That cruel Stretford End banner flaunting the number of years since Manchester City won the league championship may be ticking over for a year or two yet, but Mark Hughes left Ewood Park on Saturday night looking like a man who knows that, at last, he has a proper football team on his hands.
There was a moment after Emmanuel Adebayor had sat down for his first interview as a Manchester City player in South Africa this summer when you wondered why on earth Mark Hughes, with his work ethic and his messianic drive for a “winning mentality”, had wound up with a forward quite like him.
This was not the cymbal crash of ArsenalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 6-1 evisceration of Everton but there was a persuasive percussion to Manchester CityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s display. The first few notes were not loud but it sounds as if a powerful rhythm will emerge.
As the Manchester City coach weaved through the traffic, inching past thousands and thousands of fans in their sky blue shirts, some clutching inflatable bananas, all with a song on their lips, Robinho, Stephen Ireland and company realised how big this season could be.
Nine years ago, City fans descended on Blackburn in their hordes, determined to see a new Blue moon rising above the moors.
“The difference between this season and the last is the team spirit.
“From the moment we arrived back for preseason the manager has been drumming it in to us about how we had to be mentally stronger this season. He said we had to have a better attitude and he was right.
“There were some bad habits in this squad last season. The manager and coaches were trying to get us out of them but because we were in Europe and had so many games and so much travelling, I always felt as though we just didn’t have enough time on the training field and away from match situations to sort it out and put things right.
“What he has done this time is get players who have the right attitude. They are quality players of high calibre but they are also winners and that’s the difference. These guys are inspirational. There is a hunger there and a desire and they have the right approach to everything.”
“Everybody has a view on Ade [but] until you work with him, you can’t shape that view yourself. I have not seen anything like that,” he said after a performance which confounded popular theories
“There will be opposition where we will have to have a real physical presence.
“Roque can play with the lone striker all day long. Ade can play off people and drop into deeper areas and then go beyond people as well, because he has the pace to do that. Maybe people thought that I was looking for two combinations of a big guy and a small guy, but actually they can all play together because they are all quality players.”
“In my three years there [Arsenal] I learned a lot, but now I am a City player, and that is where my focus lies.
“When I have the fans behind me I will always give 100 per cent.
“I am injury-free now, and I hope God will put his hand on me and keep me that way for the rest of the season. If that happens, I will keep working hard.
“This team can achieve things,” he said. “At Blackburn we showed character and we showed personality.
“We showed on Saturday that in difficult moments we can fight together to achieve things.”