The furthest Manuel Pellegrini pushed it was when he pointed out afterwards that he still thought Chelsea's success here 12 days earlier had been overplayed. "Tactically, we didn't have any problems," he said. Otherwise, there was no gloating, or even the subtlest of putdowns, and it was a wise strategy from the Manchester City manager. He is never going to outdo José Mourinho when it comes to confrontation, brittle one-liners and media positioning – the Chelsea manager is simply too well-practised – but his team reminded everyone here why they are such formidable opponents, and that is always the best way to win these arguments.
They won with almost surprising ease, courtesy of a goal in each half from Stevan Jovetic and the fit-again Samir Nasri, and it was an ideal way to start a week in which the next assignment will be Tuesday's Champions League tie against Barcelona. Mourinho can still look back on Chelsea's two visits to Manchester and reflect they had the better of the deal, having already dismantled City's previously immaculate home record, but his team plodded through this defeat. They fell way short, particularly in attack, and it was perplexing to see Mourinho's players offer so little when the memories were still vivid of their outstanding performance of the season.
Chelsea tend to give everything in the FA Cup. On this occasion, they simply put on their coats and showed themselves to the door.
Mourinho talked afterwards about weariness and used Nemanja Matic's performances over the two games as an example of how it had caught up with them. Matic was superb in the first, over-run in the second. Yet Mourinho could have picked out others, too. Samuel Eto'o suffered the ignominy of being removed at half-time and there was a telling moment when Mourinho was asked whether he could put into words his frustrations about the contribution of Chelsea's strikers this season. "There are things I cannot say," he said. "I can just think things and keep them to myself."
In fairness to Eto'o, there was no real improvement for Chelsea after his withdrawal. Pellegrini had worked out a way to stifle Eden Hazard, with James Milner doubling up to help out Pablo Zabaleta. Willian was an elusive opponent but faded in the second half and Fernando Torres made little difference when he came on. Chelsea barely managed a single noteworthy attempt to establish whether Costel Pantilimon, deputising for Joe Hart, might be suspect.
They really ought to have done more, bearing in mind Pantilimon had needed three attempts to clasp a low cross from Chelsea's first attack of any real threat, 21 minutes into the game.
Nasri, returning from a month out with a knee injury, was a second-half substitute and had been on the pitch for only six minutes when he exchanged passes with David Silva to score the goal that effectively ended the game two-thirds of the way in. His return is timed well given the challenges that lie ahead in the next few days and Jovetic's input is also encouraging for Pellegrini, even if the Montenegrin did pick up a yellow card for a dive. Jovetic's luckless run with injuries has badly disrupted his first season in English football but here was the evidence that the £22.9m signing from Fiorentina can still play a considerable part.
Pellegrini had resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes and his main players, most notably Yaya Touré and Silva, created plenty of problems for Chelsea. Vincent Kompany looked like he had taken the last defeat as a personal affront and Hazard was contained so well that, after half an hour, Mourinho ordered him to swap places with Willian in a more central role.
Hazard had menaced City barely a fortnight ago. Now, there were only flashes of his excellence. Milner was excellent for City and Javi García, another player who seldom gets acclaim, coped much better in the defensive midfield role than Martín Demichelis had in the first game.
Mourinho was not on one of his elaborate wind-ups either when he talked about City being fresher. Pellegrini also noted it was "important" they had not played in midweek, because of the postponed match against Sunderland.
His team set off with the greater spark, taking the lead after 16 minutes with a move that began with their left-back, Gaël Clichy, and went across the pitch in a diagonal line, via Silva and Edin Dzeko, before the ball reached Jovetic. A minute earlier, Jovetic had flicked the crossbar with a follow-up shot to Touré's effort which Petr Cech could only spill. Now he took advantage of César Azpilicueta not being close enough and drove his shot in off the post.
The most startling aspect from a Chelsea perspective was their inability to respond. They were ponderous with both their thoughts and their movement and far too obliging when Nasri turned away from Mikel John Obi, played the ball into Silva and then darted between David Luiz and Gary Cahill to turn in the return pass. Silva had been marginally offside but, even then, Mourinho's complaints were measured. "Was the referee poor in the second half? Yes, but even with a perfect referee we would have lost one-nil."