Dave Seddon's match verdict: Preston North End 0 Manchester City 3
The Manchester City team sheet rang alarm bells by the time you reached the second name listed numerically.
Raheem Sterling, scorer of 31 goals for City and England last season and nine already this campaign, was there in the starting XI to face Preston North End at Deepdale.
So was Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, David Silva, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva.
On the bench, in case of an emergency, were Benjamin Mendy, Riyad Mahrez and Nicolas Otamendi.
This was a side showing nine changes from the one which battered Watford 8-0 last Saturday.
It is the kind of depth to the squad which being Premier League winners two years running and backed by Far East cash, brings.
North End’s starting XI showed six changes itself, Alex Neil keeping more than half an eye on the three games which follow.
Obviously the depth to Neil’s squad, impressive for a club with a low Championship budget, is not comparable to that of City’s.
For spells of this clash, PNE were able to put up a decent fist fight against the visitors from down the M61.
However, City - dressed in the most garish of away kits - did the damage which was necessary to win this third round Carabao Cup tie in a 22-minute spell in the first half.
Between the 20th minute and 42nd minute, they found the net three times and had it won by the time the half-time tea was brewed.
PNE were far from disgraced though. They kept City at bay in the second half, ensured they didn’t wander into the humiliating territory Watford had done just four days earlier.
Josh Harrop was only the width of the post away from registering the Lilywhites on the scoresheet which would have given the scoreline a touch more respectability.
That said, Foden rattled the bar at the other end soon to give some balance.
Other than Harrop's opportunity, there wasn't too much from North End in terms of clear-cut chances.
To start with the focus of their attacking play was the ball over the top to find Tom Barkuizen which didn't bring its rewards despite the efforts of the front man.
This was all played out in front of a 22,025 full house at Deepdale, that a big positive on a night when the result didn’t deliver as such.
It is accepted that many of the extras won’t be back this weekend when Preston host to Bristol City.
But if a few were impressed enough to bring themselves back through the turnstiles in the future, all the better. Building-up a fan base can require patience.
The atmosphere was very good, the release of balloons and ticker-tape as the teams came out a nod to the days of the old Town End.
PNE’s supporters stayed with their team, cheering them off at both half-time and full-time.
Not that they were happy to lose, just that they recognised a decent effort against such a strong City side.
Neil made the point after the game that City’s front line of Jesus, Sterling and Bernardo Silva would have worried any Premier League defence, let alone a Championship one.
If there were any grumbles from fans, it was the nature of the PNE manager’s selection.
Some wished Neil had gone full-strength, or as near to that as was possible.
He chose to leave out Ben Pearson, Patrick Bauer, Paul Gallagher, Andrew Hughes, Sean Maguire and Declan Rudd – the keeper the only one of that six to be a substitute.
In came Joe Rafferty, Ryan Ledson, Brad Potts, Jordan Storey, Alan Browne and Connor Ripley, all who had been on the bench the last time out at Birmingham.
For the opening spell of the contest, North End gave as good as they got.
Did Harrop get a sly nudge in the back as he jumped to meet a first-minute cross from Ledson? It misses him by just a couple of inches.
City took the lead in the 20th minute, Sterling getting possession just beyond the half-way line.
He drove on, feigned to shoot a couple of times, and on reaching the box saw his shot clip off Ben Davies’ foot and find the net.
That was unfortunate for Davies who was the best Preston player on the pitch.
The second arrived in the 35th minute as Sterling slid a pass down the left hand side of the box for Jesus to drill a shot through the legs of Ripley.
Ledson was unlucky three minutes before the interval as he slid to block David Silva’s cross, diverting it into the net.
Maybe City eased off in the second half, maybe Preston stepped-up but it remained at 3-0.