RECOGNISED in the recent New Year’s Honours list, Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart admitted to almost ‘falling off his chair’ after being informed by his wife Joan about his OBE award.
Positioned in the directors box at the Etihad, he will have remained glumly rooted in his seat yesterday afternoon, while those with Lancastrian blood around him were on their feet at regular intervals as City effortlessly cruised into round four.
The blue aristocrats of Manchester may have slipped on a Cup banana-skin or two in previous years against lower-division oppponents in the shape of Wigan and Middlesbrough, but this was an Etihad afternoon very much in keeping with a number of visits from White Rose sides in the current decade.
Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull City and Leeds United have all been on the receiving end of cup beatings at the hands of City and the mauled Millers, whose players’ minds were frazzled long before the end, were the latest unwanted entry.
The speed of thought and cuteness on the ball in terms of movement and close control of those in sky blue was something that Rotherham’s browbeaten players will have never experienced in their careers to date.
The gulf in class between a side who named just six substitutes and one who could afford to give the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero the day off and still stack their bench with the likes of Leroy Sane and Fernandinho was a wide chasm.
Perhaps with memories of his side’s humiliating cup exit to Wigan last term firmly at the forefront of their minds too, City and their manager Pep Guardiola were deadly serious about yesterday’s date – and it was the Millers’ misfortune to cross their path.
Granted, the Cup can do funny things, with the last Millers side to visit City in this competition back in the winter of discontent of early 1979 famously securing a replay following a 0-0 draw against the top-flight Blues at their old Maine Road home before bowing out 4-2 in a Millmoor replay.
But City were in no mood for upsets or an extra game to add to their itinerary. Less so Guardiola, with the FA Cup being the one domestic prize he has not pocketed after swapping Munich for Manchester.
What truly stuck out regarding the hosts was their relentless attitude and work-rate, with their intensity levels – even with progression to round four pretty much in the bag after Raheem Sterling’s early opener.
Perhaps with memories of his side’s humiliating cup exit to Wigan last term firmly at the forefront of their minds too, City and their manager Pep Guardiola were deadly serious about yesterday’s date – and it was the Millers’ misfortune to cross their path.Leon Wobschall
It spoke volumes about Guardiola’s ferocious pursuit of excellence across the board, no matter what the competition.
No second-tier side – and a fair few in the Premier League – would have surely lived with City in this mood, with Warne’s side likely to afford themselves with that sense of perspective when the dust quickly settles.
That was something duly acknowledged by the Millers’ 6,200 contingent too, with their non-stop support, warm applause and pick-me-up to the chastened away players at the final whistle not the sort usually reserved for a side who had just lost 7-0.
But this was an afternoon apart, with Rotherham’s appointment at Portman Road on Saturday being of more consequence than yesterday’s cup date in the grander scheme of things. This was a day out, albeit a bloody one.
It was soon evident that City were highly charged in their quest to light up a typically murky Manchester afternoon.
Gabriel Jesus nodded an early ‘gimme’ against the crossbar, but it was not long before captain-for-the-day Kevin de Bruyne and Sterling bewitched the Millers down their right – with the latter firing home emphatically after cutting inside Semi Ajayi.
To their credit, the Millers dug in for a spell and some casual play at the back involving Nicolas Otamendi and Ederson almost let in Jon Taylor for a tap-in, only for a Yorkshireman in John Stones to be alert to the danger.
Any fleeting hope soon dissipated as the hosts struck like a viper in quick succession.
Ilkay Gundogan started his medley of four assists by picking out Phil Foden after Ryan Williams switched off, with the homegrown teenager – labelled the ‘Stockport Iniesta’ by the City faithful – bundling in his first goal at the Etihad off his knee.
It was a scruffy moment in isolation, given such an elegant display from City, who added a third when Ajayi rammed Kyle Walker’s cross into his own net.
Struggling with a cold for the past week, Paul Warne – who donned a natty Peaky Blinders style flat cap on the touchline for the occasion – elected to wear a coat to protect him from the elements in the second half. But it could not shield him or his side from a sustained cool City blast.
Sterling bamboozled Zac Vyner before setting up Gabriel Jesus for a tap-in, with the Millers avoiding further pain before the hosts’ onslaught in the final quarter of the game.
Exhibition play saw Riyad Mahrez and Gundogan exchange passes before the former steered the ball home before a tough afternoon got a whole lot worse.
City’s sixth was a moment Warne will not have especially liked with Otamendi rising above Clark Robertson to power home Gundogan’s outswinging corner.
There was still time for German international Leroy Sane – a half-decent replacement for Sterling – to fire in a deflected seventh following another assist from his international and club team-mate Gundogan before time was mercifully called.
There was no injury time played, a rare moment of clemency for the Millers.