Manchester City 4 Leeds United 0: Fans take refuge in irony as Leeds are torn apart

EVEN in a season of almighty Cup upsets, this meeting of the haves and the have-nots always seemed unlikely to satisfy those football romantics keen to see another Premier League club humbled.

Stephen Warnock battles for the ball with James Milner

So it proved, as Manchester City made a mockery of their recent 
indifferent form to tear apart Leeds United, who simply had no answer to the power and pace of a team put together for the best part of £250m.

With Yaya Toure setting the tone in midfield and the Argentinian pair of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero in irresistible form up front, the Blues cruised into the quarter-finals to keep alive Roberto Mancini’s attempt to make it 11 consecutive seasons in which his side have reached at least the last four of a domestic Cup competition.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

During a run that began at the helm of Fiorentina and Lazio in Serie A before taking in a stint at Inter Milan and then his move to Manchester, there can be few times when Mancini’s procession into the next stage has been quite so serene.

Fifteen minutes was all it took for City to take an iron grip on proceedings that never looked like being loosened. By then, the Blues were two goals ahead and the only question for the 46,849 crowd was how many times the Championship side’s defence would be breached.

That there was going to be no upset to rival Blackburn Rovers’ stunning win at Arsenal 24 hours earlier had become clear by the mid-point of the first half, when the visiting fans decided to stage their own ironic version of the ‘Poznan’, the backs-turned celebration so beloved of the City faithful since they faced Polish side Lech Poznan in the Europa League a few years ago.

The inference was clear. Okay, your team might be dominant on the field, but how lame is it to copy another club’s dance? And especially one that looks so ridiculous.

Sadly for United, that their supporters were reduced to such a stunt with only a quarter of the contest gone underlined just how little the team dressed in white had been contributing to the contest.

Things did not improve much after half-time, either, with the visiting hordes’ reaction to the gloating of their City counterparts after Carlos Tevez had made it 3-0 being to chant, ‘You’re nothing special, we lose every week’.

Sarcastic cries of ‘ole!’ then followed when United managed to string a few passes together to reveal the disenchantment surrounding the Elland Road club right now, as did the chant ‘Warnock, time to go’.

In contrast to the downcast mood among the visiting fans, the locals cut much happier figures at the final whistle. It was not difficult to understand why.

Talk of a crisis at the Etihad because City are ‘only’ second in the Premier League may be scoffed at by, for instance, the regulars at Fratton Park, where a true footballing calamity continues to unfold on a weekly basis.

But the pressure that had been building on Mancini ahead of the Yorkshire club’s visit was evident in the half dozen changes he made to the team that had started in the 3-1 defeat at Southampton a week earlier.

Among those brought in was Tevez, the one-time nemesis of Leeds manager Neil Warnock when manager of Sheffield United, and the Argentinian played a leading role in setting City on their way to victory with a sublime pass to Yaya Toure.

The towering midfielder with the giant stride then showed tremendous composure to shimmy his way past Jamie Ashdown and roll the ball into the empty net.

Just six minutes had been played and it was not long before United’s afternoon took another turn for the worse when referee Mark Clattenburg adjudged Tom Lees to have fouled Sergio Aguero and pointed to the spot.

Aguero then did the rest from 12 yards and, while the award had been harsh, there was no disputing that City’s two-goal lead even at such an early stage was merited.

Mancini’s men had started the game clearly intent on banishing the poor run of form that their Old Trafford rivals had so ruthlessly exposed in previous weeks to all but sew up the title with almost a third of the campaign still to play.

In between the game’s two opening goals, City had come within a whisker of grabbing another when Tevez had fired into the side netting.

Sam Byram, much to his own relief, did the same when trying to clear Aleksander Kolarov’s free-kick while it took a combination of Lees and Lee Peltier to prevent a piledriver from Yaya Toure reaching its intended destination.

Ashdown also had to react smartly to turn over another shot by Yaya Toure, while the best Leeds could muster in a one-sided first half was Ross McCormack’s free-kick that Costel Pantilimon helped over the crossbar. That apart, the City goalkeeper had little to do in the opening half and that remained the case after the restart with it taking the hosts just seven minutes to find the net for a third time.

More sublime play by Aguero created the chance as the Argentinian exchanges passes with David Silva before chipping a cross to the back post, where Tevez bundled the ball over the line despite the best efforts of Lees.

The crossbar spared United further punishment midway through the second half when Jack Rodwell, in following up Yaya Toure’s shot which Ashdown had parried, misjudged his header fractionally.

Leeds did have an opportunity to get on the scoresheet 19 minutes from time when Aidan White’s right-wing corner found Luke Varney.

However, despite being unmarked and just six yards out, the one-time Blackpool striker headed over – again to ironic cheers from the away seats – and with that went any chance of United rescuing some small consolation from their trip across the Pennines.

Moments later, Aguero latched on to a ball over the top before finishing coolly past Ashdown to complete a chastening afternoon for Leeds.