Manuel The Magnificent - City 2 West Ham 0
The comfortable Premier League title deciding fixture originally scheduled for May 13th 2012, finally arrived at the Etihad Stadium just shy of two years late.
The incredible unscripted, once-in-a-lifetime, nerve shredding rollercoaster ride culminating in the Aguerrrrroooo moment was replaced by a controlled and utterly predictable stroll in the park, as Manchester City claimed a second PL crown in three years.
Palpatations, a sense of foreboding and the tightening of backsides was replaced by steady breathing, serenity and a loosening of inhibitions, as goals from Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany delivered a polished and thoroughly professional performance.
Having beaten West Ham three times already this season by a cumulative score line of 12-1, every ounce of commonsense and iota of logic said this was a home banker.
Haunted by how close City came to throwing it all away before eventually winning the 3-2 cliff hanger with QPR, the City fans, weaned on decades of under-achievement and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, had that niggling fear that ‘Typical City’ could yet re-appear.
Such apprehensions were groundless.
Typical City – TC – is no more. TC now applies to Top Cats, the cream of the crop and with a sage like Grey Owl as leader, Manchester City are going to keep feathers flying for countless years to come, but for all the right reasons.
Forever grateful to Roberto Mancini for FA Cup and Premier League successes, breaking 35-year and 44- year trophy and title droughts, the Blue Mooners now know that the move to replace him with Manuel Pellegrini was the right one.
The manner of City’s two Premier League title wins personifies the characteristics of the respective City bosses. With Mancini it was a managerial reign based on volatility, unpredictability, abrasiveness, cliques, discord, division, hostility, poor man-management and a ‘bad cop’ approach.
Sergio’s last minute strike took City supporters from the nadir of despair to the dizziest levels of euphoria.
As fans, we were largely ignorant of some of Roberto’s everyday working traits and how he seemingly ostracized players and staff alike.
Contrary to what it might appear, this isn’t a have-a-go at Roberto contest, but by highlighting life under Mancini, it helps to showcase why, this time around in 2014, City is a much happier and contented work environment.
Pellegrini is a man who keeps things on the level, an even keel, always consistent in both the approach to, and achievement of, Manchester City’s objectives.
Behavioural spikes which meant City’s boat was constantly rocking, be it for good or bad under Mancini, are not for him.
The Engineer charts a steady course, one that encompasses attractive entertaining football, a man-management style that is inclusive, transparent and breeds contentment – no mean feat in a squad where everybody wants to play, but only so many can.
From the outset City looked relaxed and focused. They were going to end the day with a nice, big shiny trophy and it wasn’t going to be the ‘Cup for Cock Ups’, as former City chairman and legendary striker, Francis Lee, once opined many years ago.
It wouldn’t be City if there wasn’t a healthy – or should that be unhealthy - degree of scepticism and anxiety within the massed ranks of the Etihad support, but it never transferred to the players or coaching staff.
Big Sam Allardyce was sporting a snazzy line in microporous tape on his jabbling jowls – the gob as big as the Mersey Tunnel – which had blathered how he was going to help deliver the title to Liverpool. As usual, he was a huge irrelevance.
His Hammers had all the impact of a warm beer on a hot summer’s day.
His captain, Kevin Nolan – a Scouser – had been running his ‘north & sarf’ all week saying how, in one last dramatic twist to the season, he could be the man to score the goal to hand his boyhood heroes the PL crown.
Andy Carroll, the £35m Liverpool misfit who Brendan Rodgers had so unceremoniously shown the Anfield door last season, was for some perverse reason, threatening to do his ex-employers a favour.
The Fat, The Sad and The Ugly failed to deliver on all three counts.
Nolan and Carroll were substituted having achieved nothing as City made merry through the rain and the shine of a blustery Mancunian afternoon.
A mention in dispatches however about the magnificent travelling West Ham support. They’ve suffered four defeats against City, seen their team stuffed 14-1 and yet still cheered them, indulged in self-deprecating humour and even stayed behind to applaud the new Champions of England.
A truly class act – unlike their manager and a number of their witless players.
Speaking of class acts, Kompany, Yaya, Silva and Aguero had that rarest of occasions...they all got to play in the same City starting line-up.
Along with Pablo Zabaleta, the quartet are all ‘world class’ and had only mustered 216 on field PL playing minutes, as a collective unit, all season. They managed another 76 before Silva went off to a standing ovation, with James Milner coming on.
West Ham surrendered to the inevitable when Man of the Match, Nasri hammered home a low 20 yard drive in the 39th minute.
West Ham keeper, Adrian, in an orange jersey that wouldn’t have gone amiss in a Tango advert or a high-visibility road safety campaign, was slow to react and the Frenchman crowned his own personal renaissance with his 11th goal of the season.
Allardyce’s bus-parking master class wasn’t looking so masterful as City booked a one-way fare to glory.
Goal 102 of the PL season – just one shy of equalling Chelsea’s record – came courtesy of Captain Fantastic Kompany, back to his best after the injury and jitters of April.
Displaying the predatory instincts of a striker, the skipper whipped the ball home from within the six-yard box to calm even the most extreme of Doubting Thomas’ in the Etihad.
City were home and hosed in a way that had been envisaged 728 days beforehand!
The ease of the final three points and the feeling of inevitability were in stark contrast with the frenetic and unpredictable nature of the preceding weeks.
Liverpool, Chelsea and City had all juggled with the PL leadership like a hot potato doused in double Piri Piri sauce. It was the cool, suave sophisticate from Chile who eventually froze out City’s opponents with five straight wins to see out the season.
The after match celebrations spoke volumes of the unity and the togetherness of the team and Manchester City as an entity. Pellegrini was hijacked from an interview with Sky and thrown into the air half-a-dozen times by his players – with beaming smiles from everyone involved.
When City last won the title it was supposed to herald the dawn of Sky Blue domestic domination. Alas, Mancini unfortunately found reverse gear and City immediately surrendered the title to a sub-standard Manure.
It all feels so different this time around.
Expansion work at the Etihad is well underway and the sprawling expanse of the adjacent Etihad Campus becomes ever more breathtaking.
A summer transfer window will enable Pellegrini to make a good thing better, strengthening key areas of his high achieving squad. His transfer dealings have so far been exemplary with all five signings from 2013 proving successful, albeit to varying degrees.
His target of five trophies in five years is off to a flyer, but City and Pellegrini know that such a target was a base minimum.
With victory comes an opportunity to be magnanimous to the vanquished...but the hell with that.
Manchester City had fallen foul to a gut-churning Liverpool media love-fest, one in which Pellegrini was denigrated as lacking charisma, while we were all supposed to suck up to Saint Brendan of Anfield.
That’ll be the same perpetually whinging Rodgers who, rather than sticking with the fine achievements of a very progressive Liverpool team, just had to moan about City’s money, the transfer budget, the wages ad nauseam.
The hypocrisy was truly staggering. City had demonstrated massive respect, sympathy and empathy for Liverpool as a club, and as a fan base, during the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Rodgers could and should have reciprocated, rather than deflect his own shortcomings on to the perceived affluence of others. Doubtless it’s controversial and inflammatory, but Rodgers has been, and will doubtless continue to be, guilty of conduct most unbecoming wherever City are concerned.
Let’s see how Liverpool squirm and try and wriggle around the fatuous Financial Fair Play rules when they come under UEFA’s scrutiny next season.
Rodgers will be singing a different tune if Sheikh Mansour takes on Le Prat Platini and destroys the ill-conceived FFP laws.
As things stand, Liverpool would be one of the main beneficiaries, but doubtless Brenda will forget to mention it whilst harping on about Yaya’s take-home pay.
Challenges abound for City both on and off the field, but if ever a club was equipped to optimise its good fortune and opportunities it is Manchester City.
Pellegrini is the embodiment of a club that oozes integrity and ambition – a rare and laudable combination in a sport that seems to thrive on the spite and malice of miscreants.
Manuel didn’t sign up for that – he’s one of the good guys and good guys sometimes come first!
By David Walker www.readbutneverred.com@ReadButNeverRed@djwskyblu