The 3 R’s of ‘writing, reading and arithmetic’ used to be the foundation of basic education in Britain.
Manuel Pellegrini continues his schooling in English football amid Manchester City’s 3 R’s of a different kind – redemption, revenge and reunion – as Uwe Rosler brings Wigan to the Etihad for an emotional FA Cup quarter final tie.
With designs on a unique domestic treble of trophies, the City manager has already experienced one Wembley triumph when his team bagged the League Cup a week ago.
Victory against Wigan, the team that had the temerity to beat Roberto Mancini’s sky blues 1-0 in last season’s FA Cup showpiece, will mean an immediate return trip to the home of English football and a step closer to a cup double.
It would deliver FA Cup redemption for a City side that, under Pellegrini’s stewardship, bears little resemblance to the ramshackle garbage served up on May 11th 2013.
Revenge would be sweet as it would wrench the famous trophy from the holder’s grip, although it will never exorcise the demons of that awful afternoon where City disintegrated in the rain.
Who knows, it might even stop Dave Whelan, the Wigan Chairman, regaling the world with tales of how he had ‘unfinished business’ at Wembley…something to do with him breaking his leg – he may have mentioned it once or twice!
The fact that the two Roberto’s – Mancini and Martinez – have long since departed doesn’t diminish this re-match, only this time the hot favourites won’t under estimate their opponents.
Nor will they come into the match set against a backdrop of mayhem and discord, as was the case with Mancini’s imminent departure, amid rifts, rancour and player rebellion.
The Italian firebrand was well liked and many fans mourned his departure. It made life difficult when the new man took over, but City’s supporters are taking Pellegrini to their hearts, as he proves his worth as a manager capable of leading the club to glory, with his trademark brand of attacking football.
Perversely, the manager of today’s opponents is already firmly embedded in the affections of the sky blues – and they in his.
Uwe Rosler scored 64 goals in 176 appearances for Manchester City at a time when City not only struggled for survival in England’s top flight, but actually succumbed, dropping to the third tier.
Often described as a cult figure with the then Maine Road masses, Uwe is more, much more, than that for both professional and personal reasons. The tag of ‘living legend’ seems more apposite, especially as he came so close to death.
He will be accorded a wonderfully warm reception – almost as hot as the one Vincent Kompany & Co have in store for Rosler’s team – when he is greeted by the Etihad crowd.
The bond between a popular and talented player and supporters escalated beyond the norm when Uwe was stricken with cancer in 2003.
The story of him lying in a Norwegian hospital bed battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and taking a call on his mobile, from the City of Manchester Stadium, is almost as famous as Dave Whelan’s Wembley leg break in the 1960 FA Cup Final.
One of Uwe’s friends rang him from inside the Stadium and told him ‘…listen to this…’ All Uwe could hear was the sound of City fans chanting his name, willing him back to health at a time when his survival hung in the balance.
The ex-City striker realised that he had a body of support behind him like no other – every man, woman and child with sky blue in their soul – were thinking of him and wanting him to win the greatest battle of his life.
There are some who dream of the day that Uwe may one day return to manage City. It’s a lovely ideal but not one that will sit well with Manuel Pellegrini or, in the longer term, a certain Pep Guardiola.
But enough of the past and the future. For 90 minutes later today, Uwe Rosler, City’s own cherished version of Der Bomber, will become the ‘enemy’…well, of a sort.
Sentimentalism will give way to professionalism as Rosler seeks to beat City and they look to return the ‘compliment’.
Wigan are flavour of the month in The Championship, the form team with four wins out of five and a place in the play-off positions, earning Uwe, Manager of the Month Award recognition for February.
His Wigan team is not only much changed from the FA Cup winning side, but also the line-up that went down to a resounding 5-0 thumping last September, as City embarked on their road to Wembley and League Cup success.
That was supposed to be payback, but that was before the teams were once again thrown together in FA Cup combat, just 72 hours before City renew ‘hostilities’against Barcelona.
Ever practical and pragmatic, Pellegrini quite rightly says the FA Cup quarter finals is City’s most important game, simply because it’s the next.
It should prove more winnable than the uphill battle that awaits in the Nou Camp, but if City allow their thoughts to drift to Catalonia anytime before 18.00 hours today, the unlikely quadruple could already have gone.
With Balkans duo Jovetic and Nastasic the only players definitely ruled out by injury, Pellegrini has the rare luxury of selecting from a nigh on fully fit, but arguably fatigued, squad.
Aguero will benefit from another hour on the field as he strives for full match fitness. Negredo should get the nod over Dzeko after the Bosnian striker’s very passable Wembley impersonation of City’s fabled ‘Invisible Man’.
James Milner could be suited to the physicality of Wigan’s game and could conceivably play, giving David Silva some respite as the matches keep coming every three days.
With Martin Demichelis suspended for Wednesday, Joleon Lescott seems set fair to play alongside Kompany in Barcelona, so a ‘dry run’ against the Latics would make sense.
Uwe Rosler will forever be an iconic figure in the eyes of Manchester City fans, and rightly so.
City just need to ensure they don’t give Wigan the ammunition for him to achieve hero status too early in to his time with the FA Cup holders. They don’t want to have to accommodate a 4th ‘R’ – there can be no regrets!
By David Walker