When Alan Pardew needed a goal at St James’ Park yesterday he turned to a 21-year-old with zero top-league experience and a player he has been trying to sell for a year.
The Newcastle United manager had little alternative but to send on Ayoze Perez and Gabriel Obertan. They didn’t manage to find an equaliser.
By the same token, Manuel Pellegrini put on Sergio Aguero.
He did score a second for Manchester City. That was the difference between the two teams. It is a pretty big difference.
This new side Pardew has put together cannot be judged on this match, although there was enough on show to suggest this season can be a good one.
Those in black and white at least displayed conviction and attitude. In short, it looked like they cared. That is a start.
Newcastle United lost. This is by far the most important statistic, not how many miles Jack Colback covered (about ten million) or the number of step-overs Remy Cabella attempted (about the same figure).
However, even the most cynical, pessimistic Newcastle supporter could take solace from a performance which was a huge improvement on the far too many dispiriting displays from earlier this year.
Manchester City are a better team than Newcastle. That’s why they won. David Silva’s opening goal was a terrific bit of football from a world-class player - helped by a clever back-heel by Eden Dzeko, who was outstanding.
Manchester City did not have to go much better than give a seven out of ten performance to win 2-0 away from home against a team who played pretty well themselves at times. That is because their team is full of footballers who are at the highest level of the game and their opponents were not at full strength.
Cheick Tiote and Siem de Jong are still to come. The team should/will get better as the weeks go by. However, Mike Ashley has to spend again - and not on another football club such as Rangers.
Emmanuel Riviere has his strengths, but that squad is crying out for a top-class centre-forward.
What they do have is Cabella, a bag of tricks.
Moussa Sissoko had his best game for ages because he was in the centre and Colback on his debut was terrific.
Sadly, it takes more than that to beat the Premier League champions. There were no shots on target, a worry, and for periods in the second half City’s midfielder played keep ball. Neither Aston Villa or Crystal Palace are close to this class. Both must be defeated. There is no such thing as an okay defeat at Villa Park.
The game was never anything less than engaging.
Tim Krul made a smart save to deny Dzeko after only three minutes when a long ball from Stevan Jovetic caused the Newcastle back four to wobble.
The Dutchman did even better on eleven minutes, diving to his left to keep out a well-struck Samir Nasri effort.
It took the home side a while to get going. When they did, after 16 minutes, Cabella’s attempted chip was never going to fool Joe Hart.
Riviere was twice though on goal in the first-half. The first time, he showed strength to turn and go clear of Vincent Kompany, only to shoot from miles out.
Then on half an hourthe striker’s fine run was spotted by Sissoko who found his team-mate with a pass - and in turn Riviere almost found the corner flag with his shot. A shame because he did everything else right.
City do not pass up such chances and they scored six minutes before the break. There was an inevitability about the situation when Dzeko’s flick sent Silva one-on-one with Krul.
On the other side of half-time. Yoan Gouffran should have done better when the ball from a Colback corner found its way to him at the back post. He was unmarked, but took a touch, a first time shot would have done, and then had three efforts blocked in the space of a few seconds.
Williamson headed just over from a Cabella free-kick before the hour, but, while Newcastle were pressing, there never seemed to be enough black and white jerseys in or around the City area. Rolando Aarons got his chance in the final quarter and had some great moments.
Yet we nearly witnessed the greatest debut of all time. With six minutes to go Perez was sent on. Within sixty seconds, he was sent through on goal by a perfect Cabella pass.
The young man didn’t panic. He took his very first touch, checked back on to his right foot and inside Martin Demichelis - but his shot came off the defender and drifted just wide of the post.
You had the feeling that was it for Newcastle, but there were to get one more wonderful chance in the dying seconds of normal time. Cabella again was the provider, this time to Sissoko on the edge of the box.
He should have hit the target, but instead his left foot effort sailed into the Gallowgate End.
Within moments, Aguero was past Coloccini and at the second attempt beat Tim Krul to seal the win.