Man City turn on style for Sheikh
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan may have taken two years to visit his Eastlands empire - but Manchester City ensured the wait was worthwhile as they showed an impressive return on his vast investment.
He has chosen to view his £350m outlay from afar since changing English football's landscape with his riches, but will return to Abu Dhabi pleased with the progress of his pet project if City's dismissal of abject Liverpool proves an accurate measure.
Sheikh Mansour's presence lifted spirits inside Eastlands even before a City side containing six England internationals delivered a performance fit for their affluent ruler.
And as he took the adulation of City's adoring fans, there was bitter irony for their Liverpool counterparts as they suffer the current power vacuum created by Tom Hicks and George Gillett and looked every inch the poor relations on and off the pitch.
Man City celebrate as Liverpool's Steven Gerrard looks dejected
Two games into a season is no time to be making definitive judgements on any team's prospects for the entire campaign, but there is no question that this was a powerful statement of intent by Roberto Mancini's side.
Manchester City still have plenty of convincing to do, as has Mancini himself, but the verve and sheer power that, in the best footballing sense, bullied Liverpool out of this game was impressive to behold.
Tougher tests will lie ahead than the one presented by a lame Liverpool, but City and Mancini can take nothing but confidence from the emphatic manner of their victory.
The fact that it was achieved with Emmanuel Adebayor and David Silva on the bench, and with Mario Balotelli missing with a knee injury, provided a graphic illustration of the resources at Mancini's disposal.
How he manages those resources could hold the key to much of City's hopes this season, but all the vital signs were good - with Mancini also deserving of praise.
At first glance, his decision to play Yaya Toure as his most advanced central midfield players looked like another example of the Italian's tactical eccentricity. But Toure, officially a very big unit, cut an imposing figure and his deft footwork in dangerous areas helped James Milner mark an impressive debut by setting up Gareth Barry's early goal.
Milner's work ethic, not to mention his ability, makes him a potentially crucial addition. The reported £26m price tag (including Stephen Ireland in a swap-deal) is excessive, but Sheikh Mansour's appreciative smile as he watched his latest gift to City's expectant supporters flourish suggested he regarded it as worthwhile.
And for Fabio Capello's right-hand man Franco Baldini, there was good news to report back to his boss ahead of the start of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Adam Johnson, direct and powerful, could rival Theo Walcott for a place on England's right while goalkeeper Joe Hart demonstrated exactly why Mancini felt compelled to choose him ahead of the excellent Shay Given.
After Carlos Tevez gave City a two-goal lead, Hart produced two stops of the highest quality within seconds to prevent David Ngog and Fernando Torres throwing Liverpool a lifeline their display did not deserve.
Tevez's penalty, awarded after Martin Skrtel felled Johnson, added an extra gloss to City's performance - although the history of this club tells us it is too early to be taking anything for granted, no matter how strong the squad assembled at Eastlands.
But there was a power and cohesion about City that hinted at bright times ahead, which clearly came as a relief to Mancini as he admitted it was vital (especially for him no doubt) that his team was on their best behaviour on the night the main man was in town.
City felt so assured in the final stages there was even time for an appearance by Jo - the man Eastlands thought, some might even say hoped, it had forgotten.
For Liverpool and new manager Roy Hodgson, this was a desperate night, but he has been around too long to be plunged into despair by one defeat. If City should not be talked up as definite title contenders on the back of one win, we must not dismiss Liverpool's season on the strength of one defeat.
Liverpool's preparations were not helped by the latest episode in the long-running Javier Mascherano saga with the Argentine midfield man, according to Hodgson, "not in the right frame of mind" to play after an offer from Barcelona.
Hodgson rightly took the defiant stance that Mascherano goes nowhere unless Liverpool receive an acceptable bid, but the flip side is that it is now almost impossible to see him playing for the club again after the latest turn of events.
It is a disruption Hodgson can do without as he takes the first steps in his Anfield tenure - and his mood would not have been helped by Liverpool's performance.
Hodgson's decision to play a 4-4-2 formation was bold, but was exposed swiftly with Fernando Torres well off the pace and David Ngog peripheral. And rarely can a midfield containing Steven Gerrard have looked so flimsy in the physical exchanges as City outmuscled and outclassed them at various intervals.
The lack of creativity from Liverpool was in stark contrast to City, although Hodgson may point to the absence of the suspended Joe Cole as a contributory factor to that obvious flaw.
And Torres, who rarely slipped through the gears apart from a moment of trademark pace that left Joleon Lescott trailing, will be a greater influence the more time he spends on the pitch.
Liverpool's manager tried to apply a positive gloss to proceedings, but they were well beaten. It was a sobering evening that outlined the scale of the task that has to be undertaken by this most sensible and mature of managers. He will not be daunted but it is not something that can be achieved overnight.
Hodgson's reshaping and rejuvenation will not get under way in earnest until he has new Anfield owners to provide a stable background and serious financial support. Liverpool's hierarchy is currently in that process. The sooner the divisive Hicks and Gillett reign is brought to a close, the better it will be for Hodgson.
No such problems for Manchester City as Eastlands showed its appreciation for Sheikh Mansour. If this was the effect his presence has, he will be welcome every week.