When Carlos Tevez lifted the FA Cup aloft in May 2011 it brought the curtain down on 35 years of pain and under achievement at Manchester City.
Two years on and one gorgeous Premier League title success later, the malicious manipulative media would have you believe, if Vincent Kompany raises the famous old trophy in triumph next month, it would constitute failure.
By exactly whose reckoning would being Champions of England and winning the world’s oldest and most famous cup competition twice in three years, mark a man and his team down as ‘losers’?
If you believe what the ‘all knowing’ tabloids spew day-in-day-out, Roberto Mancini will be looking for new employment in June. I can but hope that ReadButNeverRed will ultimately be proven correct, and the pen-pushing peddlers of poison wrong, when the Italian selects his team for the Community Shield clash in August!
Even without registering City’s sixth ever FA Cup success, Mancini should remain as City boss, but it would be a damn sight more palatable if his team banks silverware for the third successive season.
Chelsea provide formidable foe at Wembley before City can even contemplate knocking the crusts off the ‘Pie-eaters’, and gobbling up Wigan’s ambitions of a first major trophy.
Chelsea are coming off the back of Europa League success, reaching the semi finals after a long haul trip to Moscow. Rafa Benitez – much maligned, but under estimate him at your peril – managed to rest his ‘Three Amigos’ of Mata, Oscar and Hazard on Thursday, so tiredness shouldn’t be an issue.
Similarly, City have been flying high this week, following the expert dismantling of the tripe from Trafford. The dark cloud hanging over David Silva lining up at kick off, will be determined by a Sunday morning fitness test.
It doesn’t bode well and Merlin’s magic would be sorely missed on the lush vast expanses of the Wembley turf. Even without the silky Spaniard, City will more than fancy their chances.
It’s of some creative consolation that Samir Nasri has suddenly emerged as the player who was much heralded as a Gunner. Whether it’s a coincidence, or did Mancini’s very public rebuke of the Frenchman sting him into action is immaterial.
Oft criticised for his subdued efforts, Nasri could yet emerge as an unlikely end of season star turn. Will it curtail talk of an imminent move out of Manchester to PSG or is savvy Samir advertising his wares to potential suitors? Either way – win the FA Cup and put the frighteners on United in the next seven games and it’s tres bon Msr.
City are in fine fettle, not least for the spirit of togetherness and camaraderie on display at The Swamp. The win was magnificent, the manner of the victory, even more so. The exuberance of the players and Mancini as they saluted the travelling support was captured by the Sky Sports camera for all to see.
These players care and care deeply. Aguero’s application and attitude are infectious, Milner and Tevez indefatigably dedicated to the cause, Nastasic and ‘Captain Fantastic’ Kompany coolness personified at the back.
The chronically understated Barry the selfless hero, Yaya the classy colossus, Zaba the legend and surely Player of the Season, Silva sublime and Clichy all pace and poise.
Mancini may yet spring a ‘surprise’ by persisting with Costel Pantilimon in goal at the expense of Joe Hart. Commendable in some ways to stick with a player who has yet to concede in the four game FA Cup campaign, it would nonetheless constitute a gamble.
The Etihad boss was tactically superior to Slur Baconface on Monday night and has already beaten Benitez once this season, but credit where it’s due, Rafa has proved adaptable and shrewd in many a tactical tussle over the years.
Defensively, Chelsea are weakened by the loss of Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill. For all of his experience, John Terry could be exposed against the searing pace of Sergio and the industry of Tevez.
By contrast and, certainly on paper, Chelsea have creativity oozing from within their midfield. If City are to take a third win off their opponents this season, they will need to adopt a high tempo, pressing game, denying both space and time to the Londoner’s playmakers.
City’s overriding strength this season has been their PL leading backline and, with Kompany restored, it takes the performance levels up another notch or two.
Fernando Torres is still flattering to deceive that he could yet undergo a renaissance, but 19 goals so far this season indicates a man still capable of inflicting damage. Benitez may prefer Demba Ba as a starter.
Either way City can quell Chelsea’s forwards. It’s doubtful Chelsea can return the favour and suppress City’s South American sharpshooters -with or without the Silva supply line.
This ‘El Cashico’ encounter transcends the underwhelming, sparsely populated Millwall versus Wigan affair. It’s a match-up of two in-form teams, desperate to salvage silverware from a disappointing season.
Paradoxically, it’s a contest of the two sides likely to be vying for the PL crown in 2013/14 to the detriment of Manure.
City are ready to invest and reshape their team this summer, whereas the ‘Interim One’ seems likely to make way for the ‘Special One’ as Jose Mourinho rolls back into England.
Mancini and Mourinho are the best of enemies with animosity in abundance. The prickly Portuguese masquerades as Mancini’s nemesis and it all adds up to a spicy, high octane contest if it transpires.
In the meantime Bobby Manc can take a step closer to eclipsing the achievements of another of the game’s all-time mavericks – Malcolm Allison – and capturing the Cup for City.