Manchester City's 4-1 derby triumph over fierce rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon was not simply a rout. Rather, it was a total and utter dismantling and an unmistakably clear signal of their Premier League title ambitions.
The 2012/13 campaign was undeniably a disappointing one for the Citizens, with persistent rumours concerning potentially corrosive dressing room unrest providing a wholly unwelcome backdrop to a trophyless campaign in which Roberto Mancini's men were comfortably inferior to eventual champions United, suffered a second consecutive Champions League group stage exit and were humiliated in the FA Cup final at Wembley by relegated Wigan Athletic.
Decisive action was taken at the club following such a damaging and ultimately unsuccessful year, with Mancini, whose working relationship with several players seemed to have broken down far beyond repair, was duly ousted and replaced by the experienced figure of Manuel Pellegrini.
The arrival of the 60-year-old appears to have seen a comparatively pleasant calm descend upon the Etihad Stadium, with the composed Chilean seemingly healing the considerable rifts within the squad and outrightly refusing to overreact to one or two stodgy and unfavourable performances during the early throws of the new domestic campaign.
The removal of one or two notable egos from the dressing room will also serve City well as they seek to reclaim the Premier League title that they won in such stunningly dramatic fashion with a last-gasp Sergio Aguero winner against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of a thrilling 2011/12 season.
Mario Balotelli, although an undeniably entertaining character, did not help Mancini's cause at times with a succession of tiresome off-field antics that proved to be hugely disruptive and his departure to AC Milan in January will have gone some way to improving dressing room relations. Likewise Carlos Tevez, while a formidable goalscoring talent, also possesses an oversized ego that was a constant source of frustration for the divisive Italian.
With such names now gone and a number of impressive new signings having bolstered an already strong playing squad, City have to be considered overwhelming title favourites. Pellegrini witnessed a couple of markedly average displays against the likes of newly-promoted duo Cardiff and Hull earlier this season, but such teething problems are to be expected during the opening stages of a fresh managerial reign.
Against United, Spanish frontman Alvaro Negredo, winger Jesus Navas and Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho all impressed with assured displays, with each player suggesting they are fully capable of perfectly complimenting the talented unit already in place at the Etihad Stadium.
Likewise, a number of pivotal stars who were so vital to City during their title-winning campaign showed obvious signs that they are ready to banish memories of the 2012/13 season. Sergio Aguero was a delightful blur of pace and clever movement, Yaya Toure was a truly formidable presence in the centre of midfield while French international Samir Nasri, who so often flattered to deceive during Mancini's final few months in charge, gave a suitably confident showing.
Perhaps the biggest factor in City's charge towards a second Premier League triumph is inspirational captain Vincent Kompany. The powerful Belgian, who endured a frustrating spell on the sidelines with a groin problem earlier this season, returned to form with a simply immense performance as City gleefully administered a potentially damaging psychological blow to David Moyes' side.
His formidable display was characterised by a number of excellent challenges and his traditionally composed brand of leadership was an evidently calming influence on each of his teammates, most notably impressionable defensive partner Matija Nastasic.
The title is there for the taking for Pellegrini's men. If they can take full advantage of Sunday's derby mauling and keep their star performers clear of injury, then they will stroll to Premier League glory at a canter, leaving direct rivals trailing in their wake.
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