This was a victory whose resonance counted for more than the three points. Liverpool are not what they were but a victory over them conducted with such thoroughness will encourage Manchester City's feeling that their project is far more developed than rivals prefer to think.

Aspiring clubs have to hit a rhythm that makes victories natural if not inevitable at their own ground. Roberto Mancini's team did that on this occasion and the studied football he favours took its toll on the visitors eventually. Adam Johnson's first start of the campaign increased the refinement that will be essential if there is to be a genuine bid for the title.

Liverpool were spirited, but that quality alone will not restore the club to its former standing. With an unsettled Javier Mascherano left out while he aches for a move to Barcelona, there is an element of further disruption at a club already riven by the fans' resentment of the owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

The proprietor of City can expect nothing other than acclaim and tearful gratitude. Sheikh Mansour relished it in person here and an opulent opening goal was presented to him after 13 minutes. Johnson slid a pass between Milan Jovanovic and Daniel Agger, with James Milner, on his debut, slipping into space on the right before pulling the cross back for Gareth Barry to side-foot the ball into the net.

It was a slick move that also reassured anyone in the home support still to be convinced that City have the punishing fluency to match established contenders Chelsea and Manchester United. Obstinacy, of course, is another indispensable trait and this match would have been too intriguing for Manicini's taste if Liverpool had cut the lead to 2-1, but Joe Hart pulled off saves from David Ngog and Fernando Torres after a Steven Gerrard attempt had cracked off the post in the 57th minute.

City therefore ensured that they have begun with three clean sheets across Premier League and Europa League. That will not be a source of awe away from Eastlands, but it does hint at a methodical approach being implemented despite all the public interest in the glossy expenditure. There is a heritage at this club of failure with darkly comic overtones and envious enemies probably wallow in imaginings of City floundering even with limitless sums at their disposal. Above all, Mancini looks determined to keep that fate at bay with his emphasis on order and control.

The early breakthrough appeared to augur well, but City showed little further interest in laying on an extravaganza. That was not so very great a surprise. Mancini has tried to look methodical and even downbeat in his management, as if he could personally offset the bemusement and disbelief that swirls around a club of unequalled means.

The prosaic streak was at its broadest when he opened the Premier League campaign cautiously at White Hart Lane. Even if he was wilfully refusing to play to the gallery, a goalless draw must have been entirely satisfactory against Tottenham Hotspur, who beat City to the Champions League qualifiers last season.

A first home fixture against Liverpool seemed to demand that Mancini reveal more of his intentions. Circumspection could not be the order of the day when Milner, signed from Aston Villa in a deal valued at £26m, was on the left wing. Nonsensical as it sounds after all the outlay, City can be as rueful as any other club when a player is missing. Mario Balotelli, a £24m acquisition from Internazionale, might have been of use, but a striker who on his debut scored the only goal of the away match with Timisoara in the Europa League was ruled out with a knee problem. It took some time before efficiency in the penalty area was tapped to add to the opener against Liverpool.

Momentum and credibility for City can only have their origin in victories , yet they hardly reduced the visitors to panic in the first half. Liverpool were a good test then of City's resources. They were bound to be obstinate under that formidable strategist Roy Hodgson. The visitors had at least a yearning to be bold since Torres, making his first start since Spain's World Cup triumph, had the improving Ngog to assist him. Hodgson's conundrum lay in the inability of his team to advance with purpose until they were beyond recovery.

Each game is a significant experiment for Mancini at present. There was at least an indication in this outcome that he is a little nearer to identifying a line-up that is both trustworthy and explosive enough to make opponents dread their visits here. He may be fortunate in more than his budget. Disbelief still lingers over the transformation of City. The manager, for a little longer yet, can go about his work with greater funds than Manchester United or Chelsea while being spared the full weight of expectation that they endure.

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.