It was ‘all go’ at the Etihad Stadium – Super Frankie Lampard was going west, ‘Jimmy’ Milner was going east (down the East Lancs Road to be precise) and, quite astonishingly, Yaya Toure was going nowhere!
With the Runners-up slot safely secured for the second time in three seasons, Manchester City were going for a sixth win on the spin, a clean sheet so Joe Hart could grab another Golden Glove, whereas Sergio Aguero just wanted to go on scoring goals, with his foot already firmly planted in the Premier League’s Golden Boot.
On the strength of City’s 18 point haul from the final half-a-dozen games, the expectation of ‘crack’ new signings and an upbeat mood emanating from the deposed champions, it looks as if the sitting MP for M11 3FF will be sticking around for a while longer.
The non-availability of Pep Guardiola and the reticence of City to entrust matters to the likes of the available Carlo Ancelotti or Jurgen Klopp, means there is every chance that Manuel Pellegrini will fulfil the final year on his three-year contract.
And why shouldn’t owner Sheikh Mansour and Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak stick with the likeable Chilean?
If City do something they haven’t done since 2011 – have a successful summer transfer window – then there’s no reason why Pellegrini can’t fill up City’s trophy cabinet come this time in 2016.
The unequivocal announcement that Yaya is staying at City – a fortnight after his idiot agent Dimitri Seluk proclaimed it ‘90% certain’ that his client was leaving – took just about everyone by surprise.
Rumour has it that Khaldoon had a one-to-one with the talismanic Ivorian, emphasising his crucial importance to City, as well as outlining the club’s spending plans and immediate transfer targets.
The names of Paul Pogba, Isco, Kevin De Bryune and Raheem Sterling will have demonstrated to Yaya that City mean business next season.
Free from the shackles of UEFA’s dubious Financial Fair Play farce, City are ready to go head-to-head with Europe’s elite and finally assemble a squad fit to cope with the demands of both Premier and Champions League football.
If all, or the majority of that quartet arrive at the Etihad before the end of August, then City are going to be a serious contender on both fronts.
With Sergio Aguero categorically staying put in Manchester – irrespective of the pernicious press briefings of Real Madrid – along with David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart, City are going to be ravenous to put right the shortcomings of last season.
The smart money is on Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic departing, but surprisingly their Balkan colleague, AK47 Kolarov, is staying after dislodging Gael Clichy for the six-game finale to the season.
Massive doubts still remain over where Samir Nasri will be when the transfer window slams shut in September, only time will tell.
With the departures of Lampard and Dedryck Boyata, plus Milner inexplicably ‘bettering himself’ by going to Liverpool, City’s quota of home-grown talent will be threadbare.
It’s a real conundrum for Pellegrini, Director of Football Txiki Begiristain and Chief Executive Officer Ferran Soriano, to source eight domestically nurtured players in a squad of 25.
Nonetheless it has to be done.
City haters love to snipe at the club’s £200m+ City Football Academy, querying where’s the return on investment?
The CFA was never intended to be an ‘overnight’ sensation and provide half of City’s First XI within a matter of months.
The detractors know this, but hey, don’t let the facts ruin a Neanderthal newshound’s chance to have a pop at a regime that is not just transforming the fortunes of a football club, but helping regenerate substantial areas of Manchester.
City’s coaching staff will have to decide whether Academy ‘products’ such as Kelechi Iheanacho, Thierry Ambrose and the returning Rony Lopes, Jason Denayer and Karim Rekik figure in any first team squad plans.
What a massive bonus and source of encouragement it would be if these youngsters were ready, willing and able to contribute to first team glories next season.
City will surely see the best of Wilfried Bony – a proven Premier League goal-taker – next season, so the pending sales of Dzeko and Jovetic – both virtually non-existent this year, can only be beneficial in helping funding the ‘big spend’.
It can’t be lost that despite the minimal contributions of Dzeko and Jovetic, along with Aguero’s 8-game, injury-enforced absence in December and January, City were still the top scorers in the Premier League with 83.
Prima facie the problems came in leaking too many goals – 38 – but that was only six more than the meanest defence, that of champions Chelsea.
Statistically the Goals Against column was not a catastrophe, but the consequences of what Pellegrini described as ‘stupid defending’ and conceding in lamentable defeats at Burnley, Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Manchester United, cost City dearly.
Vincent Kompany’s poor decision-making, Eliaquim Mangala’s difficulties, Pablo Zabaleta’s loss of form and the combined below par efforts of Aleksander Kolarov and Gael Clichy at left back, severely hindered the title defence at various stages of the season.
It didn’t help that Pellegrini constantly rotated his back four options. Only veteran Martin Demichelis emerges with any sustained credit in his 31 PL appearances.
Of course, it’s a team effort but City would do well to examine reinforcing the full back slots.
The central defensive pairing of a re-focused Kompany and a more experienced and less naive Mangala, is surely the way forward…unless Denayer is to stake a claim. Demichelis would expect to play a lesser role in his 35th year.
If a new, expensive CB is on the summer shopping list, it would be an admission of failure in spending an exorbitant £40m+ on a raw Mangala, or, at the risk of committing treason, the beginning of the end of Captain Kompany’s City career.
To finish four and nine points clear of Arsenal and Manchester United respectively, in third and fourth, was something of an achievement when viewed from the wreckage of the Manchester derby defeat.
City languished in fourth spot and there were genuine fears that automatic Champions League qualification would be missed…even worse that the Sky Blues might slump to an unthinkable fifth place.
It didn’t happen because six wins, 18 goals scored and 4 conceded saw City resurgent. It also papered over some of the cracks.
Manuel The Engineer has to become Pellegrini the Plasterer and ensure the 2015/16 campaign goes so much more smoothly, as City seek their third domestic title in five years and progress deep into the knockout stages of the CL.
As last games of the season go – with nothing to be gained other than two individual golden rewards – City’s 2-0 win over Southampton was efficient and entertaining.
Super Frank – and he has been super both in word and deed – scored a glorious 177th Premier League goal, his 8th for City, and earned a suitable send off from a hugely appreciative capacity crowd.
Captain for the day, Lamps was given a deserved standing ovation when he left English football in the 77th minute.
It’s a measure of the man that the City fans took him to their hearts with such gusto. He was carried aloft by his team mates after the final whistle and addressed the supporters in a moving farewell speech. He will be missed.
Yaya made way for fellow countryman Bony in the 66th minute, whereas Milner succumbed to injury in the 79th minute when replaced by Kompany.
It appeared the three substitutions were intended to facilitate final personal ovations for departing players. Appearances can be deceptive, but two of the three were indeed curtain calls in City colours, with Milner moving to Liverpool as of July 1st.
The ‘would he stay or go saga’ with Milner was effectively sealed months ago and the switch to Anfield 99% certain.
A popular player with a large section of the City support, Milner’s main reason for leaving is to play in his favoured position in central midfield – nothing to do with money and ambition then?
As a Bosman free transfer, the England midfielder will pick up a hefty signing on fee which, coupled with his Liverpool salary, would probably eclipse the £165k – a-week allegedly offered by City.
And when it comes to winning titles, the Brenda-inspired Scousers are obviously in a better position than City aren’t they? Good luck James and thanks for your efforts in sky blue.
Back to players who will be staying at City, Sergio did what Sergio does best, scoring his 26th league goal with the simplest of headers from all of two yards.
City’s Golden Boys – Aguero and Hart – received their respective accolades, not that the rest of the country would know, judging by what some might conclude to be spiteful TV editing.
Had it been Courtois and Costa at Chelsea, one can only imagine Match of the Day and Sky creaming themselves to say how wonderful the duo had performed.
And, if that isn’t being paranoid, Jose Mourinho is acclaimed as Manager of the Season for winning the Premier League – recognition denied to both Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini in 2012 and 2014.
It’ll be interesting to see what trumped up criteria is applied when MP is once again denied the individual recognition when he lifts his second Premier League trophy in three years next May.
For that to happen City have to ensure they spend wisely and quickly, securing players with the technical skills, energy levels, hunger and professional application to quickly elevate them back to the top.
Over to you Txiki…go get ‘em!
Dedicated to a true blue soldier Dave Hughes, ex-Cheshire Regiment, former colleague and forever a friend who is facing the biggest battle of his life – that of life itself. Stay strong buddy and beat this thing – City are going to win lots of trophies and you have to be here to witness and enjoy 😉
Dunne & Dusted – A quick mention in dispatches for The Dunney Monster, Dunninho, Richard Dunne who announced his retirement following QPR’s relegation from the Premier League and the expiry of his Loftus Road contract. A four time consecutive City Player of The Season, Dunne was a firm favourite with the City faithful in troubled times, as the club languished in the lower reaches of the league.
An own goal specialist of the highest order, he nonetheless achieved something that very few of the present City squad have ever done – he featured in City sides that twice beat Barcelona…even picking up a trophy in the Nou Camp.
Thanks Richard – we wish you all the very best in your retirement.
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By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu