THANK goodness Newcastle do not have to play Manchester City again this season. Ten days after the Magpies were dumped out of the FA Cup by Pep Guardiola’s side, they found themselves on the wrong end of an even more humiliating defeat at the Etihad Stadium. It finished 5-0; it could easily have been fifteen. And this time, there wasn’t even a miss by Dwight Gayle to create a sense of what might have been.

Steve Bruce’s side have done well since the end of the footballing lockdown, but this was a stark illustration of just how far they have to go before they are even remotely competitive with the Premier League elite. If Amanda Staveley’s takeover goes through anytime soon, hopes will be raised of Newcastle emulating Manchester City’s transformation funded by largesse from the Middle East. On this evidence, even the spending power of the Saudi Arabian state might be insufficient to bridge the gap between the two clubs.

They were light years apart last night, even though City’s players were doing little more than go through the motions for much of the second half. Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez scored before the interval, with an own goal from Federico Fernandez, a free-kick from David Silva and a stoppage-time strike from Raheem Sterling completing the home side’s rout.

Newcastle’s patched-up side never looked like scoring, indeed by the end, damage limitation was the visitors’ sole ambition. Better sides than Bruce’s have been embarrassed at the Etihad, but this was still a deeply depressing night from a black-and-white perspective.

When Bruce made changes for last month’s FA Cup defeat at the hands of Manchester City, he was criticised for taking an overly-cautious approach to a match that represented Newcastle’s only remaining route to silverware. Last night, the Magpies manager once again made a host of alterations for a game with City, and once again finished on the wrong end of a comprehensive defeat. This time, though, his tinkering was mainly out of necessity rather than choice.

The hectic schedule since the end of the footballing lockdown has taken its toll on the Newcastle squad, who are limping towards the end of the season no doubt thankful that their job, in terms of securing Premier League survival, is done. There was no Jamaal Lascelles, Isaac Hayden, Allan Saint-Maximin or Andy Carroll last night, while Miguel Almiron was only fit enough to take a place on the bench.

Taking on Manchester City with a full squad is a daunting enough prospect; trying to outfox Pep Guardiola’s side with a host of absentees is nigh-on impossible. So it proved on a predictably chastening night for Newcastle.

In fairness to the visitors, there were mitigating factors for their defeat. Fabian Schar is not a defensive midfielder, but Bruce felt compelled to play the Swiss centre-half in front of his back four to compensate for the absence of Hayden. Similarly, Emil Krafth is not really a centre-half, but with Lascelles, Florian Lejeune and Ciaran Clark all unavailable, the full-back found himself partnering Federico Fernandez at the heart of the back four. Given the cobbled-together nature of things, perhaps it should not have been a surprise to see the Newcastle defence breached twice before the first-half drinks break.

Both of City’s goals came down their left-hand side, emphasising the lack of defensive solidity being provided by the recalled DeAndre Yedlin and Valentino Lazaro.

The first, ten minutes in, saw Phil Foden release David Silva into the left-hand side of the area, enabling the Spaniard to square a simple ball across the face of the box. Jesus had created a pocket of space on the edge of the six-yard box, and was left with the simple task of slotting home.

Eleven minutes later, and the hosts were exploiting the same vulnerabilities on the right of the Newcastle defence, with Foden this time releasing Kevin de Bruyne towards the byline.

It looked as though the ball might escape from the Belgian, but de Bruyne tends to make even the most difficult of tasks look simple, and without even looking infield, he picked out an unmarked Mahrez in the box. Like Jesus before him, the Algerian was afforded far too much time and space as he swept home a first-time finish.

Perhaps the most damning thing that could be said about Newcastle’s performance was that Manchester City never really looked like clicking into top gear, yet even with the handbrake on, the hosts looked capable of scoring at will.

They should have had a third before the interval, but while Foden carved the Magpies’ defence apart again with a slick one-two with Silva, he stroked what should really have been a simple finish past the right-hand post.

Foden has been sparkling form in the last month, but while the youngster’s awareness and movement stood out last night, his finishing was rather less impressive. He spurned another glorious chance four minutes into the second half, stabbing a first-time shot wide of the far post after de Bruyne picked him out with another pinpoint pass.

Newcastle’s attacking play was pretty much non-existent all evening, with Joelinton cutting an increasingly frustrated figure as he chased shadows as a lone striker. Jonjo Shelvey was nominally the most attacking of the visitors’ three central midfielders, but his defensive duties meant he was unable to get anywhere close to Manchester City’s penalty area. As a result, the Magpies went for lengthy periods without even threatening to force their way into the final third.

Ederson’s only action in the first half saw him claim a back-post header from Fernandez, with the centre-half getting up well to meet Matt Ritchie’s free-kick, only for the pressure around him to mean he was unable to seriously extend the Manchester City goalkeeper.

The Brazilian was even more of a spectator in the second period, affording him the opportunity to admire his side’s work at the opposite end of the field.

It was a matter of how many City would score throughout the second period, and a third home goal arrived shortly before the hour mark.

Jesus’ one-two with Foden enabled him to dribble inside the box, and while the City striker overran the ball slightly, it deflected off both Ritchie and Fernandez before nestling in the net.

Three became four seven minutes later, with David Silva claiming what could prove to be his final goal in a City shirt. The home skipper will leave as a free agent this summer after a decade of service at the Etihad, and if yesterday’s strike is to be his last one in a City shirt, it was fittingly superb.

Stepping up to a free-kick 20 yards out, the Spaniard curled a fantastic strike over the wall and into the top left-hand corner.

Silva turned provider as City wrapped up their win in stoppage time, winning the ball off Christian Atsu before releasing Sterling for a simple finish.