What a mess from start to finish!
How and why have Manchester City found themselves in a position where – just 12 months on from winning the Premier League – they’re back being savaged and ridiculed by their many detractors?
You would be hard pressed to find a more passionate supporter of Manchester City Football Club than I, so it saddens me immensely to witness what has unfolded over the past 36 hours.
Obviously, inexplicably, we lost an FA Cup Final to Wigan Athletic – a major shock and one that will take some time to fully absorb. That said, let’s not detract from Wigan’s achievement, their commitment and application and the fact that they thoroughly deserved their victory.
It spoke volumes for City that Kompany and Co and a large portion of the massive City support at Wembley, stayed and stood in the rain to acknowledge and applaud Wigan as they collected the Cup. Not many teams have been so magnanimous in recent years.
That does, however fail to address the fundamental question as to what the hell happened to what appeared – on paper – to be City’s strongest possible line-up?
The match kicked off against a horrible backdrop of rumour, gossip and innuendo – subsequently proven to be just about on the money – about the imminent departure of Roberto Mancini.
A year ago – almost to the day – Mancini was a footballing God on the blue side of Manchester. The ‘Aguerooooooooo’ moment was etched indelibly into the conscience of every football fan – let alone City fan – in the country, after THE most breathtaking climax ever to a domestic football season.
City’s first title in 44 years followed hot on the heels of an FA Cup win that ended a 35-year trophy drought, and the Italian boss was handed a new five-year contract to start a blue Mancunian dynasty.
An underwhelming summer in the transfer market didn’t bode well and Mancini made it known that City had failed to acquire his primary targets of Danielle De Rossi and Robin Van Persie.
City, cognisant of the demands of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, always knew it was maybe a case of one step back to take two steps forwards and, set against that, it was always going to be a tough challenge retaining their title.
It was made all the harder by a lack of goals and an infuriating habit of going AWOL as City squandered points at the likes of West Ham, QPR, Sunderland, Southampton, Everton and more recently Spurs.
A second consecutive exit at the Group stage – albeit a second ‘Group of Death’ – of the Champions League, eroded Mancini’s standing, but the consensus was that City were looking long-term and were no knee-jerk reactionaries.
A third major trophy in three years was within City’s grasp until yesterday evening, but the stories of Manuel Pellegrini’s imminent appointment were rampant long before Ben Watson headed Wigan’s winner in added time.
Wigan’s win meant the resurrection of an odious tag that many thought banished forever from the vocabulary of the average MCFC fan – ‘Typical City’. How wrong can you be?
Ten years ago, City played their final ever game at Maine Road amid great pomp, fanfare and ceremony, before switching to what was then, the City of Manchester Stadium.
It rained all day and City lost 1-0 to Southampton – Typical City!
A year ago City were trailing 2-1 in added time, when all they needed was a home win against relegation-threatened QPR – ‘Typical City’ on a gargantuan scale!
But, remarkably NO, it wasn’t to be, and Dzeko and Aquero delivered THE most unforgettable comeback in the history of Manchester City.
And so to Wembley 2013, with City as red hot favourites to overcome relegation-haunted Wigan.
The malicious Fergie-fawning media have had the knives out all season for Mancini and City, feasting on every drop of poison, every shard of snide insinuation and every scrap of malice.
For some reason, City haven’t helped themselves in the face of such a formidable, foaming foe. Player disharmony, and a growing detachment from their seemingly autocratic manager, has gathered momentum as the season has unraveled.
The old cliché ‘ he’s lost the dressing room…’ appears to be true of Mancini as he teeters on exiting City. I won’t pretend to know or understand why relations between players and the manager – many of whom were brought in by Mancini – have degenerated so badly.
It’s alleged that the City boss didn’t even go into the dressing room following the Wembley defeat, so what the hell has gone on and/or is going on?
The irony is that as Sir Alex Ferguson (see, I do know his proper name and title) retires and Manure head into a time of change under David Moyes, it had looked as though City, for once, would have the stability to forge ahead and press home the advantage of some potentially, very productive transfer dealings.
If, as seems likely, Mancini is leaving City – either resigning or being fired – then it’s odds on that Pellegrini is coming in as his successor.
Malaga’s eminent Chilean coach has a reputation for playing attractive, expansive football and, importantly, for being able to nurture young talent through the ranks.
He produced great results with Villarreal both in La Liga and the Champions League, and with Malaga, came within 120 seconds of eliminating the brilliant Borussia Dortmund from the CL quarter finals this season.
Highly rated by City’s new executive team of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, Pellegrini is believed to have been a leading contender for the Barcelona job when Pep Guardiola stepped down.
The ex-Barca men are known to want to replicate the success of Barcelona’s academy – La Masia ‘The Farmhouse’ – and see Pellegrini as being more adept than Mancini.
It is expected Pellegrini will bring his Spanish midfield protégé – Isco – to the Etihad from La Rosaledo Stadium, with Uruguayan hit man, Edinson Cavani, also set to sign from Napoli in the next few days.
Soriano and Begiristain presided over Barcelona in their most recent glorious past, so who is to say they’re not putting together a blueprint for sustained Manchester City success in the coming years?
What City fans have a problem with, is the apparent manner of Mancini’s imminent departure. Here is a man who has taken City to heights that even the most avid Blue Mooners dared not dream.
His name blasts out from the terraces, he is revered by the overwhelming majority of City supporters – success-starved fans who are forever in his debt for delivering an FA Cup and Premier League title over the past couple of years.
Roberto Mancini is a rare breed – a Manchester City Manager who the fans do NOT want to see go, a manager who has delivered silverware and one who most would be happy to see continue next season.
Admittedly the shameful showing yesterday – amidst all the shenanigans surrounding the manager – hardly helped Mancini’s cause, but in truth Cup-win or no Cup-win, it all appears to have been academic – Roberto was on his way out.
Of the 14 City players who took to the field of play – it would be an offence under the Trades Descriptions Act to imply that they actually ‘played’ – nine were Mancini acquisitions.
It beggars belief that an entire team can underperform in unison – but of course, that’s what happened. Were they fearful that if they won the Cup it might earn Mancini a reprieve?
Not one player should be able to look in a mirror and feel they gave a decent account of themselves. Nine times out of 10, City should have won – that’s neither arrogance or sour grapes – simply a fact.
Yes, Cup shocks happen under the auspices of the ‘Magic of the Cup’. Well City added to the illusion, conjuring up a trick of their own – all the buggers disappeared!
There’s no need for me to perpetuate the misery by relaying a commentary of the match, suffice to say Wigan were worthy winners. What possessed City, for 93 lacklustre minutes only the players can possibly know.
The faith of many City fans has been shaken by the ineptitude of so many associated with the Club.
If Manuel Pellegrini succeeds Roberto Mancini he will get my full support. The manner of Mancini’s exit is not down to him, in the same way Mark Hughes’ botched departure was not of Mancini’s making.
The Italian looks likely to leave with a place in the heart of all City fans and gratitude for his achievements.
I had the pleasure of his company for an evening in January – he was a gentleman and a fine ambassador for City. I wish him every success wherever he goes and would like to say ‘grazi’ for what he has done for my club – Manchester City.
I shall miss him at the helm.