If there was a historic feel, it soon became a historic feat. Manchester City were marking the 125th anniversary of their first league game by giving the scoreboard a retro look.
It required regular updating. City are bringing anachronistic scorelines back into fashion, getting the kind of results from the decades when goals were more common.
Because this was remarkable as they set records amid eviscerating excellence. In 28 seasons of Premier League football, no team had ever scored five goals in the opening 18 minutes. City did. “It is weird, it is not normal,” reflected a happy Pep Guardiola. “Five shots, five goals.” Others followed. Having beaten Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup final, City went two better to register the division’s biggest win since 2014 and their largest in top-flight football.
They have now scored at least seven goals in Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup games in 2019. “The quality we have is a joy to watch,” said Guardiola.
There were facts amid the fantastic football. For David Silva, there was the fastest goal of the Premier League campaign, finished after just 52 seconds.
For Sergio Aguero, the twin milestones of becoming only the third player, after Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry, to score 100 goals in the division at one ground and the first since Romelu Lukaku to find the net in seven successive fixtures.
For Nicolas Otamendi, the rare feat for a centre-back of getting both a goal and an assist in the opening fifth of a game. For Bernardo Silva, who had never previously scored twice in a match for City, there was a maiden hat-trick of his career.
“I'm going to get all the players to sign my ball and then I'll take it home to Portugal,” he said. That Silva was starting in place of Raheem Sterling, often Watford’s nemesis, indicated it could have been worse for the ill-fated, incompetent visitors.
So, too, the reality that both Aguero and Riyad Mahrez hit the woodwork. City have the distinction as the last team to reach double figures in the Football League but the class of 1987, who beat Huddersfield 10-1, could have had company.
For Watford, meanwhile, it ranked as a landmark occasion for other reasons. This was their heaviest defeat in league football. Quique Sanchez Flores’ second reign began in encouragingly with a draw against Arsenal.
“The result damages me a lot,” the new manager said. “It is a very bad day for us,” said the Spaniard. “We looked a little scared at the start of the match. We just need to say sorry to the fans. When we disappoint the fans, we disappoint ourselves.”
Perhaps sympathy should be afforded to Dimitri Foulquier. The Guadeloupe international’s Premier League debut lasted 32 minutes. He was substituted with his side 5-0 down and after completing just two passes. His selection was a gamble that backfired. “Of course,” Flores agreed. Watford, he felt, were scarred by past thrashings. “They have very bad memories of playing against Manchester City,” he said.
But Watford had the misfortune to face a side who seemed to have a point to prove after a loss last week. “After the Norwich defeat, it was great to give our fans the result and the performance,” said Bernardo Silva. “We were unbelievable in the first 30 minutes.” City played with a blend of pace and penetrative passing, of speed and skill, of ruthlessness and relentlessness.
David Silva volleyed in Kevin De Bruyne’s wonderful cross before the Belgian released Riyad Mahrez, who was upended by Ben Foster. Aguero scored the resulting penalty and Mahrez struck from a free kick, albeit with a big deflection off Tom Cleverley.
Otamendi finished from Aguero’s cross after flicking on De Bruyne’s corner for Bernardo Silva to stoop to head in his first.
His other two goals came from similarly close range, both in the predatory style of the rested Sterling. "Bernardo was the best player last season,” said Guardiola. “He was extraordinary. I think he doesn't need to score three to get the credit he deserves but it's important for the team that many players score."
It would have been an injustice if the brilliant De Bruyne had not found the net and, eventually, he did with a rasping, rising shot.