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It was the best of City, it was the worst of City.
Butchering Dickens is usually pretty popular at this time of year, so that opening line seems both appropriate to Christmas* and neatly describes City's performance in their 3-1 win over Newcastle.
In the opening 20 minutes or so, it looked like City were back. The City of the first few months of last season, when they sashayed their way through everything in their path, winning 12 of their first 14 games and scoring a whopping 48 goals in the process. Because of the way their season almost fell apart in March, and then the way it ended, you sort of forget how exhilarating they were in those early games.
That City has seemed like a very distant memory this season. While they've only lost once, the successes have been largely joyless affairs, devoid of the verve of which we knew they are capable. Too many key players have looked lacklustre, with Yaya Toure in particular not being awful as such, but missing something. David Silva has often been subdued, Mario Balotelli has barely even showed the occasional flashes of brilliance that make it worth keeping him around, and we've been over Roberto Mancini's tactical experiments before.
At times against Newcastle, they were exceptional, passing around their often hapless opponents with a hitherto absent slickness. Yaya looked back to something close to his best, with the odd bulldozer run and of course that utterly gorgeous pass that cleft the defence in twain to create the first goal. Of course, it helped that Newcastle looked exactly like a team that took four points from the last 21, and that Davide Santon put in a performance that could really only be described as 'slapstick', but City were still impressive.
Their dominance was such that their lead at half-time should really have been greater than 2-0, and this is where the 'worst of City' comes in. They were profligate in the same way that the Arsenal side of a couple of years ago was profligate, passing neatly and almost being afraid of something so gauche and vulgar as scoring a goal. It was as if they recognised their spark might be back, so wanted to savour their art.
The cliché-lover in me sagely mused that 'They might regret this later', and by golly they nearly did. For long spells of the second half, they were hanging on, as Newcastle improved and attacked with a little more purpose. Demba Ba scored one and Newcastle really should've had one or two more.
City held on, and Yaya popped up with a clincher, but they were still a more composed Toon forward away from chucking away arguably their best performance of the season.
There was promise in this from City. It would be easy to say the derby defeat slapped them into life, but now they have a run of games in which they will expect to rack up a good few points - next up it's Reading, then Sunderland, Norwich and Stoke. If the City of the first half of this game and last season show up, the title race should be a belter.
Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter
* Yes, I know it's not from A Christmas Carol.