ANOTHER day in the North West. Another defeat.
It’s a familiar story for a club which has had little success across the other side of the Pennines in recent seasons.
And Newcastle United, after a campaign largely spent fighting relegation, find themselves in familiar territory after a brief respite.
The club, it’s clear, is again in the mire near the foot of the Premier League.
Alan Pardew’s side are just three points above the relegation zone after Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Manchester City.
What’s more, 17th-placed Wigan Athletic have a game in hand over Newcastle, controversially beaten at the DW Stadium on their previous outing.
The club, rightly, felt aggreived after that game. But there were no complaints from Pardew and his players. Not this time.
A few short weeks ago, after United’s win over Stoke City, Pardew felt the club was safe.
“That’s done (Premier League safety) – we don’t have to worry about that now,” he said.
Not now. The club is still a couple of wins from safety, and it is time to worry, if not panic.
And there were few positives to come out of the visit to the Etihad Stadium ahead of a Thursday night’s Europa League tie against Benfica in Lisbon.
Admittedly, Pardew was missing some key players. Cheik Tiote, Davide Santon and Mathieu Debuchy were among those absent.
Their absence was keenly felt.
Newcastle were content to soak up City’s pressure in the first half. Roberto Mancini’s side, their dreams of a second league title now in tatters, didn’t seem to have much urgency.
It was if they had all the time in the world. Certainly, they were given too much time on the ball.
They probed away against a resolute enough United, who had one decent chance on the break. Papiss Demba Cisse struck the outside of Joe Hart’s post after captain Yohan Cabaye found him upfield.
The chance reivigorated City, who cranked up the pressure as the half-time break neared.
After a Gareth Barry miss and a Rob Elliot save – the goalkeeper denied Gael Clichy – the breakthrough finally came four minutes before the interval.
A low left-wing cross from Clichy was bundled home by Carlos Tevez, who had got the better of Jonas Gutierrez.
Another goal quickly followed. Samir Nasri skipped into the box and played in David Silva, who rolled the ball past Elliot.
Not surprisingly Gabriel Obertan, an anonymous figure in the first half, didn’t reappear after the break.
Newcastle had been vulnerable down the right side, where Danny Simpson was filling in for Debuchy.
Simpson will leave the club in the summer, and maybe ex-Manchester United man Obertan needs a fresh start elsewhere too.
He’s got frightening pace, but he doesn’t frighten defences nearly enough.
And he’s yet to repay Pardew’s faith in him.
United were better in the second half, but chances came and went.
And the game was effectively over when City’s captain Vincent Kompany flicked a wayward Barry shot past Elliot after the hour-mark approached.
A fourth goal, which took a deflection off half-time substitute James Perch, capped a comprehensive win for Mancini’s men.
Newcastle, to their credit, kept going, with Moussa Sissoko again a powerful figure driving forward.
However, City won’t have had too many easier games at home this season.
United’s players were still applauded off the pitch by the club’s supporters, many of who will this week be making the trip to Portugal to watch their team at the Estadio da Luz.
On a bright, spring day, they’ll have felt a chill as they left the Etihad Stadium.
By the time they got back to Tyneside, Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill was out of a job.
Sunderland’s plight might have taken their minds, briefly, off their own club’s fortunes, but the league table doesn’t lie.
Newcastle haven’t been good enough on the domestic front this season.
Yet the paradox is that United could yet make history on the continent this season.
Roll on Lisbon. This afternoon in Manchester is best forgotten.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: ELLIOT 8; Simpson 5, S Taylor 7, Yanga-Mbiwa 6, Gutierrez 6; Anita 6, Cabaye 6 (Bigirimana, 74, 6); Obertan 4 (Perch, 46, 6), Sissoko 7, Gouffran 6 (Gosling, 63, 6); Cisse 5. Subs not used: Harper, Good, Marveaux, Campbell.
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany (Garcia, 73), Lescott, Clichy; Barry, Yaya Toure; Silva (Sinclair, 82), Nasri (Aguero, 71), Tevez; Dzeko. Subs not used: Pantilimon, K Toure, Kolarov, Milner.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Rob Elliot. He kept the score down.
HIGHLIGHT: Elliot’s performance between the posts.
LOWLIGHT: The entire first half. United just didn’t get going.
Goals: Tevez 41, Silva 45, Kompany 56, Perch 69 (og)
Bookings: Anita 26, Cabaye 29
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Preston)