As the dust begins to settle on an almost surreal scenario coming out of Manchester City this week, I would venture to say that the Blue Moon is set to rise in the right trajectory for years to come.
We’ve had the turmoil and turbulence of Roberto Mancini’s emotive departure, the ghastly timing of his demise and the nigh on schizophrenic portrayal of a man worshipped on the terraces, but seemingly despised by the players and staff within the inner sanctum at the Etihad.
Far be it from me to embark on any level of character assassination of Bobby Manc – the man who released a reservoir of footballing juices for City fans after decade upon decade of drought, as far as the game’s biggest prizes were concerned.
If I had a fiver for every time I’ve written, tweeted or texted #FORZA MANCINI this season I would be a comparatively wealthy man.
As an ardent City supporter for more years than I would care to remember, as a fan who reveled in City’s new found wealth and conviction that transformed them into winners, I was first in line to laud the Italian boss and defend him against all comers.
As someone who is occasionally privy to intel from within the Etihad, I was not blind to the fact that Mancini was not the most popular manager in the Club’s rollercoaster history. Notwithstanding that fact, the levels of dislike that have emerged for him as an individual, have been surprising, neigh, downright disturbing.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of Roberto’s daily demeanor towards those with whom he worked, or his approach on man management, it is obvious to one and all that whatever his past achievements, there was no way forward for him at Manchester City.
In an era where prima donna footballers are pampered beyond belief, it would be easy to dismiss any dissent from the dressing room as moody millionaires rebelling against a tough Italian taskmaster.
It’s the level of non-support for Mancini that has been the real eye opener in the past few days. When I asked one City insider the overriding emotion in the wake of Mancini’s sacking, I was told ‘relief…as if a great burden had been lifted.’
I was privileged to be invited to attend an evening with Roberto Mancini at the Etihad in January. He was charm personified with a nice line in self deprecating humour as he delighted an audience with his candour.
As such, I would be hard-pressed to recognise the man who, according to some was something approaching a megalomaniac, a man who viewed his players and his employers with equal disdain.
Like most City fans I am not going to allow this week’s events and revelations to sour the memory of a man who took us to the top of the domestic game, with a brand of breathtakingly beautiful football.
More importantly, I am not going to let emotions and sentiment colour my thinking at the end of Mancini’s reign, nor am I going to give one iota of support to any misguided movement criticising the decision-making of Txiki Begiristain or Ferran Soriano.
The ex-Barcelona team took the Catalan giants to the pinnacle of club football, creating the commercial environment, making the transfer deals and cultivating the world renowned La Masia ‘The Farmhouse’ Academy, that has served Barca so well, with a conveyor belt of young talent.
Former Barcelona President Joan Laporta, has this week been paying tribute to Txiki’s influence in making Barcelona the power that they were in Pep Guardiola’s reign. It is noticeable that Barcelona’s decline – at least in the Champions League – is underlined by the Catalan club’s comparative failure in the transfer market in recent years.
They haven’t strengthened year-on-year with marque signings, something that was fairly and squarely Txiki’s domain and forte during his time at the Nou Camp.
While City wait for the seemingly inevitable arrival of Manuel Pellegrini and the onset of a far more productive working relationship with Soriano and Begiristain, it was left to City old boy Brian Kidd to manage the side and secure the solitary Premier League point that would confirm City as Runners-Up.
Captain, Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic strangely gave way to Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure at the heart of the league’s best defence. Pablo Zabaleta – dismissed at Wembley, but nonetheless, surely a shoe in as the Club’s Player of the Year – was replaced by stand-in skipper Micah Richards.
James Milner started in place of Samir Nasri – the man he replaced in that most wretched of Cup Finals – and City set about already relegated Reading in a monsoon like Madejski Stadium.
It was a powerful performance from what could easily have been a crestfallen City, with a feast of one-touch precision play that delighted the travelling fans, animated in their support of their now ex-manager with ‘Grazie Mancini’ and ‘Forza Mancini’ banners.
City set siege to the goal of young Reading keeper Alex McCarthy – subsequently called up to the England squad – with a barrage of 10 shots on target during the first half. The one that really counted came in the 40th minute with a corner kick routine as sweet as a Lemon Meringue Pie and Sticky Toffee Pudding chaser.
An exquisite five touch passing movement involving Milner, Barry Silva and ultimately Aguero, saw Sergio steer the ball home low in the right hand corner – the culmination of sensational City inter-play as they sliced Reading apart.
How City led by just the solitary goal at half time was a mystery. It could so easily have been 4 or 5 nil.
Four minutes after the restart and City could have been rueing missed opportunities as Reading’s Russian battering ram, Pavel Pogrebnyak’s powerful header was parried away thanks to the lightning reflexes of Joe Hart.
The men in maroon from Manchester were playing some slick stuff and were massively dominant throughout, but plucky Reading rallied for a few moments to at least give hope to the creditable crowd of just under 23,000.
Carlos Tevez, so often City’s goalscoring hero, turned goalsaver throwing his less than towering frame at Mariappa’s header to clear off the line with Hart beaten.
The England keeper was at full stretch a few minutes later to stop a pile-driver from Karacan and preserve his 18th PL clean sheet of the season.
With Dzeko on as a 62nd minute replacement for the ailing Aguero, the Bosnian super-sub did what he does best, coming off the bench to sink the opposition.
Silva intercepted a wayward Reading clearance, swept to the edge of the 18 yard box and threaded the ball past four defenders to Dzeko, who had the presence of mind to step back and stay onside.
City’s unlikely top scorer sidestepped a tackle switching the ball neatly from his right to his left foot, before placing the ball with great aplomb past McCarthy. 2-0 and a much deserved win, but hardly reflective of a performance where City could have hit nine or 10.
With just Norwich City at the Etihad on Sunday to finish off the season, all eyes are already focused on Malaga and the imminent arrival of the man who could get Sheikh Mansour’s vision of Sky Blue domination back on track.
It’s been a rotten week to be a City fan. We’ve been through a gamut of emotions encompassing despair, disillusionment and even a dollop of discombobulation.
We’ve lost a Cup Final, a management structure and a figurehead who had come to personify the new Manchester City – no longer the perennial under-achievers – but winners.
Perversely, Manuel Pellegrini could easily surpass everything that has gone before, not just with Mancini but also the likes of Mercer and Allison.
Time will be the acid test, but this lifelong fan thinks City are in very safe hands and the best is very much still to come.