SO much for Newcastle United playing a decisive hand in the Premier League title race then. A week after failing to lay a glove on Liverpool, the Magpies crashed to another routine reverse at the hands of Manchester City. No goals scored, six conceded. Two salutary reminders of just how hard it will be for the Magpies to gatecrash the top four positions, even with the financial backing of their new Saudi Arabian owners.

Having barely created a chance against Liverpool, yesterday’s game at the Etihad Stadium at least saw Eddie Howe’s side attempt to offer a threat as an attacking force. Chris Wood wasted a good early opportunity by heading straight at Ederson and had another first-half effort rightly ruled out for offside. Ultimately, though, with City embellishing their victory with two late goals in stoppage time, the only bright spot for the visitors was the second-half return of Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson from the substitutes’ bench. Unlike some of their team-mates, they will both have pivotal roles to play next season.

Manchester City are focused on delivering some silverware in the current campaign, and yesterday’s victory might well have gone a long way to ensuring Pep Guardiola’s side successfully defend their Premier League crown. The complexion of the game changed markedly when Liverpool failed to beat Tottenham on Saturday night, with City switching from a position where they were racing just to keep up with their title rivals, to a situation where a victory over Newcastle would establish a three-point lead at the top of the table. In truth, they never looked like failing to deliver.

Raheem Sterling set them on they way with a close-range header, before Aymeric Laporte stabbed home a second goal shortly before half-time. Rodri added a third in the second half, heading home from a corner, before Phil Foden and Sterling added further goals in stoppage time. City’s five-goal winning margin means that as well as moving three points clear of Liverpool, City have also nudged four goals ahead of their title rivals in the goal difference column. If, as is probably unlikely, they slip up in one of their remaining matches against Wolves, West Ham and Aston Villa, that could yet prove crucial.

From a Newcastle perspective, the last two matches against Liverpool and City have simply confirmed what most of us knew all along. The last couple of months have provided a glimpse of the potential that exists under the Magpies’ new Saudi Arabia-backed ownership group, but in terms of being a finished product, capable of going toe-to-toe with the best sides in England and Europe, Newcastle remain at an extremely formative stage of their development. As Eddie Howe readily acknowledges, there is still an awfully long way to go.

City’s journey from Premier League also-rans to the pinnacle of world football began when Sheikh Mansour was appointed chairman back in 2008. It can be argued that it was easier to make swift strides up the table a decade-and-a-half ago, but it is worth remembering that City still had three full seasons under the ownership of the Abu Dhabi United Group before they won their first piece of silverware, the FA Cup, and another 12 months before they claimed their first top-flight title since the 1960s. If Newcastle are to embark on a similar journey, there will inevitably be bumps along the way.

That said, however, Howe has already made some positive changes since replacing Steve Bruce in the autumn. Unlike his predecessor, Newcastle’s current head coach wants to develop a side that is comfortable in possession, even when faced with an opposition that tend to dominate the ball in every game they play.

So, while the travelling hordes that follow the Magpies up and down the country had grown accustomed to watching their side readily embrace the role of lambs to the shoulder in their away matches against the established big six in the last couple of seasons, yesterday they were treated to the somewhat unusual sight of a Newcastle team enjoying decent spells of possession at the Etihad.

The visitors even fashioned the best chance of the opening period in the eighth minute, but while a stretching Chris Wood headed straight at Ederson after Allan Saint-Maximin crossed from the right, City might have been in much greater trouble had the returning striker left the ball for an unmarked Joelinton, who was standing directly behind him.

Newcastle’s sense of ambition was nevertheless commendable, although it will only take you so far against a team as good as City. Sure enough, it did not take long for the hosts to start threatening themselves, with Laporte volleying over after breaking onto a Kevin de Bruyne corner and Joao Cancelo drilling a shot wide at the back post after de Bruyne picked him out with another pinpoint delivery.

It felt like an opening goal was imminent, and it duly went City’s way in the 19th minute. It was a simple enough move, with Cancelo breaking towards the edge of the six-yard box to meet Ilkay Gundogan’s floated cross. The full-back nodded the ball back across goal, leaving Sterling with the simple task of heading home from close range.

Newcastle had the ball in the net at the other end five minutes later, but Wood’s effort was rightly ruled out for offside. Jamaal Lascelles’ header from a corner struck Bruno Guimaraes before rebounding to Wood, who stabbed home, and the Brazilian had strayed into an offside position directly in front of Ederson. VAR checked, but there was clear daylight between Guimaraes, who was hardly easy to miss with his new Phil Foden-style peroxide hairdo, and the last City defender.

Had the Magpies restored parity at that stage, who knows what might have happened. Instead, City extended their lead seven minutes before the break to ensure there was never any threat of the home side coming under any real pressure.

City’s second goal owed much to the technical excellence of Gundogan, who met de Bruyne’s floated corner with a thumping first-time volley that Martin Dubravka did well to parry. The Slovakian also blocked Ruben Dias’ initial follow-up attempt, but the ball broke kindly for Laporte, who was able to stab home. City’s attacking full-backs get plenty of plaudits, but their centre-halves are a handful in the final third too. Laporte, Dias, Nathan Ake and John Stones have now contributed ten Premier League goals between them this season.

The 2-0 scoreline at the interval meant the only real question to be answered in the second half was how many City would win by.

De Bruyne and Sterling both had shots blocked at the start of the second period, before Newcastle conceded a third goal shortly after the hour mark.

Emil Krafth has defended solidly since returning to the side under Howe, but he lost Rodri completely from a corner, enabling the Spaniard to head home de Bruyne’s delivery at the front post.

The brightest point of the second half from a Newcastle perspective came with 22 minutes left, with Trippier and Wilson returning to the fray to end their respective injury absences.

For all that Newcastle have strung together an impressive sequence of results in the last three months or so, the pair have both been missed. They looked sharp enough in the closing stages, and Wilson should probably have scored with seven minutes left.

His fellow substitute, Jacob Murphy, released him behind the City defence, but his low shot was saved by the legs of City goalkeeper Ederson.

That was the cue for a two-goal flourish from the hosts in stoppage time.

Foden turned in Oleksandr Zinchencko’s mishit cross to make it 4-0, before Sterling completed the scoring as he rounded off a flowing move that eventually saw him teed up by Jack Grealish.