A ‘99 Special’ from Pellegrini’s may sound like a delicious treat from an exotic ice cream parlour, but when it comes to creating mouth-watering delight’s Manuel is superior to Mr Whippy, Mr Creamy or any other genius gelato-maker.
The only thing missing from a Manuel-made 99 is anything remotely flaky – his Manchester City side are decidedly solid as they continue to give all-comers a damn good licking!
While City revel in 99 goals scored this season – and it’s only mid-January – the rapidly deflating Trafford Troglodytes’ silverware chances are ‘popping’ faster than the ‘99 Red Balloons’ chart-topping anti-nuclear protest song of yesteryear.
The only thing in meltdown in Manchester at the moment is David Moyes’ team as Pellegrini, whilst not encouraging talk of a quadruple success this season, refuses to be dismissive of the possibility.
City stayed on course for the improbable – but not impossible – task of creating UK football history, when dispatching a spirited Blackburn Rovers 5-0 at the Etihad.
Having racked up 94 goals prior to kick-off it was possible, albeit unlikely, that the terrifying trio of Negredo, Dzeko and a returning Aguero – from the sub’s bench – could conceivably take City to a century before the night was out.
It was a case of so near yet so far when James Milner, skipper for the night, struck a superb 25-yard free kick from Yaya-land (just outside the left hand side of the opponent’s 18 yard box) in the 88th minute, only to see it go fractionally wide.
Crestfallen, the majority of the 35,000 crowd – a commendable attendance given the conditions – both economic and weather – plus infernal ITV’s live coverage, had to ‘settle’ for just the five successful strikes.
Even at the half-time interval, with City leading 1-0 thanks to The Beast’s excellent 45th minute header, it was difficult to envisage another of City’s regular goal gluts, at an average of four-per game at the Etihad.
A much changed City line-up for this FA Cup 3rd Round replay, must have been inspired by Pellegrini’s half time pep talk because the second half bore no resemblance to the first.
Gary Bowyer’s stoical Blackburn defence turned to mush in the torrential rain as City’s most favoured ‘Beastie Boy’ from Sevilla and Bosnian hitman Edin, bagged a brace-a-piece.
Oh, and there was a slice of Sergio magic in between, as he managed to score his 20th of the season, after just 49 seconds and literally two touches of the ball.
The Etihad Choir don’t over complicate the lyrics to some of their songs, but with City in rampant mood it’s hard to tire of standards such as ‘BEAST BEAST BEAST’ ‘SERGIO-SERGIO, SERGIO-SERGIO’ and ‘EDIN DZEKO-OOO, EDIN DZEKO-OOO’ as the nets wear thin through constant punishment.
If City score for the 61st consecutive Premier League home game against Cardiff, it makes you wonder if the stadium announcer will mimic the World Darts Championship commentator, with a tuneful ‘ONE HUNDRED’ over the PA system.
Negredo bagged his 21st and City’s 96th two minutes after the break. Kolarov – replacing the architect of Alvaro’s first half header, Fernandinho, provided a perfect 40 yard through ball for the swashbuckling Spaniard to dink over Rover’s replacement keeper Eastwood.
Dzeko added a third in the 67th minute. Oft maligned, Dzeko has been having something of a renaissance of recent weeks in Aguero’s enforced absence.
He was the embodiment of, if at first you don’t succeed, try try and try again.
In the first period he hit shots into row Z, then row Z at the back of the previous row Z, plus a header that was last seen in orbit around Uranus!
So, what does he do in the second half – he scores from his most difficult chance of the night on the edge of the six yard box – with a hard angled drive, following yet another assist from Jesus Navas.
It was the same Spanish-Bosnian combination that edged City within one of the century of goals, when Navas whipped in a low cross, Dzeko stepped ahead of his marker and side-footed home with 80 minutes on the clock.
Super-sub for just one day, Sergio netted number 98 after replacing Negredo, who’d probably had his sights set on his third hat-trick in City colours.
This time Dzeko turned provider, unselfishly passing to Aguero in the box after receiving Clichy’s cross.
Showing no signs of rust after eight games out, the Argentine icon took one touch, created a yard of space amid a sea of Rovers defenders and fired home. What an entrance!
Speaking of entrances, Pellegrini blooded one of City’s emerging talents from the Elite Development Squad. Midfielder Emyr Huws made his senior debut, replacing Micah Richards in the 77th minute.
Come May time one wonders how City will ultimately end up exiting the season – how many trophies could have been won, 1, 2, 3 even 4?
Will Mr Sheen be the first signing in the summer transfer window, to keep a plethora of silverware gleaming in City’s bulging trophy cabinet? God forbid it should go horribly pear-shaped!
If Manuel Pellegrini can deliver THE most glorious season in the club’s history it will mean the 99 Specials will be off the menu…it’ll be jelly and ice cream all the way!
By David Walker