THOSE weathered Huddersfield Town followers with long memories may have felt that something was in the air when former Manchester City favourites Paul Stewart, David White and Tony Adcock were introduced to the crowd just before kick-off.
The ex-Blues trio famously helped themselves to hat-tricks in City’s 10-1 evisceration of Malcolm MacDonald’s Town on an extraordinary autumnal occasion at Maine Road in November 1987 – the previous time that the hosts had found the net in a home league game with Huddersfield prior to this latest meeting.
Without a goal in their previous four league meetings with Town in Manchester, City – who had never failed to score in five home games at league level against any opponent – devastatingly shredded that particular statistic and made up for lost time on an afternoon when the gulf in class between these Roses combatants was there for all to see.
In fairness it is unlikely that only Huddersfield will be on the receiving end of a 2018-19 dismantling at the hands of a City side who have painted glorious pictures on the Etihad canvas during Pep Guardiola’s masterful and regal reign.
But this was a brutal beating all the same as City left Huddersfield feeling chastened and wounded by the end after a stinging day when the hosts threatened to equal that feted scoreline from the Mel Machin era.
It represented the first time that Town had conceded six goals in a top-flight fixture since a 6-2 loss at home to Newcastle United in November 1955.
It was rather more recently back in February 2013 that Huddersfield were last hit for six in a competitive match, a 6-1 drubbing at Nottingham Forest.
After the previous weekend’s comprehensive defeat to Chelsea it was Town’s rank bad fortune to run into the champions in their first outing on home soil this term.
But when the pain subsides from this particular episode the realisation will surely dawn upon Town that their season starts on Saturday at home to Cardiff City, managed by Neil Warnock.
Over the past few seasons head coach David Wagner’s side have shown a strong jaw and capacity to react with character to setbacks as they must do so again to turn around a torrid start to the campaign.
After successfully parking the bus at City in a goalless draw in the Spring, Town’s smothering tactics emphatically failed to deliver anything resembling a repeat, not helped by some poor concessions in the first half against opponents who hardly need any assistance.
The sense that it might be a long afternoon was obvious from the first inspection of Town’s teamsheet, which featured no Mathias Zanka – who missed his first league game for Huddersfield after being an ever-present last season – Jonathan Hogg or Aaron Mooy, with the latter missing the game due to his wife being in labour.
Town, who handed starts to Jon-Gorenc Stankovic and Abdelhamid Sabiri, kept City out for the first 25 minutes, but with David Silva at his imperious best and running the game with majesty, the signs were ominous.
Town’s first concession was charitable with a long punt forward from Ederson catching Town flat-footed and Sergio Aguero then chipped the ball instinctively over the hopelessly stranded Ben Hamer.
The Town goalkeeper was then caught out at his near post by a low drive from Gabriel Jesus after the visitors were undressed down their left and a tough afternoon soon got worse for him.
A routine low cross from the marauding Benjamin Mendy was inexplicably spilled by the goalkeeper and Aguero is not the sort of player to pass up gifts, tucking away the rebound with glee.
Thirty-five minutes in and it looked a case of damage limitation, even accounting for Town registering a goal just before the break with a milestone strike from Stankovic, his first in their colours.
The big defender, pressed into service as a deep-lying midfielder in his first outing since the 5-1 FA Cup loss at the Etihad in March 2017, fired home after Steve Mounie flicked on Philip Billing’s long throw only for normal service to be resumed on the restart.
Watched by his partner and young son, gifted Silva stroked home a delicious left-footed free-kick as Manchester City entered party mode.
Positively ravenous in his attempt to score a ninth Premier League hat-trick for City, Aguero struck a post and fired wide, but the impression was that he was not going to be denied.
The Argentine was kept waiting until 15 minutes from time when he effortlessly steered home from close range following a dream of a cross from Mendy.
Aguero then exited the stage to a standing ovation from City’s fans, something that had earlier been afforded Silva.
The torture continued for Town with Leroy Sane bewitching Christopher Schindler before seeing his shot blocked by Hamer, with the loose ball cannoning off the unfortunate Terence Kongolo into the net.
A fine save from Hamer denied Bernando from adding a seventh as City’s hordes chanted about Huddersfield’s good fortune that the scoreline was not 10.
Spoken about as a club supposedly lacking in class by Jose Mourinho at the end of last week – when refering to a City documentary entitled All or Nothing in which he felt Manchester United had been ridiculed and disrespected – there was elegance in abundance on show from those in sky blue yesterday.