The ‘Magic of the FA Cup’ lost its lustre for Manchester City when a dyslexic Altrincham fan performed a bemusing two-card trick and made Fabian Delph disappear!
On a truly wretched night in Wigan, referee Anthony Taylor amazed and appalled in equal measure with his devious sleight of hand, as yellow became the new red and City’s bid for an elusive quadruple was quashed.
Taylor’s highly dubious antics date back to the time when he registered as a member of the ‘Select Group’ of referees with his PGMOL employers.
When it came to declaring which team he supported, Taylor discovered he was afflicted by dyslexia, somehow contriving to spell Manchester United as Altrincham.
Why ‘Thomas Walter’ Anthony Taylor is allowed to officiate and, by definition influence, the outcome of games involving either Manchester City or Manchester United should be subject to scrutiny after his latest shambolic shenanigans involving City.
His scandalous actions, along with a number of other Premier League referees, will surely be on the agenda when City meet with PGMOL, to query why so many bad tackles are going unpunished this season.
It’s a bitter irony that Delph was sent off when so many malicious fouls against City have been handled with infuriating leniency. Wigan’s Nathan Byrne didn’t even get booked for a shocking challenge on Sergio Aguero earlier in the match.
If Delph’s foul merited red, Byrne’s most certainly met the criteria.
Raheem Sterling has used the term ‘butchered’ when remarking on the nature of some of the ‘tackles’ flying in on what has, at times, looked like ‘open season’ on City players.
The catalogue of ‘crimes’ against City is shocking:
Matt Phillips and James McClean of WBA saw yellow, not red, for malicious challenges on Diaz and Kevin De Bruyne
Jason Puncheon and Scott Dann of Crystal Palace both injured themselves attempting to hurt De Bruyne – no red cards, but natural justice prevailed
Jacob Murphy of Newcastle taking out Ilkay Gundagon, not even booked
Tottenham’s Golden Boys Harry Kane and Dele Alli booked for fouls on Raheem Sterling and De Bruyne – universal agreement (bar Pochettino) – both warranted red cards
Claudio Yacob of WBA, just a booking for a bad late tackle on Gundagon
Steve Cook of Bournemouth piling into Gabriel Jesus – not even spoken to by referee Mike Dean (no surprise there)
Joe Bennett scything down Leroy Sane and Brahim Diaz, two yellows but both merited marching orders for the Cardiff defender
No wonder Pep Guardiola wants the matter addressed, but as the City boss says, ‘…not just for City players, but for ALL players.’
Guardiola doesn’t want to eradicate the art of tackling as his shallow minded detractors would have us believe.
He wants to stop Rent-A-Thug Neanderthals such as Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, ruining the ‘beautiful game’.
Repulsive Warnock (how apt that an anagram of his name gives you Colin Wanker) has accused Guardiola of talking “hot air”, claiming Delph’s tackle at Wigan was “…10 times worse than Bennett’s…”
The repugnant 69-year old Cardiff boss is a prime example of all that is wrong with English football. To call him a dinosaur would be to libel the ugly, tiny brained creatures who roamed the planet millions of years ago.
If malicious intent and bad tackles are allowed to go virtually unpunished it’s not just City, the Premier League Champions-elect, who will continue to suffer – it’s the English game as a whole.
Despite the naysayers writing off Guardiola’s chances of replicating his success in England, he is succeeding with his exhilarating playing style.
He’s changing the very essence of the Premier League and, if he can add further influence by helping stamp out the thuggish elements, it encourages players with flair and skill to prosper.
If the imbeciles at PGMOL led by Mike Riley, can conjure up an iota of commonsense and consistency, it’s an initiative that could nurture, sustain and assist in the development of top talents.
Players could play free from the constant threat of cloggers and destroyers – surely a benefit to English football as a whole, right through to the national set-up.
It’s a big ask however, when dealing with the likes of Taylor and other reprobate refs like Bobby Madley, Lee Mason, Mike Dean, Mike Jones, Kevin Friend, Andre Marriner and this week’s star turn at the League Cup Final, Craig Pawson.
Irrespective of questionable refereeing, City produced by far their worst performance of the season at Wigan and, despite having 82% possession and 29 attempts on goal, just couldn’t conjure up a draw, let alone a win.
Obviously the world and his wife were delighted to see City lose – it’s like finding a crock of gold plated rocking horse shit – it doesn’t happen very often.
But for all the vile vitriol directed at City this week, it’s worth remembering City have won 86% of all games played this season – that’s 36 wins from 42 – scoring 111 goals, conceding 32 and amassing a goal difference of +72.
Is there a team in the land that wouldn’t want to swap places with a City side sitting 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League, with a Cup Final to contest on Sunday and a virtual shoe-in for the Champions League quarter finals?
It was only in December, when asked if City would win all four competitions Pep said: “Of course not. Come on, that isn’t real. What we are living isn’t real. That is not going to happen.”
What is real, is the prospect of Pep collecting his first silverware in England this weekend against Arsenal.
When the two teams met in the FA Cup semi final last April, City lost 2-1, with key decisions once again going against the Sky Blues, notably a bona fide goal disallowed when the ball was wrongly deemed to have gone out of play.
In addition, referee Craig Pawson stood by and did nothing as Arsenal kicked David Silva out of the game within the first 20 minutes.
This would be the same Pawson who failed to dismiss Tottenham’s Alli and Kane at the Etihad last December, when both should have been sent off.
Will it be third time lucky for City with Pawson? Is there even a remote possibility he might actually do his job to the required standard, just for once?
City will be encouraged at Gabriel Jesus’ return to training this week, having missed the last 12 games, but doubts remain on Raheem Sterling’s ability to recover from a ‘muscle problem’.
Fabian Delph is suspended and with Benjamin Mendy’s long awaited return still a few weeks away, the big question is who starts at left back?
Oleksander Zinchenko could be preferred over the more experienced, but somewhat wayward Danilo, or Pep could spring a surprise and slot Aymeric Laporte in as a left footed stop gap.
As the domestic cup keeper, Claudio Bravo starts in goal, his heroics in the earlier rounds against Wolves and Leicester, winning him the nod over Ederson.
Let’s hope Pep keeping faith with Bravo reaps the same rewards as City's last League Cup Final appearance, when Manuel Pellegrini elected to stick with Willy Caballero over Joe Hart.
A Wembley win and a Carabao Cup bedecked in sky blue and white ribbons will gloss over the excruciating events of last Monday night, and then it’ll be back to league football.
On the subject of ribbons, the FA are on the warpath seeking to punish Pep for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of those jailed while campaigning for Catalan independence. The City boss risks a touchline ban and disciplinary action if he wears the symbol at Wembley.
A City FA Cup exit used to be accompanied by a sigh of resignation and mutterings of having to ‘concentrate on the league’ – usually meaning vying for mid-table mediocrity or battling relegation.
Concentrating on the ‘leagues’ – plural – could see Pep deliver the really big prizes in the coming weeks and months.
Now that would be magical for every City Blue.
By David Walker
As City challenge for titles, this article is dedicated to a Super Blue facing the biggest fight any of us can ever face…the fight for life. Stephen Wilson will ultimately succumb to his battle with cancer, but he is the embodiment of the Club he holds so dear, so naturally he is going to Fight Till The End.
We had the pleasure of meeting Stephen and his daughter Sarah during the Champions League trip to Seville in November 2015. Those were indeed sunny days and a splendid 3-1 City win.
We met up again at the Etihad before the recent 5-1 thrashing of Leicester. It was our privilege to hand over a signed City shirt to go towards #TeamWilson’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support.
Kind hearted former City kitman and now match day host, Les ‘Chappy’ Chapman, also made time to visit Stephen and help lift his spirits with some great City stories.
The Wilson’s are a remarkable family, looking to give back to those who are helping them in their hours of need. Sarah is running in this year’s London Marathon on behalf of Macmillan and can be found on Twitter @_tuesdaywilson