A season that began with a five goal feast of free-flowing football ended with a five goal flop as the deposed champions floundered in a miserable show of rank incompetence.
The contrasting emotions from winning the Community Shield and downing the reigning European Champions, to capitulating to a bunch of Canaries on a Sunday afternoon excursion could not have been starker.
A season full of hope and ambition, fuelled by the most explosive climax in Premier League history, ended as limp as an impotent marathon runner with a pebble in his shoe – not a pretty sight.
A near capacity crowd – well at least according to the Etihad Stadium announcer – witnessed a dreadful dirge of Manchester City ineptitude in subdued surroundings, where the screaming yellow garb of the Norwich players and fans alike were the brightest elements on display.
Well, that’s not strictly true – Jack Rodwell scored a brace of cracking goals, as he appeared to be the only City player looking remotely interested in proceedings.
An air of bewilderment abounded as City, fresh from stinking out Wembley Stadium, returned home manager-less with a large and vocal section of the crowd singing the praises of the dear departed Mancini.
It was always going to happen and, from the fans perspective, why shouldn’t it?
Roberto had given them silverware as well as a pretty unique parting message as he said ‘Ciao’ via his full page ad in the Manchester Evening News. The fans just wanted to let him know that there will always be a place for him in their hearts.
Brian Kidd’s team selection did little to bring clarity to the befuddlement that fogged the senses of the masses. No Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Silva or Aguero in the starting XI. Maybe they were being saved for the exhibition games – Stateside – next week?
The cynics and skeptics in the crowd remarked that it looked like a showcase for many of the players likely to be exiting the Etihad this summer.
Kolarov, Richards, Lescott, Nasri, Dzeko and Tevez may all have played their last competitive match for City – only time will tell.
Notionally they could have a collective transfer value of £75million – provided any would be suitors were not present, nor were ever likely to see the match highlights. If that were to happen City would be picking up more like £75!
The chirpy little Canaries could have been forgiven for falling off their perches, as the meanest defence in the PL looked as secure as a one-legged alcoholic in the last minute of a Happy Hour at a Southern Comfort distillery.
Micah, Joleon, Aleks and Pablo could not have been any more accommodating as Norwich scored three and could so easily have doubled their tally.
It begged the question where was City’s standout centre back pairing of Vincent and Matija? Missing mysteriously at Reading, the duo were once again conspicuous by their absence. Were they injured? Were they dropped – if so why?
Rumours remain rife that City’s Captain Fantastic may have been subject to some form of disciplinary action following an alleged altercation with a team mate after the Wembley debacle.
If – and it’s a big word if – it’s true then although it does little to promote an entente cordiale in the ranks, it does at least show that a deep passion burns within the skipper, and that can’t be a bad thing.
City fell behind in the 26th minute when Yaya Toure, displaying all the alacrity of an oil tanker turning in high seas, was dispossessed by Hoolahan, the ball played to ex-Red Pilkington who slotted it past Hart.
Bang went Joe’s 19th clean sheet of the season, albeit he had already secured the Golden Glove Award for a third successive year for the highest number of shutouts.
Within three minutes the promising Rodwell broke his City scoring duck. Nasri played the ball to Dzeko, the Bosnian rolled the ball to Rodwell and he hammered home in accomplished fashion past Ruddy in the Norwich goal.
Half time came and went with the home team continuing to look disinterested much to the disdain of the impatient home support. The Canaries were once again hovering in the ascendancy when Grant Holt applied a simple finish after Snodgrass slid the ball across City’s box in the 54th minute.
Minutes earlier Carlos Tevez had been the subject of a strange substitution – not for the first time this season – as he made way for his fellow countryman, Aguero.
The departing Argentine received a standing ovation and he responded with applause and a 360 degree loop as he left the field of play – many believe for the last time in a competitive City game.
His body language spoke volumes and it’d be a canny punter who would bet against Carlitos continuing his career at one of Juventus, Monaco or PSG. It makes financial sense – Tevez gets one more big money transfer before finishing off his career with Boca Juniors, while City get a fee of £12m-£15m and save £200k-a-week in wages for the final year of his contract.
It was déjà vu on the hour mark as the splendid Rodwell – thoroughly deserving of his England call-up – rampaged upfield, outstripped Whittaker for pace, before whipping a low left foot strike beyond Ruddy into the bottom right corner.
Brilliant! A real slice of Lionheart commitment and now perhaps City would finally stir from slumber?
Alas no – it was left to Norwich’s Howson to carry the ball the length of City’s half, evading pathetic interventions from Lescott, Richards and Zabaleta before a clinical finish past Hart.
It was too much for some of the City fans who’d had just about enough in seven days of flux and upheaval and more and more blue seats began to appear around the Etihad.
Silva was introduced for the valiant Rodwell and, despite a late attempt to salvage something from a horrible afternoon, City succumbed to an embarrassing defeat – only their second at home in 48 PL games.
When a dejected City squad emerged 15 minutes after the final whistle for the traditional lap of thanks to the fans, it was a thoroughly underwhelming affair.
A minority of supporters stayed to applaud, but the players, led by the previously absent Kompany, looked as comfortable as a fart in a space suit as they took the sympathetic acclaim.
It mirrored the quandary in which the club is presently entrenched. No manager, differing factions in the dressing room and transfer speculation – both in and out – aplenty.
Bleak as the outlook is at the season’s end, I have no doubt the City hierarchy will transform the perspective in the coming days and weeks.
Manuel Pellegrini should be installed – maybe not in time for City’s US mini-tour – but soon enough.
The players who have run their course will be shipped out and those earmarked to win back the PL title and progress deep into the latter stages of the Champions League will be flown in.
It might not feel like it now but the Blue Moon will be on the up very soon, and with it the spirits of all Manchester City fans.
Lest we forget we DO ‘fight till the end’.