Manuel is taking the Michael
Apparently it was all happening at White Hart Lane, but what’s all the fuss about – it was just the ‘same old same old’ performance from Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City.
To say City were ‘average’ would be to underplay this emphatic 5-1 demolition of an in-form Tottenham Hotspur. Average presently equates to just three goals per Premier League fixture, but who’s to say that won’t rise before season’s end?
It represented a validation of City’s title ambitions and yet another endorsement of Pellegrini’s impeccable approach to the beautiful game – for Christ’s sake, even Alan Hansen had something nice to say about Manchester City!
The controversy will rage from a portion of Tottenham fans suffering tunnel vision, but that minority apart, the rest of the football world will concur with the usually embittered Match of The Day pundit’s view that City were ‘mesmeric’ and could have been 5-0 up by the break.
The ex-Liverpool stalwart went so far as to describe City as ‘possibly the best team in the world...’ a stance slightly at odds with the Reds’ former striker, Michael Owen who is deadly dull and blatantly biased on BT Sport – but more on the ‘monotone drone’ later.
City claimed outright top spot for the first time since the opening fixture back in August, edging Arsenal by a point and Chelsea by three, not forgetting a goal difference advantage of nearly double the chasing pack.
In torrential conditions Pellegrini’s refreshing philosophy of delivering a symphony of splendiferous play – be it home or now away – is winning the hearts of the neutrals, but, more importantly points off City’s rivals.
With 15 games and 45 points still up for grabs City have already netted 68 Premier League goals, two more than last season’s entire haul. City have raced to the quickest 100 goals in the PL era, and Chelsea’s record league high of 103 is looking seriously under threat.
Sergio Aguero bagged his 26th of the campaign – and 50th of his PL career in just 81 games – to open the floodgates as it simply continued raining goals in the soaking conditions.
City launched wave after wave of attacks as Spurs, like a new and untested sea wall, tried to repel the battering, albeit fearing their defences would eventually succumb to the inevitable.
Aguero hit a rasping shot onto the inside of Hugo Lloris’ post as early as the fourth minute, after accelerating away from a posse of apprehensive defenders.
It was an indicator of the perfect storm that was to engulf the hosts on the night and threaten to sweep all before it in the coming days, weeks and months.
On the quarter hour David Silva threaded a perfectly weighted pass to Aguero who slotted home from an acute angle, past an incredulous Lloris.
Moments later it was Lloris ‘The Incredible’, as the French keeper clawed away Aguero’s textbook header with a one-handed, mid-air save of sheer brilliance.
Sergio was simply sensational, sublime, superb as his insatiable appetite for the adrenalin buzz of scoring intensified with every carefully crafted opportunity.
Another header had to be cleared off the line by Rose before a thunderous shot, lacking only for Exocet precision, went wide of the Spurs upright.
Having smashed Spurs 6-0 just 66 days beforehand, it seemed City – or indeed Aguero alone – would do likewise within 30 minutes.
Slowly, Tim Sherwood’s recently resurgent side began to get a foothold in the half and were awarded a free kick as soft as the sodden turf. Left back, Danny Rose, went down quicker than a prostitute’s drawers after the merest contact with Yaya on the edge of City’s 18 yard box.
The resultant free kick was hammered in by Michael Dawson, but the ‘goal’ was disallowed when the linesman flagged the defender offside. The controversy raged with debate also focusing on whether Emmanuel Adebayor – definitely offside – made the slightest contact as the ball carried to Dawson.
Ade was playing like a man trying to prove a point to his ex-employers, but was getting little or no joy from Kompany and Zabaleta in particular.
As the game wore on the Togolese target man became less and less subtle as his obvious venom and vindictiveness towards his former colleagues surfaced time and time again. How hapless referee Andre Marriner failed to book him remains a mystery.
Bizarrely, he even manhandled Yaya Toure as the Ivorian was being substituted in the 64th minute. The perennial under-achieving Ade, oozing jealousy and craving the recognition now accorded the sky blues, cut a pathetic figure.
His recent rehabilitation under Sherwood came to a shuddering halt against City’s Belgian boulder, with Kompany even weighing in with his team’s fifth strike of the night a minute before the end.
The only sour note to City’s fruitful evening came just before half-time when Aguero hobbled off with a hamstring injury.
The severity of the problem has still to be determined, but Pellegrini isn’t short on firepower even though Sergio, undeniably ‘world class’, will be missed.
It helps that City’s cruelly nicknamed ‘Invisible Man’ Stevan Jovetic is now back on the radar. His number 35 shirt may as well be a ‘high-viz’ jacket, such was his impact upon replacing Aguero, capping it off with his first PL goal in the 78th minute.
City’s second and third goals came within two second half minutes. Yaya Toure’s penalty easily eluded Lloris after Dzeko was adjudged to have been felled from behind by full back Danny Rose.
The highly charged atmosphere prickled still further, as Rose saw red and City eyed only their second win at White Hart Lane in 11 PL visits.
Edin Dzeko the four-goal hero of City’s last win – again 5-1 – in August, 2011, volleyed into the roof of the net after David Silva’s shot had struck the post as City played pinball in Spurs’ box.
Substitute Capoue fired home a consolation goal after a corner kick scramble at the opposite end of play. Pellegrini, now displaying a familiarity with the Premier League that was missing in early season losses at Cardiff and Villa, sent on Nastasic for Yaya to quell any further threat.
But still the goals kept on coming. Fernandinho released renaissance man Jovetic wide on the left, and the forgotten man from Montenegro cut in and hit an arcing shot, albeit deflected, through four defenders and beyond Lloris.
Captain Kompany, as if he needed to further emphasise his profound influence on proceedings, (Hansen gave him a 10/10), side-footed the fifth goal from point blank range to complete the rout.
Tim Sherwood, previously unbeaten in the PL as Spurs manager, was magnanimous, honest and humorous in defeat, saying: “They are the best team on the planet, certainly the best team in the Premier League. We’ve played the champions today.”
Hansen and Sherwood’s warming words were in stark contrast with those of Owen, the obnoxious and odious former Manure dweller.
Where else do you get ‘impartial’ expertise of the calibre of verbal droppings such as: “I wish the Spurs goal hadn’t gone in and then Fernandinho would have been sent off for handball as well as a Spurs being given a penalty...”
In his youth he was top box office – a prodigious talent on the field – revered as England’s great goal-scoring hope. In retirement and the seeming onset of premature senility, the monotone drone is the David Brent of football commentary – jaw droppingly cringe worthy and a catalyst for mute button activity the length and breadth of the nation.
Paradoxically Pellegrini’s brand of football is as big a ‘turn-on’ as Owen’s banal and bigoted blitherings are a ‘turn-off’ for BT Sport viewers.
City’s soaring success should mirror the dramatic increase in those seeking solace in radio commentaries whenever Michael is ‘miced up’.
At least Manuel is on the right wavelength with genuine football lovers.
By David Walker