team Mancini deployed once again contained surprises. James Milner came in for his debut and Adam Johnson was restored to the line-up as Mancini went for the width that was lacking during the early stages at Timisoara. And how it paid off.

Arguably the best two players on the night, Johnson was direct, dangerous and a constant thorn in Liverpool's side. He went close with a thunderous effort in the first half and of course won/earned the penalty that put the seal on the victory.

Milner's debut was impressive. Full of drive, endeavour and dynamism, Milner created the opening goal with an intelligent ball to Barry and was full of running even to the last. Playing right across the midfield, he outshone Steven Gerrard and displayed all of the attributes that underlined why Mancini was so high on him.

The much discussed midfield three wasn't quite the defensive trap it has often been referred to as, with Gareth Barry often pressing forward (and getting on the scoresheet), whilst Yaya Toure - not to be confused with a fantasista - appeared at the tip of the trio. Toure's time at Barcelona is indelibly marked across his game. Not flashy, he is content to pick the right ball at the right time, however simple. The statistics once again highlighted the passing efficiency of de Jong, Barry and Toure. All over 90% and Liverpool's central duo of Lucas and Gerrard were overpowered all evening.

A notable part of the performance - and largely missed in the praise handed out - was the spirit that appears present in the side. Carrying a large squad, the concern is how this spirit can be both fostered and maintained with (potentially) so many disappointed players but time and again last night players were throwing themselves to block shots or congratulating each other for a crucial tackle. Central to that was Joe Hart, back from Birmingham and looking a far more commanding goalkeeper. His double save at 2-0 was crucial, and the telling part was it was half expected such are the standards he is beginning to set. Mancini's decision to start him has been well and truly vindicated.

Impressive also was the fact that the victory came with both David Silva and Emmanuel Adebayor on the bench, whilst Mario Balotelli, Jerome Boateng and Aleksandar Kolarov all sidelined through injury and so much so that even Jo was afforded a run out for the final ten minutes - perhaps the ultimate insult to a Liverpool side who looked anything but ready to regain their position in the top four.

Two games in, a return of four points. Par for the course you would say, and with a couple of fixtures ahead that are clearly winnable, we will now see if this side has also developed a ruthless streak to go with its undoubted quality.