‘F’ in Manchester! – Man City 0 Stoke City 1

A certain ‘F’ word was prominent in the vocabulary ringing around the Etihad Stadium less than 48 hours ago.

The Champions of England had huffed and puffed but failed to penetrate a wall of well marshalled red and white stripes, succumbing to a shock home defeat to Mark Hughes’ Stoke City.

Another ‘F’ word was on the lips of Manchester City fans as it appeared that Colombia’s finest, high grade export would have supporters snorting with joy tonight.

Falcao - Will he be playing for Manchester City or Manchester United this season?

Falcao – Will be playing for Manchester United this season.

Bookmakers were offering odds of 1/5 on Falcao heading to City to replace Valencia bound Alvaro Negredo, but that’s all changed with a deal being sealed at 3am that takes the 28-year old Monaco hitman to The Swamp.

The striker would have beefed up an attack that failed to score at the Etihad for only the second time in 71 Premier League home games, as the men from the Potteries bogged down City’s title defence.

Negredo – The Beast – a popular player with the fans, could still go back home to Spain on a season long loan, with a mandatory clause for the men from the Mestalla to pay £27m next summer on a permanent deal.

Popular Beast - Is it 'adios' Alvaro? Courtesy @MCFC

Popular Beast – Is it ‘adios’ Alvaro? Courtesy @MCFC

It appears domestic woes got the better of on-field success for City’s favourite Beastie Boy, as Mrs Negredo – Clara – declared that the balmy climes of Manchester weren’t for her.

If he goes, he does so as a Premier League winner, having secured a place in the hearts of all Blues fans forever and a day.

But – and it’s a large BUT – this is transfer deadline day and anything goes.

Negredo fan - Pellegrini doesn't want to lose The Beast. Mrs Negredo wants him to go back to Spain. Courtesy@MCFC

Negredo fan – Pellegrini doesn’t want to lose The Beast. Mrs Negredo wants him to go back to Spain. Courtesy@MCFC

First of all Falcao was going to Real Madrid – his dream destination on a season long loan with a view to a permanent transfer. City then stepped in with a near £40m bid, said to be payable in full in one go, subject to Negredo’s departure and ratification from UEFA that City weren’t breaching their Financial Fair Play penalty.

Falcao and Monaco appeared to have agreed this deal but now the Trafford Troglodytes have taken advantage of the FFP constraints imposed on City. The Reds are said to be paying £20m for a one year loan deal including the player’s wages, but then again you have to pay daft prices when your only European interest is Swansea away!

Falcao is a class act, but he’ll be 29 in February and hasn’t played that much since returning from the injury players fear the most – the dreaded damage to the anterior cruciate ligament.

Injured - Falcao is carried off with the serious knee injury that is alleged to have prevented him joining both Real Madrid & Manchester City.

Injured – Falcao is carried off with the serious knee injury that is alleged to have prevented him joining both Real Madrid & Manchester City.

United fans are loving the fact that they appear to have put one over on City, but appearances can and sometimes are very deceptive.

As transfer deadline day progresses it has emerged that Falcao would never have considered either City or United had he not allegedly failed not one, but two, medicals in Madrid. It has subsequently been alleged that it was City who then declined the deal to take Falcao after gaining knowledge of the medical examinations.

The Colombian is due to take a medical in Manchester this evening, so it’ll be interesting to see how his previously damaged ACL stands up to scrutiny.

Real Madrid was Falcao’s dream move and he was due to go on an initial loan to the Santiago Bernabeu. Falcao is a much superior player to Javi Hernandez who is now leaving Old Trafford to go on a season long loan to…Real Madrid. Why have Hernandez over Falcao?

Something doesn’t pass muster in this equation.

Red Connection - Ex Manure player and former City boss Mark Hughes took the spoils.

Red Connection – Ex Manure player and former City boss Mark Hughes took the spoils.

At least all this transfer bunkum provides a welcome distraction to the disappointment of Saturday’s unexpected reversal.

Bad day - Joe was culpable for Stoke's winning goal. Courtesy@MCFC

Bad day – Joe was culpable for Stoke’s winning goal. Courtesy@MCFC

Manchester City used to be expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They weren’t just good losers they were peerless, as they plummeted down the leagues.

As Mark Hughes revelled in the win, Manuel Pellegrini’s side had to learn how to be gracious – rather than ‘good’ – losers, face up to their deficiencies and heed some harsh tactical lessons.

The modern day version of City is light years away from the City of old, the club renowned for their unique ability to shoot themselves in the foot, but it all went horribly wrong against, of all people, Hughes, the most embittered ex-Etihad employee of recent times.

Irritating - Crouch and his team mates frustrated City. Courtesy@MCFC

Irritating – Crouch and his team mates frustrated City. Courtesy@MCFC

For once Pellegrini, the sage-like Engineer, couldn’t get his machine to run true as it coughed and spluttered against a well drilled and highly disciplined 10-man Stoke defence.

Hughes’ tactics cannot have come as a surprise to City. The former City boss had said pre-match that his team had to ‘stay in the game’ e.g. defend, harass and contain the Sky Blues’ free flowing attack.

Hardly a declaration of attacking intent, and yet the hosts just could not find a way though, around, over or even under the men from the Potteries resolute rearguard.

With 73% possession, 16 shots – only two on target – and 11 corners, City failed to score against a team which, historically, always cracked under pressure in the Premier League at the Etihad.

Game over - 1-0 and Stoke snatched the win. Courtesy@MCFC

Game over – 1-0 and Stoke snatched the win. Courtesy@MCFC

Previously it had been six defeats and no goals scored, but that all changed in the 58th minute when Mame Biram Diouf raced 70 yards, virtually unchallenged, before embarrassing Joe Hart to win the game.

City could and should have had a late penalty when Yaya Toure – the most likely City player to score on this duff team performance – was felled in the Stoke box.

Ref, Lee Mason – a self confessed Manchester United fan – saw it differently, booking the Ivorian for diving.

Admittedly City were poor by their own imperious standards, but Mason, so often the scourge of City, performed to his usual woefully inept (that’s being generous and we have libel laws that must be observed) level.

Best of a poor show - Yaya came closest to scoring for City. Courtesy@MCFC

Best of a poor show – Yaya came closest to scoring for City. Courtesy@MCFC

He couldn’t even get his vanishing spray to work!

Stoke could argue that Kolarov’s first half challenge on Diouf merited a penalty, but the big Senegalese international fell quicker than Man Utd’s share price when Edward Woodward was entrusted with the Old Trafford transfer fund.

Diouf could have compounded City’s misery and made it 2-0, but he just failed to connect with Odemwingie’s cross.

City were suffocated by a Stoke side who denied them space and opportunity. It would all have been so different had Yaya’s first half strike been a fraction lower, rather than hitting the bar.

Toure tested Begovic in the second half, but it was one of only two occasions the Bosnian keeper was called upon.

No go - Sergio's sensational scoring record came to a halt. Courtesy@MCFC

No go – Sergio’s sensational scoring record came to a halt. Courtesy@MCFC

The 38th minute loss of Fernando to a suspected groin strain could ultimately have cost City the match. The holding midfielder has already shown his talent at shielding City’s back four to great effect.

Had he been on the field instead of the increasingly haphazard Fernandinho, Diouf wouldn’t have had the free pass to City’s goal. That still wouldn’t excuse Joe Hart’s horrendous attempt to prevent the winning goal.

Pellegrini said the Stoke goal was ‘too easy’ and with ex-Malaga man Willy Caballero waiting in the wings, Joe will not have the luxury of too many mistakes before he’s benched.

Big loss - Fernando's departure was a massive blow. Courtesy@MCFC

Big loss – Fernando’s departure was a massive blow. Courtesy@MCFC

It would be easy to put this rare defeat down to the proverbial ‘bad day at the office’ but City cannot afford to allow their attacking armoury to be so easily blunted by ‘lesser’ but well organised ‘bus parking’ teams.

Zabaleta’s marauding overlapping play was a big miss as Bacary Sagna made his debut. City pepped up when Jesus Navas was introduced as a second half sub, adding width to the attack, but it wasn’t enough.

Bad day - Bacary Sagna won't have enjoyed his debut. Courtesy@MCFC

Bad day – Bacary Sagna won’t have enjoyed his debut. Courtesy@MCFC

It’s often said you learn more about your team in defeat than in victory. Manuel Pellegrini is an intuitive individual and will apply his version of WD40 to oil his Manchester City machine back to full working order.

There’ll be no ‘F’ in Manchester City this transfer deadline day but, when it comes to phonetics, there’s plenty of ‘fs’ in trophies and City are still in for an ‘effing’ good season with silverware aplenty.



By David Walker

Dedicated to the two people who make my life worth living; Jack Walker, 25 years old today and the best son a father could hope for, and my beautiful wife, Debi, who has somehow stayed married to me for 29 years as of yesterday. Surely the Parole Board will give her a break in the 30th year?


Love you both and we’re all CTWD.


www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu


  1. September 1, 2014  11:21 am by Will Reply

    Great read David, stumbled upon the article after the usual media trawling after a game.
    As a Potters fanatic, I know, glutton for punishment, I always look forward to the 2 Cities game. Great respect for the current squad you have, talent in abundance, a pleasure to watch. Hopefully in time the game will be more open and somewhat better on the eye, although playing to your strengths has to be a key ingredient. What hasn't been mentioned in the article was the pace of your back line. I don't know if its a fitness thing or just bad luck but Diouf running the distance he did without a proper challenge must be concerning.
    Cant wait for the next encounter. Good luck for this year.

    • September 1, 2014  1:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      Cheers Will - always good to hear an opposition viewpoint. Man City seem strangely 'rusty' at the moment and Diouf's breakaway should've been halted by means fair or foul, after 20 yards or 50 yards with Kolarov or Fernandinho, even Joe Hart, taking one for the team. Hopefully Eliaquim Mangala will address the pace issue once he's ready for selection. I can't pretend to have any affection for your team - sorry - but I can't complain too much about the result, apart from the obvious Yaya penalty shout.

      That said we had a great laugh with Stoke fans AFTER the 2011 FA Cup Final in London pub, with Stokies singing Blue Moon and our lot singing Delilah. It's all done now so enjoy your victory and we'll see you at the Britannia later in the season. Cheers.

  2. September 1, 2014  11:25 am by carole Reply

    Good analysis David...your remark about the 'increasingly haphazard' Fernandhino especially apt. His horrendous performances in Brazil - and the criticism he got - seem to have wrecked his confidence and I do wonder when he's likely to actually start a match for us again. He cost an awful lot of money...MP's 'star' acquisition...but it has never been clear exactly what his role IS. Even Scolari wasn't sure....reckless in DM better in attack. But is there room for him any more? Team looks far better with just Fernando in it...

    • September 1, 2014  2:07 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Carole - Fernando looks the real deal but Fernandinho looks nomadic.

  3. September 1, 2014  12:21 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    Not the response I was hoping to send this morning.
    I like to think I am not overly tribal but fair minded, so with gritted teeth have got to say that Mr Hughes got it right.
    With Kolarov not having his best attaking game and Ya Ya seemingly in laconic mode at times, the outcome had an air of inevitability. City's tip tap tip tap and at times crablike game was never going to work against the well organised Stokies and it was only when Navas came on we had any pace, but it was too little too late. When Fernando departed Peter Crouch (what a good game he had) became more conspicuous and Stoke always looked capable of counter attack, and had Fernando still been on the pitch it is doubtful weather Diouf would have had all that time and room for Joe Hart to highlight his sometimes questionable goalkeeping.
    As for Fernandinho - I do agree his Brazil horror show has knocked his confidence.
    As we are at the other end of the ground to the Ya Ya penalty claim it would be unfair of me to comment. I didn't watch the MOTD highlights (were there any !) - two hours of Springsteen and REM seemed a better choice. Suffice it to say if the respectful Manuel intimated that in the context of the game as a whole it isn't an issue then it is good enough for me, though no doubt privately he has crossed Mason off his Christmas card list. How unlike SAF who always publically blamed the referee when ManU had a bad day.
    Can't say I am disappointed that we have not got Falcao. My only concern would be if The Beast goes we would need another striker as Aguero and Jovetic are always likely to miss games through injury

    Oh what I would give to be 25 again !

    • September 1, 2014  2:35 pm by David Walker Reply

      Beast is still likely to go as his domestics are up sh*t creek with Clara. Given he was out injured until mid-late October we're talking a six week benefit of keeping him when he so obviously wants to go back to Spain because of his family. City will maybe go with three forwards. Negredo fee of £22m next summer, money for Nasty Sinclair, Richards and Guidetti be it loan fees, permanent or deferred monies e.g. Gareth Barry deal, would mean City have a big pot of money in Jan window. Ross Barkley - if fully recovered at £40m? Overpriced, but if you have to have homegrown you may as well have the best. Cheers RC. BTW Yaya 'dive' was actually a stonewall penalty.

  4. September 1, 2014  12:58 pm by Simon Dear Reply

    Put perfectly David .too many below par performers . . Harts first mistake 3 games in .. Here we go again , hope I'm wrong . Sagna - maybe he's not fully match fit but neither was Zabs the other night and the gulf between them both is clear as day . Based on this performance anyway .. Never offered any penetration .
    thought the game cried out for Milner - made the wrong subs for me , Aguero ( another not fully fit ) should have made way for Dzeko , Jovetic always looked lively around the box and it was a matter of time before he unlocked the door . Kolarov should have took a booking to stop the goal . Can't blame Fernandinho he was already on one and would have been red carded. - Yaya foul was as clearer pen that I've ever seen from 25 yards away with my own eyes. - should have got us out of jail . We've been here before , the reaction will come at the right time with Arsenal, Bayern & Chelsea next up .
    Just re Falcao - I can't believe a player of his obvious talent would not have the utmost desire to play UCL - especially after just missing the WC due to a career threatening injury - think you might be right about dodging a bullet . Let the rags pander to his every whim , its winners that we need now - not wannabes!

    • September 1, 2014  2:45 pm by David Walker Reply

      I have an update on Falcao shortly which I think you'll enjoy.

  5. September 1, 2014  6:37 pm by Gary Derbyshire Reply

    Great article again, David. Although we huffed and puffed, once stoke scored it just had the feeling that we could've played til midnight and we still wouldn't have scored. Mainly due to the fact that although we had virtually all the possession, Begovic in the stoke goal hardly had to make any saves at all. It would be more palatable if he'd had a "worldy", but that wasn't the case. Maybe the blues thought that by just turning up that the 3 points were guaranteed but as we, and city, should all know that this is rarely the case and 95% of all victories have to be earned. The ease in which the stoke player scored was quite alarming and hopefully this was merely a blip and the "machine" will be back to its best again after the international break. As the great Curtis Mayfield once sang, gotta keep on keepin' on… #TrustOurMP

    • September 1, 2014  7:39 pm by David Walker Reply

      Joe Hart had better start 'keep on keepin' a darn sight better and PDQ. I'm a big Hart supporter but that feeble attempt to save was unacceptable from a player of his calibre. That said he wasn't to blame for the defeat - we win #TOGETHER and we lose #TOGETHER. I agree, I do think complacency had crept in and that's unforgivable by all involved, including MP. At least Arsenal, Bayern and Chelsea fixtures should have us on our toes.

  6. September 1, 2014  9:43 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    A disappointing display on the day, but credit to Stoke for their tactical discipline, and they left their mark from time to time on Saturday as well ;-) Time to move on, and it's a bit of a pain that there's two weeks before we get the chance to rectify this setback.

    • September 2, 2014  7:02 am by David Walker Reply

      Yes, a defeat before the international break is always a blow as it lingers like a bad smell. On the bright side, hopefully Fernando has time to repair before we go the The Emirates.

  7. September 1, 2014  10:19 pm by Glenn Kavanagh Reply

    Hi David nice read what can you say about that performance? The fans didn't really seem "into it" a pity to see so many leaving before the end of the game - spoilt perhaps?? If city let negredo go ii be very very disappointed I think he's a smashing player....who are they going to replace him with? especially with Sergio & jovetic injury record' hart was dreadful for the goal I've lost confidence in him a little bit (sorry) I like the guy but the hollowers are all massive ones now, I would like navas to start more games his goal assits are excellent - I can't cheer for yaya no more he's finished with me after all his stupid carry on, thanks for everything big man see you later bud - I hate sh*t like that, fair play to Hughes & stoke well deserved win by them - if we "defend" like that in c.l we'll be distroyed' I agree about fern he looks off the pace...is he really that slow?? Worth a yellow card (or red) zaba would take the red (fa cup....Barry pass) come back zaba my all time favorite city man' we missed him big time, a long wait till the next game - we can't get too greedy now can we?? I hope Fernando is OK he looks like a monster player for us already fingers x.

    • September 2, 2014  7:07 am by David Walker Reply

      Can't disagree with much in there GK. Yes we have been spoilt and a perspective is needed, but it was a dire showing. Not too many more of those please MCFC. Thanks for your feedback.

  8. September 2, 2014  12:36 am by Susan Bookbinder Reply

    Love your honesty within beautiful and informed writing, as always, David.

    • September 2, 2014  7:04 am by David Walker Reply

      Thank you kind lady most generous and, coming from a professional and talented journalist such as yourself, it means so much more. #Gratitude.

  9. September 2, 2014  10:52 am by Toby Teasdale Reply

    Sorry to disagree with you David, but I think you are wrong to castigate Hart for Stokes goal. Arms and legs akimbo, head high he made himself as big as possible. Diouf placed the ball where all good players do. Goal and cut to welsh tenor Hughes warbling 'Mame, how I love you....)! If anyone is to blame it is Kolarov, who should have taken one for the team, and carted Diouf 50 yards earlier.

    Whilst Kolarov disappointed, Sagna (IMO) looked unfit, completely out of his depth and worth every penny we paid for him. On Saturday's showing Zabaleta is not going to be short of game time this season.

    Talking unfit for service, how does that prejudiced, patently portly (42" waist) ‘pantsman’, Mason get to referee at any level? Maybe the clues in the name, he's a joke.

    Happy returns to son Jack. On Thursday I'll send him a slice of my cake (Virgo's intacto and all that) minus candles of course! At 25, maybe you should let him write the occasional piece reflecting perhaps a younger slant?

    Take care and thanks for the hard work.

    • September 2, 2014  12:03 pm by David Walker Reply

      As ever TT, thought provoking feedback - thank you. Agree to disagree on Joe, but as one in that AK47 should've taken a shot at Diouf. The image of Leslie cutting a tune is hilarious, almost as funny as the unfunny handjob of a referee - I take it that is what you're referring - with the not so 'free' Mason. I wonder what the going rate is for a user-friendly 'free' Mason. Intrigued about the boy's cake...where to send I wonder? And finally, the boy creates cars from clay and is destined to be one of the world's finest. I am not good with clay and, on a similar basis, the heir to the Walker millions will not be writing RBNR - #YoungerSlantMyArse - you get what you get! ;-)

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