Summer friendlies are great, aren't they? The chance to see teams amble through their carefully calibrated preseasons is rarely dull -- unless you watched Liverpool play Roma last week. Star power, nice goals (bravo, Miralem Pjanic) and absurd scorelines merely amplify the generally collegial atmosphere.
Given that many of the big European clubs are available to us via TV and the Internet, it's a welcome sight to see some marquee players up close for an hour or so, depending on their fitness schedule. There's an openness and looseness to proceedings; with little at stake beyond a heavily sponsored, shiny, meaningless trophy, it's soccer in a vacuum.
The very exercise of hauling a Premier League squad to far-flung destinations serves many purposes depending on your perspective, all of which are largely fine and good. Clubs get to build team spirit and camaraderie, able to integrate new players given the weeks of close contact and shared experiences. Fans get to see their heroes. Empty NFL stadiums get some much-needed bonus revenue during the midsummer doldrums.
- Sunday friendlies: Chelsea win, City cruise
And yet when you get to a game like the one on Sunday afternoon, in which a mid-game thunder threat provided brief life to Man City's rout of Milan, there's a natural tendency to question the point of it all.
One big winner, beyond City outright, was Stevan Jovetic. His movement and purpose, almost as if spurred on by the obvious pressure to step up and prove his worth given Alvaro Negredo's long-term injury, was too much for a vacationing Rossoneri back four. Two City goals inside 14 minutes ended the game as a contest. Two more before the half-hour began the fun.
The goals, all six of them, were of a breezy, casual class. Jovetic's first was simple smash-and-grab. Gael Clichy's through-ball gave the Montenegrin more than enough room to rifle his shot beyond Michael Agazzi at his near post. Scott Sinclair -- yes, he still exists -- converted barely 90 seconds later, pipping his marker to another dangerous Clichy cross before volleying it into the roof of the net.
City's third proved the game's defeated state in the 23rd minute. Jovetic's deep cross found Jesus Navas unmarked wide on the left. He opted for a showman's volley, catching it cleanly and sending it vaguely toward goal before a chunky deflection dribbled it beyond a wrong-footed Agazzi. The fourth was more of the same as Jovetic's blocked shot fell kindly for Kelechi Iheanacho, who spun and slashed it in from the edge of the box.
Milan pulled one back via Sulley Muntari (he looked offside) and Mario Balotelli, a sub at halftime, had a goal disallowed for much the same thing. Everyone more or less went home happy. Celebrate and move on.
Key European club fixtures
French Ligue 1 -- Aug. 8
FA Community Shield: Manchester City vs. Arsenal -- Aug. 10
German Super Cup: Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich -- Aug. 13
English Premier League -- Aug. 16
Spanish Super Cup: Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid -- Aug. 19 and 22
Spanish La Liga/German Bundesliga -- Aug. 23
Italian Serie A -- Aug. 30
The rout underscored the folly of these friendlies -- reading too much into a glorified training game. Players have all season to prove their quality; these matches are about cementing team chemistry and match fitness for the mayhem of a grueling domestic campaign. Such results build confidence, but it is of a deceptive variety; a couple of early season draws quickly erases any tour-derived goodwill.
Milan's side was a mix of the evergreen, the rusty and those who made unremarkable World Cup cameos. Alex's age showed as City's blurry attack interchanged and created scoring chances with ease. Agazzi looked every bit the back-up with individual errors on at least two goals.
At least no one got hurt.
Man City have played two games on their U.S. tour. They have scored nine goals, conceding one. They have used 18 players, with more sure to be rotated in given games against Liverpool and Olympiakos to come this week. Manuel Pellegrini noted in Saturday's pregame phone conference that four or five players would be joining in the next few days following their prescribed post-World Cup rest.
In the end, there's little to divine from Sunday's clash beyond the obvious: Man City are better. We didn't need five goals in Pittsburgh to figure it out.