NEWCASTLE United’s season got off to a terrible start as they crashed to a 4-0 defeat away to Manchester City, and had Steven Taylor sent off.
United’s preparations were rocked before the game as Arsenal made a £10m bid for midfielder Yohan Cabaye.
The Magpies described the offer as derisory, but then left the Frenchman out of the matchday squad, with boss Alan Pardew saying the player’s head wasn’t in the right place.
David Silva took just six minutes to open City’s account with a close-range header.
Sergio Aguero added another before half-time, with Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri also on target after the interval, while Edin Dzeko was desperately unlucky not to open his account for the season too.
It was not entirely a trouble-free night for City boss Manuel Pellegrini as he lost skipper Vincent Kompany to a groin injury.
Yet, compared to opposite number Alan Pardew, the Chilean’s problems are minuscule.
Pardew was clearly furious that a bid from Arsenal for Yohan Cabaye was made public in the hours before kick-off, which effectively prevented the midfielder from being involved.
And when he sees the television replays, the Magpies chief should be equally annoyed with Steven Taylor.
Inexplicably, Taylor deliberately caught Aguero round the side of his head with a swing of his arm, right in front of referee Andre Marriner.
It was an obvious straight red card and considering the visitors were already two goals down, left them with no chance of salvaging anything from a sorry evening.
Having been forced to wait 48 hours to enter the battle, during which time their main title rivals had secured comfortable victories, City seemed intent on making a statement.
Aguero had an early shot saved, Dzeko looked lively and Silva schemed.
Newcastle on the other hand wobbled.
And when Taylor turned Dzeko’s near-post cross into the path of Silva, the little Spain star nodded home from close range.
Toure could well have had a penalty when he was shoved over by Mathieu Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa looked like an accident waiting to happen in an over-run Newcastle defence.
As it happened, City’s second came straight down the middle of the pitch.
Skipper Kompany put the visitors’ defence on the back foot with an incisive pass to Dzeko, who caught Newcastle by surprise by flicking the ball straight on to Aguero.
His quick thinking allowed him to get half a yard in front of Taylor, which was all the room he needed to bury a precise shot into the bottom corner.
Amid a flurry of yellow cards Cheick Tiote brought a rare save out of Joe Hart with a long range effort before Dzeko headed Aguero’s cross wide at the other end.
If Pardew was contemplating the swings and arrows of misfortune in the minutes ticking down the interval, he must have been incredulous at Taylor’s early exit.
As he had also lost Jonas Gutierrez to injury, it was about as bad a 45 minutes as Newcastle could have imagined.
Within five minutes of the restart it had got worse. After Debuchy had fouled Aguero on the edge of the area, Toure curled a superb free-kick into the top corner.
Sub Samir Nasri completed the scoring when he evaded the attentions of Debuchy to slot home City’s fourth.
Dzeko went close again before Alvaro Negredo was handed his debut, the former Sevilla man having a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside in the dying stages.