The fitting Newcastle United away end flag you might have missed at Manchester City

Jordan Cronin’s Newcastle United analysis from the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Newcastle United, not for the first time in recent history, suffered a heavy defeat against Premier League champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

The Magpies were 3-0 down by the hour-mark following goals from Raheem Sterling, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri. The scoreline increased to five during injury time when Phil Foden netted and Sterling made it a brace.

Here, our writer Jordan Cronin provides his five key talking points from the defeat to Pep Guardiola’s men.

Amanda Staveley flag spotted in the away end

A flag that read ‘until Amanda, I was never happy’ was spotted in the away at the Etihad Stadium as the 3,000-strong travelling fans showed their appreciation towards co-owner Amanda Staveley.

Staveley, of course, brokered the £305million Saudi Arabian-led takeover in October before taking up a 10% stake in the club alongside husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi through their company PCP Partners.

The pair have led the day-to-day running of the football club - attending every Newcastle game since, plus playing a key role in the transfer business conducted in January.

But most importantly, through so many small yet meaningful things i.e bringing Shearer’s Bar back, or simply getting the windows cleaned at St James’ Park, they’ve united a club that was so disjointed after 14 years of misery under previous owner Mike Ashley.

Certainly, the Staveley banner is small a reminder that things will only get better and there is reason to be hugely excited, despite watching your side lose 5-0.

Sean Longstaff set to play against Arsenal & Burnley

While the team news announcement at 3:30pm centred around the return of Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier to the matchday squad, two key midfielders were missing altogether.

Jonjo Shelvey (calf) and Joe Willock (knee) - both integral to Newcastle’s surge away from the Premier League relegation places - were two of three changes against City after aggravating their respective injuries versus Liverpool last weekend.

Howe confirmed afterwards the pair are set to miss the remainder of the campaign.

And selected in their place was Sean Longstaff, who started just his fourth game in 2022.

With no other recognised central midfielders available, Longstaff will be handed his opportunity in the remaining two games of the campaign.

It might not seem much but it is a chance for Longstaff to stake a claim for a starting XI spot next term - if he signs a new contract, of course.

But that’s another thing, these final couple of games could be the persuasion the Geordie midfielder needs if there are any doubts over whether or not he should commit his future to his boyhood club.

Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson return

On an afternoon of few positives for Newcastle United, the return of Wilson and Trippier was absolutely something to shout about.

Introduced with 25 minutes remaining, both showed exactly what the Magpies had been missing - Wilson perhaps more so than Trippier, who was probably hoping for an easier return than defending against City’s unlimited firepower.

Trippier instantly got forward and delivered some teasing deliveries into the box but from a defensive point of view was completely sold by Jack Grealish as Sterling added a fourth on 90 minutes.

There was little to fault in Wilson’s performance, however, albeit he was denied in a one-v-one scenario by the excellent Ederson.

The 30-year-old did not look like a striker playing his first minutes since December. He looked strong, sharp and physical - and in a way, showed exactly what United have missed up top.

For all the good work Chris Wood has done, it’s clear Wilson offers so much more. He faces up to defenders, runs in behind and anticipates where the ball is going to fall into the box. Wood, in many ways, is the complete opposite.

It’s no coincidence that Newcastle enjoyed their best spell of the match immediately after the pair came on. They are two hugely important players for the football club - even a brief appearance in Manchester was a big reminder of that.

Allan Saint-Maximin lively - but a defensive liability

This may be an unpopular opinion but that is as lively as Saint-Maximin has looked in a good few months.

Since returning from a calf injury and illness in late March, the Frenchman seemed to be lacking confidence and a yard of pace. That ‘live on the edge’ approach simply hasn’t been there.

However, while he still remains a player very much out of form, there were encouraging moments against City. In most of United’s minimal attacks, he was at the heart of it.

Some questioned his selection, and rightly so, after his comments - as translated in the French media this week - where he essentially blamed the quality of his teammates for him not getting 10-15 assists a season.

As poor as that statement was by Saint-Maximin, it kind of ran true inside the opening 10 minutes when a pinpoint cross into Wood was woefully headed straight at Ederson. That chance was meat and drink for a striker labelled good in the air.

That was the good part for ASM. The bad part... the 25-year-old was a liability defensively and left poor Matt Targett exposed on countless occasions, as highlighted during City’s opener as he allowed Joao Cancelo to waltz unmarked into the penalty area and tee up Sterling.

Saint-Maximin is due a big performance before the season is out and boy does he need it with Arsenal and Burnley left to come.

Bridging the gap to Liverpool & Man City will be tough

Newcastle have played the Premier League’s top two in the space of eight days and failed to lay a glove on either, which in itself, shows how far the club is away from the very top.

Against Liverpool, yes, it only finished 1-0 but not at any point did United look like scoring against such a well-structured, world-class side. Howe’s side actually had more joy at City but defensively just couldn’t handle it.

We’re sure no one needed it but for the on-watching Staveley, Ghodoussi and supporters at the Etihad, and the millions watching on TV, it was another brutal reminder of the work and expertise needed to become an elite team.

On the evidence of the form and results Newcastle have picked up in 2022, they’re already close to being ‘the best of the rest’. With a couple of strong transfer windows behind them, it isn’t impossible to envisage United breaking into the top six or possibly even top four in the next few seasons. But catching City or Liverpool is an almighty challenge because both clubs are in a league of their own.

This isn’t just one the pitch, by the way, it’s off it too. Walking around the Etihad Campus and the City Football Group Academy pre-match, it really is levels and levels above. Ultimately, that too is the dream of United’s owners but it will take time, and a lot of it.