BORUSSIA DORTMUND 1 MAN CITY 0 – Shifting sands at City?

Manchester City’s Champions League exit is ignominious in the extreme, but City’s owners must not cross the proverbial line in the Abu Dhabi sand where Roberto Mancini is concerned.

Yes, it hurts like hell that the champions of England have slithered out of contention in such an insipid fashion, but this is a time for perspective and patience – we’re Manchester City NOT Chelsea.

Revered from the terraces, Mancini’s achievements over the past 18 months should not be blurred by a lacklustre CL campaign that is the polar opposite of City domination within these shores.

A win against hated rivals the Trafford Troglodytes on Sunday will see City back at the top of the Premier League, unbeaten in 38 games at the Etihad, and equalling their all time best run in the top flight, that of 22 matches undefeated.

Admittedly there are ways and means of exiting Europe’s showcase competition, and a winless programme of three draws and three defeats (the only English champions never to record a CL victory) is, contrary to what Mancini says, embarrassing.

The inquests will doubtless rage long and hard in the opulent corridors of the United Arab Emirates, but the passionate Italian deserves more time and, dare I say it, transfer funds, in his quest for European domination.

There’s a difference between blind faith and loyalty, but Mancini simply must be afforded the opportunity to emulate last season’s Premier League success and, who knows, even an FA Cup double?

Greater minds than this fair scribe will have to ‘fix’ whatever it is that afflicts City once they fly beyond these fair Isles, but history and commonsense tells us that they are not unique in early CL failings.

The quintessential difference is the willingness of the rabid anti-MCFC media to somehow make City a special case in terms of vitriolic comment and venomous spite.

Let’s not delude ourselves, City fell way way short of what they could and should have achieved. Yes they suffered the misfortune of a second consecutive ‘Group of Death’ but it’s ‘big boys and long trousers time’ and they should have given a much better account of themselves.

It’s no good pointing to the absence of the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, James Milner and an entire back four for the dismal display in Dortmund.

The Germans elected to play a virtual second string themselves, having already qualified as Group winners, so let there be no straw-clutching.

City had looked comfortable, without carrying any real goal-scoring threat, in front of a boisterous 62,000 full house at the wonderfully impressive Westfalenstadion.

An unconventional City starting XI – but nonetheless packed with ‘star’ internationals – began to look decidedly shaky as the second half degenerated into another instalment of ‘Joe versus the Germans’ as Hart produced save after save.

He was blameless when Dortmund’s stand-in striker Julian Schieber connected with a wicked right wing cross from the impressive Jakub Blaszczykowski in the 56th minute, putting the hosts one up.

It then became a case of the margin of Dortmund’s deserved victory as City looked about as interested as an Israeli vegetarian at an all you can eat bacon, ham & pork buffet.

The question remains, did City, despite Mancini’s endorsement of the Europa League, really want to distract themselves from the priority of retaining the PL?

Not for the first time in recent matches, Mancini gave all four of his strikers the chance to be the hero, but the misfiring quartet of Dzeko, Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli came up short.

Mario came in for excessive abuse, having had the temerity to score the goals that eliminated ‘The Motherland’ from Euro 2012, when his sublime performance saw Italy as 2-1 victors over Germany.

Sadly he was unable to reproduce a similar outcome, instead earning a booking for dissent in the dying seconds.

City can and will recover from this latest CL setback, especially if they can sweep all before them in England, making Mancini the most successful manager in the club’s long and, not always so illustrious, history.

The ex-Barcelona executive team of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain must back their manager in the January transfer window to facilitate a second successive PL title. A failure to do so could be construed as a lack of faith and a welcoming mandate for Pep Guardiola.

Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak don’t hire losers and Roberto Mancini has, thus far, proved to be a winner. At the very least he should be actively supported by both word and deed for the rest of the season.

Then, and only then, should a review of any shifting sands take place.

Forza Mancini.


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