A conspicuous absence of the ‘C’ word at the Etihad Stadium should see Manchester City emerge as heroes and not villains, in the penultimate game of this, the most pulsating of Premier League finales.
Complacency is the only conceivable obstacle to a City win that would send them two points clear at the top of the table tonight. Anything less than maximum points would be a self-inflicted football crime and one that would herald the unleashing of a thousand – maybe 47,000+ – curses on Manuel Pellegrini and his merry men.
In a season where the leading protagonists have repeatedly failed to hold the racing line when in pole position, City simply cannot afford any more blow outs or engine failures.
The resident ‘Engineer’ needs to have his machine purring to perfection and running on slicks, albeit minus a key component in the shape of Sergio Aguero.
By and large Pellegrini has been denied the plaudits that should have been forthcoming for his team’s expansive and attractive style of play, and his personal approach to the game.
The Chilean’s measured comments, non-controversial and hardly ever inflammatory, don’t make for sensational sound bites, cheap copy or misleading headlines.
Time and time again we hear the football journalists ridiculing Pellegrini’s press conferences, labelling them as dull, underwhelming affairs, and the man himself as uninspiring.
Far better that they can feed off the daily diet of bile and venom from Mourinho and the false modesty and sickly gushings of Rodgers, as he rides the crest of the Liverpool love-fest wave.
Where’s Roberto Mancini when the red top tabloids and sneaky Sky cameras most need a bust-up with Balotelli, a Hart-attack or flashpoints of unrest from Manchester City’s squad of millionaire mercenaries?
Surely it’s a veritable scandal that City have a team leader who carries himself with calm self assurance, underpinned by his ability to imbue his players with confidence, even when all hope has seemingly evaporated?
If – IF – City can win their next two games, Pellegrini will have presided over the single most successful season in the club’s long, and at times, illustrious history.
Never before have City been champions of England and claimed an additional major honour in the same campaign. And yet, to all intent and purposes, Pellegrini isn’t even on the ballot paper for the Manager of the Year Award.
Populist voting has it as a two-horse race between Queen Brenda of Anfield and Pulis the Pugilist of the Palace.
Admittedly, City fans would joyously have joined in with any proclamations of ‘Pulis for President’ on Monday night, after that amazing three-goal fight back, but how can our Manuel be ignored in his debut season in England?
Doubtless the self effacing man from Santiago is happy to let his team do his talking on the field, so there’s no room for anyone forgetting their lines between now and Sunday evening.
Complacency is definitely a no-no tonight but so too is the over analysis of the ifs, buts and maybe scenarios, based on the outcome of the match.
Perspective and balance are the order of the day. City are playing Aston Villa, a team they have beaten 10 out of the last 11 times in the PL in Manchester. City have outscored their opponents by 107 goals in all competitions this season. City have the best home record in the league and Villa have picked up just two points from their last seven away games, losing their last four.
Yes, this is a season of shock results like no other, but let’s get real here. Don’t even entertain the horrible notion of ‘Typical City’, don’t dwell on goal difference on the last day of the season – City have a title to win and they can do so by winning more points than their 19 opponents since last August.
Revenge need not be one of the motivations this evening, there’s a much bigger reward to be had, but having somehow contrived to lose 3-2 at Villa Park back in late September, it’d be satisfying to balance the books.
Even the dazed and giddy Villa fans couldn’t quite fathom how they’d managed to eclipse City on the day.
Paul Lambert’s side are free from any relegation worries so will go one of either two ways tonight. In football parlance they might already be ‘on the beach’ or, alternatively they might ‘feel free to express themselves’ and chuck a dirty big Brummie spanner in the works.
Provided Pellegrini has prepared his team correctly, and learned the bitter lessons from undoubtedly underestimating ‘lesser’ opponents earlier in the campaign, City will win.
Any win 1-0, 2-0, whatever, the margin of victory is largely irrelevant. Unlike Liverpool, who were undone by a certain naivety on Monday when trying to reduce City’s +9 goal difference advantage, City just need to outscore Villa.
The icing on the cake comes if Dzeko, Yaya, Nasri, Silva & Co can conjure up eight goals in the remaining two fixtures to break Chelsea’s PL record of 103.
If they can net four tonight they hit a century milestone and overtake ‘breathtaking, gorgeous, unbelievable…’ Liverpool’s attacking haul of 99.
That’ll have commentator Martin Tyler, the Sky pundits and the football journo’s hailing Manuel and Manchester City as the best thing since sliced bread won’t it…well, maybe not.
But do we care? In truth, yes, I suppose we do. Why should City be discriminated against when the media would have warmly welcomed Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal as deserving champions?
In a plural interpretation of dear departed Mario’s puzzler: ‘Why Always Us?’
In truth we know why, it’s because Sheikh Mansour chose City for his investment portfolio and immediately transformed us into ‘football’s most hated’.
It’s why the morally corrupt UEFA hierarchy wants to punish City to the tune of £50m and handicap our playing numbers in the Champions League next season. How the hell do they arrive at £50m – a figure equal to City’s trading losses of 2012-13?
City’s business model, whereby losses are more or less halved year-on-year, while revenues climb at a healthy gradient, is not one that should be held to account by petty, punitive minds.
It should be respected by a bunch of bungling bureaucrats who are more interested in preserving the interests of a historic cartel of greedy, influential clubs, most of whom are laden with huge debts.
The inherently well-intentioned principles of Financial Fair Play have been bastardised to grotesque and unacceptable proportions. The basic principle of safeguarding clubs from extinction due to the reckless spending and behaviour of gung-ho owners is well founded.
That scenario is in no way applicable to Manchester City, where the Abu Dhabi based owners have made huge investments to benefit club and community and absorbed all debt.
One can only hope that City are prepared to do in the courts what the team does on the pitch – ‘Fight ‘Till the End’.
Victory over Villa will be a giant step towards Vincent Kompany holding the PL trophy aloft on Sunday afternoon.
Flicking a dirty big ‘V’ two-fingered salute to UEFA would hail the start of a process to restore the romance into football, transforming it into a place where dreams can, and sometimes do, come true.
Prior to August 2008, City fans never in their wildest imaginings thought Manchester City would be champions of England once, let alone twice or more in their lifetime.
It would be utterly detestable if UEFA were allowed to effectively break European business law, and deprive others of those self same opportunities.
City have to make the most of their good fortune and the best way of doing so is to give Sheikh Mansour the kudos of being the owner of the Champions of England for a second time in three years and one big ‘C’ word – CONGRATULATIONS!
By David Walker
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