A certain ‘F’ word was prominent in the vocabulary ringing around the Etihad Stadium less than 48 hours ago.
The Champions of England had huffed and puffed but failed to penetrate a wall of well marshalled red and white stripes, succumbing to a shock home defeat to Mark Hughes’ Stoke City.
Another ‘F’ word was on the lips of Manchester City fans as it appeared that Colombia’s finest, high grade export would have supporters snorting with joy tonight.
Bookmakers were offering odds of 1/5 on Falcao heading to City to replace Valencia bound Alvaro Negredo, but that’s all changed with a deal being sealed at 3am that takes the 28-year old Monaco hitman to The Swamp.
The striker would have beefed up an attack that failed to score at the Etihad for only the second time in 71 Premier League home games, as the men from the Potteries bogged down City’s title defence.
Negredo – The Beast – a popular player with the fans, could still go back home to Spain on a season long loan, with a mandatory clause for the men from the Mestalla to pay £27m next summer on a permanent deal.
It appears domestic woes got the better of on-field success for City’s favourite Beastie Boy, as Mrs Negredo – Clara – declared that the balmy climes of Manchester weren’t for her.
If he goes, he does so as a Premier League winner, having secured a place in the hearts of all Blues fans forever and a day.
But – and it’s a large BUT – this is transfer deadline day and anything goes.
First of all Falcao was going to Real Madrid – his dream destination on a season long loan with a view to a permanent transfer. City then stepped in with a near £40m bid, said to be payable in full in one go, subject to Negredo’s departure and ratification from UEFA that City weren’t breaching their Financial Fair Play penalty.
Falcao and Monaco appeared to have agreed this deal but now the Trafford Troglodytes have taken advantage of the FFP constraints imposed on City. The Reds are said to be paying £20m for a one year loan deal including the player’s wages, but then again you have to pay daft prices when your only European interest is Swansea away!
Falcao is a class act, but he’ll be 29 in February and hasn’t played that much since returning from the injury players fear the most – the dreaded damage to the anterior cruciate ligament.
United fans are loving the fact that they appear to have put one over on City, but appearances can and sometimes are very deceptive.
As transfer deadline day progresses it has emerged that Falcao would never have considered either City or United had he not allegedly failed not one, but two, medicals in Madrid. It has subsequently been alleged that it was City who then declined the deal to take Falcao after gaining knowledge of the medical examinations.
The Colombian is due to take a medical in Manchester this evening, so it’ll be interesting to see how his previously damaged ACL stands up to scrutiny.
Real Madrid was Falcao’s dream move and he was due to go on an initial loan to the Santiago Bernabeu. Falcao is a much superior player to Javi Hernandez who is now leaving Old Trafford to go on a season long loan to…Real Madrid. Why have Hernandez over Falcao?
Something doesn’t pass muster in this equation.
At least all this transfer bunkum provides a welcome distraction to the disappointment of Saturday’s unexpected reversal.
Manchester City used to be expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They weren’t just good losers they were peerless, as they plummeted down the leagues.
As Mark Hughes revelled in the win, Manuel Pellegrini’s side had to learn how to be gracious – rather than ‘good’ – losers, face up to their deficiencies and heed some harsh tactical lessons.
The modern day version of City is light years away from the City of old, the club renowned for their unique ability to shoot themselves in the foot, but it all went horribly wrong against, of all people, Hughes, the most embittered ex-Etihad employee of recent times.
For once Pellegrini, the sage-like Engineer, couldn’t get his machine to run true as it coughed and spluttered against a well drilled and highly disciplined 10-man Stoke defence.
Hughes’ tactics cannot have come as a surprise to City. The former City boss had said pre-match that his team had to ‘stay in the game’ e.g. defend, harass and contain the Sky Blues’ free flowing attack.
Hardly a declaration of attacking intent, and yet the hosts just could not find a way though, around, over or even under the men from the Potteries resolute rearguard.
With 73% possession, 16 shots – only two on target – and 11 corners, City failed to score against a team which, historically, always cracked under pressure in the Premier League at the Etihad.
Previously it had been six defeats and no goals scored, but that all changed in the 58th minute when Mame Biram Diouf raced 70 yards, virtually unchallenged, before embarrassing Joe Hart to win the game.
City could and should have had a late penalty when Yaya Toure – the most likely City player to score on this duff team performance – was felled in the Stoke box.
Ref, Lee Mason – a self confessed Manchester United fan – saw it differently, booking the Ivorian for diving.
Admittedly City were poor by their own imperious standards, but Mason, so often the scourge of City, performed to his usual woefully inept (that’s being generous and we have libel laws that must be observed) level.
He couldn’t even get his vanishing spray to work!
Stoke could argue that Kolarov’s first half challenge on Diouf merited a penalty, but the big Senegalese international fell quicker than Man Utd’s share price when Edward Woodward was entrusted with the Old Trafford transfer fund.
Diouf could have compounded City’s misery and made it 2-0, but he just failed to connect with Odemwingie’s cross.
City were suffocated by a Stoke side who denied them space and opportunity. It would all have been so different had Yaya’s first half strike been a fraction lower, rather than hitting the bar.
Toure tested Begovic in the second half, but it was one of only two occasions the Bosnian keeper was called upon.
The 38th minute loss of Fernando to a suspected groin strain could ultimately have cost City the match. The holding midfielder has already shown his talent at shielding City’s back four to great effect.
Had he been on the field instead of the increasingly haphazard Fernandinho, Diouf wouldn’t have had the free pass to City’s goal. That still wouldn’t excuse Joe Hart’s horrendous attempt to prevent the winning goal.
Pellegrini said the Stoke goal was ‘too easy’ and with ex-Malaga man Willy Caballero waiting in the wings, Joe will not have the luxury of too many mistakes before he’s benched.
It would be easy to put this rare defeat down to the proverbial ‘bad day at the office’ but City cannot afford to allow their attacking armoury to be so easily blunted by ‘lesser’ but well organised ‘bus parking’ teams.
Zabaleta’s marauding overlapping play was a big miss as Bacary Sagna made his debut. City pepped up when Jesus Navas was introduced as a second half sub, adding width to the attack, but it wasn’t enough.
It’s often said you learn more about your team in defeat than in victory. Manuel Pellegrini is an intuitive individual and will apply his version of WD40 to oil his Manchester City machine back to full working order.
There’ll be no ‘F’ in Manchester City this transfer deadline day but, when it comes to phonetics, there’s plenty of ‘fs’ in trophies and City are still in for an ‘effing’ good season with silverware aplenty.
By David Walker
Dedicated to the two people who make my life worth living; Jack Walker, 25 years old today and the best son a father could hope for, and my beautiful wife, Debi, who has somehow stayed married to me for 29 years as of yesterday. Surely the Parole Board will give her a break in the 30th year?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SON!
Love you both and we’re all CTWD.
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu