Manuel minds his own business – Man City v Liverpool

It was the culmination of the media’s Liverpool love-fest, the precursor to Steven Gerrard’s seemingly God given right to win the Premier League, and the climax of the rehabilitation of Luis Suarez, his cannibalistic ways deemed a thing of the past.

It was Sunday April 13, 2014 and 44,000 Scouse supporters had seen their pre-match prophecies of ‘We’re gonna win the league…’ just about come to fruition.

Premature jubilation - Liverpool fans celebrated Premier League success a bit too soon last season.

Premature jubilation – Liverpool fans celebrated Premier League success a bit too soon last season.

It was Brendan Rodgers, the darling of Sky Sports, the master tactician, the man credited with curbing the Uruguayan rodent’s taste for human flesh, taking the plaudits, smugly lording it over the team that was ‘ruining’ football.

It had been Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2 in a titanic top of the table clash.

Rodgers & Out - The Liverpool manager sniped at Man City throughout last season.

Rodgers & Out – The Liverpool manager sniped at Man City throughout last season.

The victors had opened up a seven point lead over Manuel Pellegrini’s men but, despite the Sky Blues having two games in hand and six to play, it was Liverpool’s first Premier League title – wasn’t it?

The reality was premature over jubilation.

Slippy Gee and the Demba Ba ditty was still to come, as was the three-goal capitulation at Crystal Palace and Rodgers’ comeuppance for his constant sniping at City.

Great timing - City clinched the title on the last day of the season.

Great timing – City clinched the title on the last day of the season.

If only opposition managers would focus on their own team and stop sticking their large snouts into Manchester City’s affairs they might fare better.

The snide sneer from Setubal, the poisonous Portuguese who presides over Chelsea also took far too much interest in Manchester City and look where he ended up…back in third place.

One of the many virtues of Manuel Pellegrini is he isn’t easily drawn into the adolescent mutterings of others, the immature so-called ‘mind games’ that an often inane media posse seek to feed upon.

Don't ask daft questions - Manuel is asked his views on Balotelli's time at the Etihad. Courtesy@MCFC

Don’t ask daft questions – Manuel is asked his views on Balotelli’s time at the Etihad. Courtesy@MCFC

A prime example came this week with Mario Balotelli’s imminent return to English football. Pellegrini was questioned about Mario’s time at the Etihad and his propensity for creating dressing room disruption and disharmony.

Did journalists, seeking a sensational line before the Monday night clash, really think the diplomatic Chilean was going to lambast Liverpool’s latest acquisition?

It was puerile, persistent and pathetic and Pellegrini was having none of it.

Cut the chat - Pellegrini is interested in trophies not 'mind games'.

Cut the chat – Pellegrini is interested in trophies not ‘mind games’.

Under the well measured stewardship of Sheikh Mansour, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Ferran Soriano, Txiki Begiristain and Pellegrini himself, Manchester City have become a tabloid journalist’s nightmare.

No controversy, no training ground bust ups and no ill-conceived sound bites.

It’s even reached the stage where The Mirror – of all publications – has written a remarkably positive piece on Pellegrini and City.

Quick, get the author of said piece, Neil Moxley, on Sky’s Sunday Supplement to counter the bile and venom of Messrs Custis, Ogden, Dunn, Ashton, Slater, Smith, Wyatt…the roll call of City haters goes on, albeit with a few exceptions such as Samuel, Winter and Holt.

Super Mario - how City fans best remember Balotelli.

Super Mario – how City fans best remember Balotelli.

But back to Balotelli.

The overwhelming majority of City fans never envisaged Mario returning to the Premier League after leaving in January 2013, to move to his boyhood idols, AC Milan.

He missed Italy, his friends, the food, the culture and it was his dream to play at the San Siro, but this time in the red and black of Milan rather than the blue and black of Inter.

He can’t have forgotten the disgustingly high degree of racism that still persists on the terraces in Serie A, but he probably hadn’t banked on the previously imperious Milan, declining as a powerhouse of Italian football to a veritable outhouse.

Time to go - Mario in despair at Milan.

Time to go – Mario in despair at Milan.

No European competition after finishing 8th, despite a healthy goals-to-games ratio from Mario – 26 in 43 Serie A appearances – it seems Balotelli is unwanted by both the club and, more surprisingly, the fans.

Valued at £25m prior to the World Cup, the fact Milan are selling for £16m speaks volumes. In a recent poll, 70% of responding Milan fans voted that the club should sell.

He hasn’t signed in time to play at the Etihad, thereby depriving the home fans of showing their appreciation to a player, undoubtedly a maverick, but one for whom the majority have a soft spot.

Mad Mario - The bits of Balotelli, City fans would rather forget.

Mad Mario – The bits of Balotelli, City fans would rather forget.

The City faithful have a tendency to let the good, the funny and the outrageous elements override the times Mario went AWOL on the field, was ill-disciplined and sent off, or made front page headlines for the wrong reasons.

He scored 30 goals in 80 games for City with one solitary assist…but what an assist on May 13th, 2012!

Imagine if Aguero had gone down under that 94th minute challenge against QPR. It would have resulted in a last ditch penalty to win the title for City, with everything resting on Mario.

History re-written - If Sergio had gone down in the QPR penalty box it could have been Mario who clinched the title in 2012. Courtesy@MCFC

History re-written – If Sergio had gone down in the QPR penalty box it could have been Mario who clinched the title in 2012. Courtesy@MCFC

He’d have scored – of that there can be next to no doubt – and forevermore the Aguerooooooo moment would have been replaced with Balotelllllliiii!

City fans will wish him well but not his new employers. City can begin ensuring the latter with a home win against a radically re-shaped Pool, after Rodgers’ £120m summer spending spree.

Mario will be absent as will the most expensive defender to come into English football, Eliaquim Mangala.

Defence Chief - Eliaquim Mangala will be missing on Monday night as he works towards full match fitness.Courtesy@MCFC

Defence Chief – Eliaquim Mangala will be missing on Monday night as he works towards full match fitness.Courtesy@MCFC

City’s new import from Porto missed out on pre-season training and, despite being part of the French World Cup squad in Brazil, he lacks match fitness levels.

Pellegrini also needs to decide if Aguero, Zabaleta, Sagna and Lampard come into the reckoning for starting berths or places on the bench.

Even with the transfer market constraints imposed as part of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play penalty, Pellegrini has managed to strengthen key areas of his squad.

New dimension - Fernando had an outstanding debut at Newcastle, now he prepares for the Etihad. Courtesy@MCFC

New dimension – Fernando had an outstanding debut at Newcastle, now he prepares for the Etihad. Courtesy@MCFC

Fernando looked outstanding in the 2-0 triumph on Tyneside, whereas Frank Lampard has been earning rave reviews in training off Vincent Kompany.

World Cup ring rust remains in some quarters, but City’s all round physicality, tactical nous and technical skill will test a Suarez-less Liverpool to the limit.

Dzeko, fresh from signing a new four year deal, is a player reborn, whereas Jovetic is as good a new £22m signing, such was his injury record last season.

Four more years - Edin has earned a well deserved new contract. Courtesy@MCFC

Four more years – Edin has earned a well deserved new contract. Courtesy@MCFC

The early signs are that both Kolarov and Clichy have upped their game and will perform to even higher levels at left back.

The pace of Sterling and Sturridge may see Clichy get the nod with Zabaleta restored at right back, but Pellegrini isn’t one to worry too much about the opposition – quite the reverse.

So far it’s a philosophy that has proven to be a virtue and not a vice, but the £12m acquisition of Fernando could be pivotal in City’s title defence.

Left or right - Clichy has started the new season in good form. Courtesy@MCFC

Left or right – Clichy has started the new season in good form. Courtesy@MCFC

Superior to previous defensive midfield incumbents Garcia and Rodwell, the Brazilian could play with Yaya and Fernandinho in a much more combative midfield selection, as and when required.

It’s a formation more likely to be on show away from the Etihad, when Pellegrini might be tempted to forsake a little bit of flair and finesse for true grit and grind.

He has quality in abundance, with two players more than capable of performing well in every position.

Much changed - City drew 2-2 with Liverpool on the USA pre-season tour before losing on penalties. It'll be a very different looking side on Monday night. Courtesy@MCFC

Much changed – City drew 2-2 with Liverpool on the USA pre-season tour before losing on penalties. It’ll be a very different looking side on Monday night. Courtesy@MCFC

Monday night’s bench could conceivably see seven of this eight waiting in the wings; Aguero, Milner, Fernandinho, Kolarov, Sagna, Navas, Lampard and Caballero. It’s a daunting prospect for the rest of the Premier League.

Will a Liverpool side without Suarez be like a Tottenham team without Gareth Bale? Like Spurs, Liverpool have shelled out the funds from their superstar sale and much more, but are they weakened or strengthened?

Sub or starter - Sergio's gentle introduction to the new season could see him on the bench. Courtesy@MCFC

Sub or starter – Sergio’s gentle introduction to the new season could see him on the bench. Courtesy@MCFC

Lallana is injured, Lambert is usually a sub so only Lovren of the Liverhampton trio seems set to start. New signings Markovic and Moreno could well figure in proceedings.

It may only be the second fixture of the season but Pellegrini is rightly calling it a ‘six pointer’.

City are going for a seventh PL win on the spin, while Liverpool seek to extend to ten, an unbeaten on the road PL sequence during 2014.

It promises to be tight, it should be entertaining, but it won’t be a case for either manager to get ahead of themselves, win lose or draw.

Down but not out - City lost a battle at Anfield but won the PL 'war'.

Down but not out – City lost a battle at Anfield but won the PL ‘war’.

It’s not Pellegrini’s style and hopefully Rodgers has learned lessons and will stick with his laudable Anfield achievements…and keep his conk out of City’s affairs.

 

#TrustOurMP

 

By David Walker

 

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

 

Dedicated to a selfless, incredibly caring and loving young lady – Jen Janes (JJ) – who has been a rock for her Mum in troubled times. Happy 16th Birthday – we’ll get you up to the Etihad in no time at all and give you a day to remember xx

 

30 Comments

  1. August 24, 2014  7:55 pm by Gary Reply

    What an absolutely brilliant piece of writing!

  2. August 24, 2014  7:57 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    Nice pieace Dave as always. I hope we stick it to St Brenden with the pearly whites lost all respect for the twat after his constant sniping at City last season The guy sees his self as a mini jose but like him he should stick to talking about his own team take lessons of MP.As for Mario I loved him at city but he's moved on now I wish him well just not against us. #TrustOurMP

    • August 24, 2014  8:20 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'm with you all the way with that little lot. Cheers Doug.

  3. August 24, 2014  8:04 pm by Andy Bird Reply

    Good write up. Mario is a time bomb waiting to go off. The fans are so excited on his arrival that it is only a matter of time when he has a Mario moment to try and please them. Roll on that day and Brenda spouting his usual rubbish to the media.

      • August 24, 2014  8:31 pm by Andy Bird Reply

        Liam or Noel don't mind the media attention so we should send them to go and do something Mario style with him just for some fun then sit back and watch the media circus...:)

        • August 24, 2014  9:03 pm by David Walker Reply

          Anything to do with Cigarettes & Alcohol? Good call ;-)

  4. August 24, 2014  8:14 pm by anik Reply

    terrific match preview mr.david

  5. August 24, 2014  8:37 pm by Pete Lynch Reply

    Brilliant piece David and sets up mouthwatering clash beautifully. Why does Brendan Rogers grate me so much?

    • August 24, 2014  9:00 pm by David Walker Reply

      It's a gift. Rodgers never used to bother me at Swansea, he seemed a decent enough bloke doing a good job, but since going to Liverpool he can't stop bleating about our bank balance. He's doing a good job at Anfield, but like Wenger, Mourinho and good old BaconFace, they can't help themselves - they just have to try and put the knife in.

  6. August 24, 2014  8:50 pm by Glenn Kavanagh Reply

    Great show that Sunday supplement I do think that custis chap is a bit of a child - he's always trying to be smart with Mr winter - who writes very good columns but somehow manages not to jump out of his chair & deck that itch......not a fan of b.r at all' seems to have a messiah complex going on there' arrogant & loves a snide remark or 10 (he must be a custis fan) Mr pelligreni is a gent - the David niven of football managers' let's keep the talking on the pitch were it matters, very nice article Mr walker nicely balanced (like navas) ha.....come on city...the moon is a blue balloon. ✌

    • August 24, 2014  9:03 pm by David Walker Reply

      Cheers GK - Sunday Supplement should be an entertaining and insightful watch, but sadly when you have total numpties like Andy Dunn and Shaun Custis, who cannot hide their disdain for MCFC, it quickly loses credibility. It was so much better with the sadly departed Brian Woolnough as the host.

  7. August 24, 2014  9:13 pm by Wes Reply

    Great writing as always Dave. We all have a soft spot for Mario, but for me he's at the last chance saloon, next stop Galatasary.

    • August 24, 2014  10:37 pm by David Walker Reply

      Easy to forget Mario is only 24 - he seems to have been on the radar for donkeys yonks (technical term). He's a smashing lad, quite a deep thinker who's had to cope with a lot in life, but it may be that he will never fulfil his true potential. Your Galatasaray call might be worth a little punt!

  8. August 25, 2014  8:21 am by Malcolm HAZELL Reply

    Great article and exactly right. I happened to be on a cruise ship last March, full of Liverpool fans. I sat and watched with them when Liverpool thrashed Spurs. Oh how arrogant they were, singing about how they were going to win the league and beat City, the team ruining football. I had never witnessed so many people be so confident and arrogant about their team, dismissing City out of sight.

    • August 25, 2014  9:10 am by David Walker Reply

      Merci Mr T.

  9. August 25, 2014  8:56 am by Stephen (@lghualways) Reply

    Great read David. Really excited about tonight. Memories of St Brendan going on about money in every interview until having to give faint praise when it was done live long. Modern managers all seem to follow the sir baconface and mourinho school in actively seeking confrontation. I am thrilled we do not have that. Its a classier place and must be a contributory factor to so many signing long term deals. As for match hope you are right re kolarov and Clichy as lb is my only area of concern as think both are good to v good but not great. Not griping but judging purely on all others areas of team/squad, which is great. Enjoy the game and look forward to your summary

  10. August 25, 2014  10:05 am by Graham Ward Reply

    The first of our really big early games. Selection will be interesting, I think Zabaleta will return, with Sagna on the bench.
    The only other change/switch could be Clichy for Kolarov due to his extra pace, otherwise I would go with the rest of the XI that started at Newcastle.
    The season is so full of opportunity that we can afford to ease in the likes of Aguero as we did last week. 2-1 City.

    • August 25, 2014  1:39 pm by David Walker Reply

      You could well be right and yes, I'll take a 2-1 win right this minute!

  11. August 25, 2014  11:59 am by Richard Cooper Reply

    Once again - a super read David
    It is hard to know what to expect from Liverpool due to their changes of personnel.
    From what we saw on the highlights last weekend they seem quite lively up front but will always give you a chance at the back.
    As the papers intimated -"Liverpool still have BITE without Suarez".
    To me our weakness is defending corners, but am expecting a headline of "City EDIN forTitle".
    If Liverpool score (Hopefully not) I don't want to see what we saw last weekend - Bredan jumping up and down and running down the touchline like a sixth-former on exam results day. Calm down man - titles aren't won on game 1 but can be lost on games 36 & 37
    However it should be a great game by 2 of the title contenders
    C'mon City !

    • August 25, 2014  1:41 pm by David Walker Reply

      Hopefully Brenda will be suitably subdued by a City win...but nobody is saying it will be easy, it won't. Sturridge, Sterling and Lambert are dangerous customers. Cheers RC.

  12. August 25, 2014  12:19 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

    ‘Saint Brenda ‘is making Anfield a home for waifs and strays. Merseyside's answer to Mother Theresa (who struck lucky with Suarez), believes he possesses the gift to mend wounded minds and broken spirits (whilst at the same time, making a few bob!). Such conceit!

    Most City fans (me included) have a soft spot for Mario and carry no malice, but this is no return of the prodigal, it's a cry for help! Balotelli’s 'Why always me?', a perfect match for the dippers ‘'Why always us?' victimhood.

    Nobody can deactivate Mario's self-destruct button, it’s the price of genius. In the end it won't be the Media, the Kop or his teammates that are Mario's undoing, it will be himself!

  13. August 25, 2014  5:08 pm by carole Reply

    Really, really brilliant piece David.....enjoyed every word.

    I'm hoping for the sort of performance which totally dominated United at the Etihad last season...our finest display of the campaign IMO, full of desire and determination. Think we'll get it too.....they all know it's a 6-pointer and will want to send out a message. Let's get that goal difference up!

    • August 26, 2014  10:30 am by David Walker Reply

      Now responding after the fact, but we just about did all that was required - not dominant and not 4-1 BUT to win, comfortably in the end, and know that we were only in 3rd gear, at most, is heartening for the tasks that lie ahead. My friend was saying 4-0 from the start and, at 3-0 it was a reality. The fact the 4th goal was scored by Zaba but not quite what we had in mind, is immaterial. We can win the league on points (again), although nobody minds a nice chunk of positive goal difference as the icing on the cake. Many thanks Carole.

  14. August 25, 2014  5:55 pm by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    Great read, as always. We should win, but big clashes early on in the season are always potential banana skins. Still, this Liverpool side have shown they have a propensity for slipping up. Let's hope that the pitch is good and wet :-)

    By the way, can I go on record and state that I hate midweek nightime games. They start at 10 pm local time and I'm too pumped up when they finish to get to sleep.

    • August 26, 2014  10:34 am by David Walker Reply

      Cheers George, now responding on the Tuesday morning after a horrible rain sprayed motorway trip home, arriving at 1am after 150 minutes on the road. Pass some of that adrenalin over, it will help the night time concentration levels for driving. Very professional win and loads left in the tank. It augurs well.

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