The shock when Kevin De Bruyne was not on the Manchester City teamsheet at Norwich was almost palpable.
The Sky commentary team, hanging around at pitchside, chuckled that it never paid to try to second-guess Pep Guardiola, while fans – especially those with the Belgian in their fantasy teams – displayed varying degrees of outrage.
And, of course, when City suffered an even more shocking 3-2 defeat at Carrow Road, the fingers were always going to be pointed at Guardiola’s team choice.
The manager had indicated before the game that he was acting out of concern for the player, and to ensure he has no re-run of last season’s injury-hit campaign.
It is difficult not to think that the 2017-18 season, when De Bruyne was phenomenal, and played game after game without dropping his standard, and then ricocheted straight into a World Cup, took its toll.
De Bruyne had spoken of his tiredness in the second half of that season, and perhaps it was no surprise that he was injured early in the following campaign, after getting the minimal rest period during the summer.
And yet last season, City’s win percentage with De Bruyne in the team was exactly the same as it was without him – 82 per cent.
They took four points off Liverpool, beat Tottenham and Arsenal away, beat Manchester United twice and stuffed Schalke 7-0, all without him.
Yet this time, against a newly-promoted team with a glut of injury problems, it had to be the absence of De Bruyne which caused the loss?
It does not make sense.
The fact is that the game at Carrow Road marked the start of a six-week period in which City have seven games.
The next one is a Champions League game away in the Ukraine. If De Bruyne had been left out for THAT one and City had not got the result they need, imagine the stink.
The midfield ace inadvertently set this outrage up by performing at an incredible level during Belgium’s 4-0 win in Scotland during the international break, scoring one and notching three assists.
Yet everyone knows that, barring injury, he will start most of those games.
He would play 90 minutes in every game if he was allowed to do so, and in the past Guardiola has indulged him, with serious consequences.
Resting him for a game which it seemed City would win at a canter, even had they played a full second string, was an obvious option, especially as he had played 166 of the 180 minutes Belgium played.
Guardiola had Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva rested and ready, two players who both performed brilliantly last season.
It seems that on those rare occasions when the football gods decide Manchester City should lose a game, a scapegoat is needed.