Newsletter #1596

Into the New Year on the back of three wins under Mancini, with a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup against Scunthorpe secured at the weekend.

We have opinion tonight on Mancini’s arrival and approach, the recent games and a couple of match reports and views.

Seasonal news round-up from Alex covers the change in managers, a look at what lies ahead and the latest transfer rumours.

Next up our Cup semi-final fixture.

A very Happy New Year to all our subscribers and readers.

Next Game: Manchester United, home, 7.45pm Wednesday 6 January (Carling Cup)


General News

Form Marks the End for Hughes: Only one thing on City fans’ minds over Christmas after a run of two wins in thirteen Premier League fixtures signalled the end for Mark Hughes only hours after a 4-3 victory over Sunderland. The Welshman, who earned the respect of City fans despite joining the club back in the summer of 2008 as ‘an ex-Red’, had failed to impress this season having spent a massive £120 million in the summer transfer window and though wins over Chelsea and Arsenal seemed to appease some sections of the media, Hughes’ departure was inevitable following disappointing draws with Bolton, Burnley and Hull. Club Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak explained the reasons behind the dismissal: “Prior to the current season beginning, with significant investment in players and infrastructure in place, the consensus between the Board and coaching staff was that appropriate agreed targets should be set for the 2009/2010 season. The targets were agreed as a result of the player acquisition strategy of the club being radically accelerated in the summer as a result of very favourable conditions for any buying club. It was also based on the fact that the infrastructure of the club had been overhauled completely at great cost in order to create the best possible environment for the team. A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set. Sheikh Mansour and the Board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change. This is a particularly difficult announcement given the personal investment over the past 15 months on all sides and we would like to put on record our respect for and thanks to Mark Hughes and we wish him the best in his future career.” Backroom staff Mark Bowen, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Kevin Hitchcock and Glyn Hodges have all followed Hughes out of the club.

Roberto’s the Man: Roberto Mancini was the name on everyone’s lips as City wasted no time in replacing Hughes with the former Inter Milan manager. Mancini, who was replaced by Jose Mourinho at the San Siro eighteen months ago, was appointed only hours after Hughes left the club despite weeks of rumours suggesting that he or former Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink could take the reigns. Though the critics have been out in force following Mancini’s arrival, due to his lack of Premier League experience (a five game spell at Leicester City his only taste of English football), the new City chief has three Italian league titles and four domestic Cups to his name and has managed the likes of Patrick Vieira, Julio Cesar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Al Mubarek was first to praise his new manager: “Roberto is a hugely experienced manager with a proven track record of winning trophies and championships. His experience and track record speak for themselves. What is absolutely clear is that Roberto believes in Manchester City’s potential to achieve at the highest level and importantly in his own ability to make this happen. My hope is that our incredible fans will join us in welcoming Roberto to the football club.”

Mancini admitted he was delighted to have been appointed manager and hoped to lead City to similar success as Inter Milan by playing his own special brand of football: “I am proud to get the job because City is a good club with good players. Manchester is similar to Milan in its football passion. In Milan there are two big teams there fighting for supremacy and silverware and here it is the same. I like the challenge of that. I know how fans feel about such matches and I thank those City fans who came to greet me at the hotel. I know their passion and I know that it helps the team. We have the players to be successful. The top four is the aim and I want a good run in the FA Cup too. Hopefully we can get to two finals. Sixth place in the league is not good for me and hopefully in a month’s time that will have improved and we will have made progress in the cups too. I know how important the cups are in England, in Italy they only become so at the semi-final stage.”

Mancini is also excited about being joined by Brian Kidd who will take up the role of assistant manager following spells as a player and as academy coach at the club: “I know Brian, he is a boss in English football. I know his record as a top player for City, Everton and United. He was a striker, I was a striker; we share the same football philosophy. He has also has great coaching experience. I am sure we will gel very well.”

Following Roberto Mancini’s arrival, many news reports suggested ‘ungentlemanly conduct’ by the club’s hierarchy, so much so that Executive Chairman Garry Cook was sparked into releasing a statement to the contrary, prior to Mancini’s unveiling: “Some of the characterisation of events of the last two days is particularly disappointing considering the fact that in the last 15 months there have been a number of occasions where Mark’s position has been questioned by people outside the Club. The support that he was shown at those times and the resources that he was given was complete and extensive. The Chairman has been nothing but transparent with Mark Hughes throughout his tenure and had communicated with him regularly over the last several weeks. In keeping with that behaviour, the Chairman got on a plane and came to Manchester to meet with Mark in person to explain the decision. Once the decision to change managers had been taken, the Board felt that the sooner that change was made, the less disruption there would be to the Club and the fairer it would be to Mark and his team. The decision to end Mark’s tenure was a unanimous decision by the Owner, the Chairman, myself and the Board, as was the decision to appoint Roberto Mancini to the position.”

The new gaffer has not only received the endorsement of his new employers but also of old friend and rival Carlo Ancelotti. Chelsea coach Ancelotti, who managed AC Milan during Mancini’s time at Inter, believes that his compatriot will be a huge success in the Premier League and he looks forward to renewing their great rivalry: “Roberto Mancini is my friend. We played together in the national team together maybe 20 years ago and I have a good relationship with him. He is young but he has the personality and a lot of experience in football. He has the possibility to do very well here.”

The Italian Job: The undoing of former manager Mark Hughes was undoubtedly his inconsistent defence who conceded nine goals in three games against Burnley, Hull and Bolton Wanderers but Roberto Mancini has declared that he will bring an Italian touch to his team in order to stop his side leaking goals. Mancini was keen to stress though that this did not mean stifling the club’s attacking flair, simply finding ideal balance: “You cannot win games without scoring goals and my teams in Italy never played for 0-0 draws but it is important to defend well too. The games come thick and fast over Christmas and New Year but we have five days to work with the back line. For me it is important that the team has a balance. To win games you have to defend well. It is most important that the squad stop conceding goals. The players can look forward to plenty of hard work and to improving their concentration levels.”

Time to be Heroes: It’s been 33 years since Mike Doyle lifted the League Cup above his head at Wembley and little did he know that three decades later, that trophy would have been the last major domestic silverware to enter City’s cabinet. The City legend will forever be proud of his side’s achievement but admits that he, like every other Blue, dreams of the day that the club tastes success again. Ahead of Wednesday’s Carling Cup semi-final with Manchester United, Doyle revealed that he believes this year is a Blue year but doesn’t, like so many others, feel the need to separate Cup success from European qualification: “If I’m honest, I get a bit tired of me being the last City player to lead a winning team at Wembley. Obviously I’m proud, but the longer it goes on, the longer it means we haven’t won anything. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this could be the season when we bring some silverware back to the club. I’m there every week and enjoying it as much as I did when I was a kid. Of the current team, I really like Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy because of the fire they have in their bellies. Wayne Bridge, Gareth Barry and Pablo Zabaleta have impressed me, too and I really believe we have the players to win a cup and qualify for Europe this season.”

It’s not only Mike Doyle who has high hopes for this campaign, club hero Joe Corrigan has also talked up City’s chances of domestic success this season: “We can definitely beat United over two legs. I’m sure both matches will be close but I fancy us to go all the way to the final this year.”

Squad News

What Rebellion? Rumours of a player rebellion surfaced as Mark Hughes departed from Eastlands but veteran left back Sylvinho has revealed that the reported revolt has not occurred and all players are acting as professionally as ever. The former Barcelona player admitted that he was disappointed to see Hughes leave the club but also revealed that he had the utmost faith in his new boss: “Sometimes these things happen when you are talking about football at this level, and as a player you have to be prepared to adapt quickly. Whatever happens, we try to do our best. We can’t be thinking about Mark Hughes, who was a good manager trying to do his best for the club, there is no time. Football changes too quickly. As a professional you have to work hard for the new coach, because you know that in a few days you have another important game. And the Premier League is difficult, you must prepare properly.”

Mancini himself has laughed away any suggestion of disquiet in the ranks and actually paid tribute to the loyalty of his players to their former boss. Though he acknowledges that Hughes’ way of doing things was a good one, Mancini hopes to alter things so drastically that the club will be an established top four side who challenge for honours by next season: “I have good communication with the players, and I have a good relationship with the players. I appreciate that some players were close with Mark. It’s a good thing for a manager. I hope that when I leave Manchester in ten or 15 years after five Premier titles and four cups, the players will have the same feeling for me! The top four is still the target. If we do a good job in the next five or six months and get in the top four, then next season we can arrive on top. For this we must change the mentality. We must want to win always, home and away. If we have this mentality we can change the situation, and I think that the players have this mentality.”

It had been reported that City’s in-form Craig Bellamy had led any protests against Mark Hughes’ dismissal and inevitably rumours of a possible exit began to circulate. Despite interest from Arsenal, Bellamy has committed himself to ‘seeing the job out’ at City and has no interest in a move away: “Nothing surprises you in this game; that is what makes it so great. I have a great affection for Mark Hughes but you have to carry on. I want to be a part of City for as long as I can.”

Bulgarian Expresses His Frustrations: One player who has clearly benefited from the sacking of Hughes is Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov. The midfielder, who had scored a goal in each of his previous three starts this season, scored again against Stoke having been named in the starting XI. The former Atletico Madrid player made no secret of his frustration whilst Hughes was in charge and hopes his new manager will turn things around: “Now is not the time to speak about my situation. In the past six months too many things have happened with me. Maybe in the future I will speak 100 per cent. But what he was doing with me I think was unfair. Every manager has different ideas about what he likes to do in training and tactics – in the last three games we conceded nine goals. Everyone is surprised at the quick change of manager but we are football players who earn our money and must still concentrate because we have games to play. We must try to win every game, that is our job. I have been away from Bulgaria for ten years, and it’s the first time for a long time I’ve not been playing. But I’m a professional and I grow stronger. If you’re not playing, you grow stronger for the next time that you do.”

The Mancini Philosophy: The appointment of Roberto Mancini may have led to rumours that squad morale had hit an all time low but it would seem as if the Italian boss is actually making more friends than enemies. Alongside Petrov, Mancini has already made allies of long time absentees Benjani and Javier Garrido. Although removed from his favoured left-back position, the newly installed defensive midfielder Javier Garrido is another player benefiting from the Mancini era. The Spaniard had looked set to leave this month having been effectively excluded by former boss Mark Hughes but Garrido has no intention of letting his second chance slip and impressive performances against Boro and Wolves, capped at Molineux with a superbly taken free kick, will have done nothing to hurt his chances: “I am someone who works hard every day in training so that I am ready when called. This is an exciting moment for me. The new manager is giving everyone some minutes and it is a chance to show what I can do. Every player wants to play in every game but that is not always possible but you have to stay mentally and physically sharp and ready for opportunities.”

Former Pompey striker Benjani was another who had been linked with a move away from the club but has now pledged to prove his worth to the former Inter Milan boss having started and scored for the first time this season at Middlesbrough on Saturday: “The Manager is giving everybody a chance, that’s easy to see. I think he wants to give everyone a game, so if you get that chance it’s up to you to take it and impress him. We were always raising the game, even in the past because there have always been some good players here. With a few injuries about at the moment we are all getting the chance, and form in training is important to get into the Manager’s thoughts. I’m so happy to be back because I have had a lot of injury problems over the year, but once I got over those it with so many good players here it was always going to be difficult to get back into the side. It was great that the manager gave me a chance and I knew I had to make the most of it. Playing away from home against a team like Middlesbrough is always going to be hard to break through, so I’m happy that I managed to get the goal when the chance came.”

Dedryck Buoyed by Inclusion: Dedryck Boyata is not a name that most fans will have been familiar with prior to this weekend but the centre back was Mancini’s shock inclusion in the XI that started against Middlesbrough in this weekend’s FA Cup tie. The former Academy player, who had changed his plans for Christmas so that he could be included in the squads to face Stoke and Wolves, again proved City’s Academy to be the best in the country as he performed to an excellent standard and the 19-year-old hopes this is the first appearance of many: “I was due to fly home on Christmas Eve, but then I was told I had to stay back to train so I was a bit upset at first. But I’ve been training with some fantastic players every day since, and now to make my début is a fantastic feeling. I did not have the chance to ring anyone before the game, and I did not really want to hear them at that point but I made sure I texted them so all my family know I’ve played. I spoke to my dad right after the game and they are all delighted for me. The Manager took the defence in training during the week, and when he called me over I was really shocked. I could not quite believe I would be in the team, and I did not want to really believe it until today. I only saw my name on the team sheet two hours before kick off, and I was a bit stressed for a while but once the game started that went away and I was fine. All the lads just told me to play the way I do in training, so it was not too difficult to make the step up. I just kept telling myself to stay focussed, but once we kicked off I was fine. I think it went pretty well, we won the game and I think I did OK, but I’m not too sure! I had had fantastic support from my team mates so I’m really happy.”

Done and Dusted: Breaking into the the City senior side and qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, 2009 was a great year for Academy graduate Vladimir Weiss who capped it all by signing a new two and a half year deal last week. Weiss has obviously made a great impression on City chiefs with various exciting cameos from the substitutes’ bench this season and though the 20-year-old is yet to start a Premier League game this term, he did get himself on the scoresheet in City’s Carling Cup quarter final tie with Arsenal back in December. The Slovakian winger is now looking to the future having put pen to paper: “I have been here for four years now and I came here to realise my first team ambitions. I am delighted to have signed this contract. I am excited about what the future holds and delighted that even with the players that City have got now, the club have given me the opportunity to progress and show that not only the big players can make it. The new deal shows that young players from the Academy can progress. I am happy that I am one of them. I look at Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards and Nedum Onouha and think ‘why not me?’ I can be the next one from the Academy to progress. I talk to Stephen Ireland quite a lot because for me he is an example to follow. I try to take as much information as possible from him. He is an incredible player who has made it and I hope I will be the next one.”

City’s Slovakian wonderkid wasn’t the only Blue to commit to a new deal this week as versatile defender Pablo Zabaleta signed up to a new four and a half year contract. The Argentine international, who hopes to be a part of Diego Maradona’s World Cup squad for South Africa 2010, admitted that his love of not only Manchester but the club’s passionate support were the main reasons behind committing to the Blues long term: “We play in front of over 40,000 passionate fans. It’s so different from Spain. My English lessons are finished now, I will continue to learn with my team-mates at Carrington. I’m delighted to sign because I’m so happy playing for Manchester City and I love living here. If we play well enough we can get into the top four. We have the players for big things.”

Making History: New City boss Roberto Mancini revealed that having “showdown talks” with record signing Robinho is high on his priority list following confirmation by Barcelona officials that they had had a bid rejected for the Brazilian under Mark Hughes’ tenure. With the January transfer window now open, Mancini will most likely be set to splash the cash but feels it is more important to keep hold of the world class talent he currently has at the club if he is to achieve the goals he has set himself: “I think that Robinho can make history. I played for Sampdoria for 15 years and I made history, I wrote history. I think that that Robinho can stay here, and he can write himself into the history of Manchester City. Robinho is a fantastic player, but I have five or six who play in attack and who are very good. We can play in different formations. I always played in attack, and for me that’s most important. My team will play to win always home, away or in training, that is most important. My own target is to arrive in the top four, that is my objective. But next season we want to win the title.”

Fans Given Shay’s Thanks: Having received the club’s Player of the Month award for November, City stopper Shay Given admitted that the secret behind his instant success at CoMS was how the fans took to him so quickly after his £8 million move from Newcastle United. Given has been labelled the Blues’ ‘best value for money signing’ ever since his move last January and, having become a firm favourite with the City faithful, the Irishman hopes to continue his excellent run of form for the club but joked that he’d feel a lot happier if the club’s forward line were winning the plaudits: “I was at one club for so long that coming here was a real challenge for me, but I started well and it’s carried on from there. You have to maintain your standards but I’m always trying to improve as a goalkeeper. That will be the case for all the time I’m at Manchester City, I’ll always look to get better, do as best I can for the club and the supporters. The fans have been great to me, from the very first game against Middlesbrough. I’m very grateful for that because I was a bit nervous about coming to a new club after such a long time at Newcastle. I didn’t know if the fans would take to me, it wasn’t something I had had to think about for a long time, but it was a nice feeling when they did, and I want to thank the fans for that. It’s nice to get the award, I know that Martin and Bellers have won it before, so maybe it’s better if forwards are getting these awards as at least we know we’re scoring down at the other end. But I’m delighted that the fans voted for me this month, I’m happy to take it but maybe it’s a better sign if someone further up the pitch could get it after me!”

Injury List: Stevie Ireland joined Joleon Lescott, Shaun Wright Phillips and Nedum Onuoha on the list of high profile absentees for the coming weeks after the midfielder picked up a hamstring injury against Wolves last week. It is hoped that the Irishman will be back for City’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Old Trafford in two weeks’ time but with Michael Johnson, Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz also out, City’s side is beginning to look a little threadbare. As it happens, Michael Johnson has begun rehabilitation after successful surgery on his ruptured cruciate ligament whilst Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha are expected to return within a fortnight.

Post-Match Reaction

City Ride Their Luck Against Black Cats: In a horribly compelling clash, the Citizens came through Mark Hughes’ last game as manager to gain all three points from this seven goal thriller. When the Blues went 2-0 up after only eleven minutes, through goals from Roque Santa Cruz and the in-form Carlos Tevez, the optimists amongst the 45,000 Blue contingent hoped that that was job done and dared to believe that a drubbing was on the cards. Yet in typical City style, Steve Bruce’s Sunderland were allowed to draw level with just 24 minutes on the clock. Despite rumours circling around the stadium that Hughes was on his way out, the City faithful found their voice and Craig Bellamy ensured his side went in 3-2 up at half time. Inevitably, the next goal came from the visitors as Kenwynne Jones made it 3-3 only for City’s Santa Cruz to provide some festive cheer seven minutes later when he finished the scoring at 4-3. Michael Turner was later sent off for the Black Cats for what seemed a harsh elbow as he jumped with Gareth Barry but the Blues did come away with a deserved three points… eventually. As Mark Hughes was on his way out of CoMS when he was due to give his post-match interview, there is no manager’s comment for the Sunderland game.

Roberto Stokes the Fire: Goals from the returning Martin Petrov and man-of-the-match Carlos Tevez ensured that Roberto Mancini’s first game in City colours (quite literally as he donned the blue and white scarf of the Citizens) ended in a victory. Stoke did contend early on but after Petrov broke the deadlock, City dominated and though the Blues left much room for improvement, the club’s Italian Chief was chuffed with his players’ performance: “We have worked hard these last few days and this was the reward for the team and the supporters. There were people playing in positions that are perhaps not their normal ones but everyone did well including Robinho who has not had a lot of football after his injury. I thought we were better in the first half than the second when we got a little tired. But now we must prepare properly for Wolves.”

Carlos Tevez was once again superb but it was Shay Given who Mancini chose toreserve special praise for: “Shay Given made some great saves today and I ratehim so highly. I think without doubt he is one of the best five goalkeepers inthe world. I was pleased with the win it was the perfect start for me but I wasalso pleased with the defence too and that means the whole of the team. Shaygives everyone around him a sense of confidence and he can be pleased with hisafternoon.”

The Italian also has a word of thanks for the City faithful: “I must thank the fans for the welcome they gave me and the way they backed the side throughout the match. They are a very important part of what we are trying to do and I was delighted that they got behind us so well and with such enthusiasm.”

Dancing Through Wolves: Carlos Tevez continued his excellent goal scoring form at Molineux as chants of “Fergie, Sign Him Up!” rang through the Midlands in midweek. After a disappointing opening half hour, the Blues found second gear and began to dominate against Mick McCarthy’s side. The Argentine’s brace, either side of a stunning Javier Garrido free kick, provided City with a 3-0 scoreline and a first away win since August as the Blues moved to fifth in the league.

City’s attacking prowess was once again on show but City skipper Kolo Touré, who has now gone to represent his country at the African Cup of Nations alongside team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor, was quick to acknowledge his side’s second clean sheet in two games: “It was a really tough game but we know that if we defend well together we will always score goals. We are glad we have the three points. We have been working since the new manage came on a tactical game. We are doing well so far. This was a second clean sheet and I hope we keep going like that while I am away.”

Down by the Riverside: Twenty four hours before arch rivals Manchester United were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One side Leeds United, Mancini’s men overcame a tricky tie away to Middlesbrough. With so many injuries affecting the side, Vladimir Weiss started and Dedryck Boyata made his début as forgotten striker Benjani played for the first time this season. It was the Zimbabwean who broke the deadlock and ultimately won the game for City as his first half strike separated the sides after ninety minutes. City will now play Scunthorpe United in a repeat of the season’s earlier Carling Cup tie, which ended 5-1 to City, though the FA Cup tie shall take place at the Championship club.

The new boss was pleased to come away with a victory and was quick to hand the plaudits to his youngsters: “I like cup football and I want to do well in the FA Cup as well as the Carling Cup. I was pleased with the performance from the team. I enjoyed it but most of all I want to congratulate our supporters for making the game through the bad weather and then giving us such great support. Seeing them so happy made the win even better. I have never been afraid of giving young players there chance in the side. It is important for us as a big club to know that we can rely on the younger players if we need them. Vladimir has shown what he can do in a couple of substitute appearances and Dedryck has been doing really well in training. This was Dedryck’s first chance to shine at this level and I thought he did very well. The game will have given him confidence and helped him mentally to know that he is part of the squad. For me both young players have bright futures and that is not just good for them but also the club. It is important to me and to the owners and to the fans as well that we continue to bring players through our Academy.”

Alex Rowen <news(at)>


Snow makes a right mess of your hairstyle and even a good coat and so Mancini started the game in a waterproof and City baseball cap, though the scarf was still clearly visible.

Not the most impressive of games. We often failed to keep possession (unlike Wolves), lumped far too many balls up field and gave far too many free kicks away in our own half. That said, you can only beat the opposition in front of you, and that we did.

We started 4-5-1 and Zabaleta has a chance early doors but from that point on we were very sloppy. There was too much pressure on de Jong and as a result we couldn’t pass forwards and often ended up hoofing the ball up field. Boro’s wide players including the lively Johnson were looking dangerous on the flanks and Sylvinho was caught out for pace on 3 occasions and Richards once but the zonal marking did its job and defenders quickly funnelled back into specific positions so that crosses were easily cleared.

On the half hour, queue tactical change number one when Weiss and Petrov moved inside to give City a very narrow midfield. This worked a treat as it lessened the pressure on de Jong and as a result we bossed possession and didn’t give them a sniff for the rest of the half. This was also helped by Boro’s only real danger, Johnson, going off with an injury. As a result no one could get wide, get behind the full backs and turn the City defence. As a result City started to put some pressure on the Boro back line and runners started to get into the Boro box. Petrov exploited this very well and had two excellent moments, the first when he shot just past the post and the second when he put in an inch perfect pass to split the defence for Benjani to score just before half time. Good job Benjani scored because frankly he was poor the rest of the half.

Half time: Boro 0 – City 1

Richards and de Jong were replaced by Tevez and Barry at the interval; Zab went to right back and Tevez went up front with City going 4-4-2. City were much more fluid for 20 minutes with some excellent passing moves. That said, the final ball wasn’t quite there. I’m not sure what Benjani was doing but Tevez was pretty damned good with some excellent support from Petrov.

It didn’t quite work out for us defending though. Barry is not as good at this as de Jong so Boro got a lot of possession just inside our half and started lobbing artillery shells into our box. Boyata and Kompany withstood the onslaught really well and the one time Boro passed through our midfield, Kompany made an outstanding tackle to stop Boro breaking through.

Bellers came on for the last 20 and as a result the fluidity of our attacking moves improved, especially those on the counter attack. It must be said though that Tevez and Bellers should both have scored to put the game beyond reach. They didn’t though and at the same time Barry, Garrido, Zabaleta and Slyvinho were giving too many free kicks away just inside our half as Boro started to throw the kitchen sink at us. The game was certainly not won and in one amazing moment Kompany somehow managed to make an amazing headed clearance from a whipped in free kick. That said, for all Boro’s huffing and puffing they managed zero on target chances in the entire game. That says it all about Mancini’s managerial ability to me. Even though there were average players in many positions today, the organisation was superb and the tactical changes stopped Boro from getting the upper hand in the game.

Full Time: Boro 0 – City 1

Interestingly in the last quarter Strachan did find a way past our suffocating zonal defence by dropping Wheater deeper at set pieces. He won a few headers but the resulting chances from the edge of the area were blocked. If I’ve spotted this, then Baconface and his cohorts of darkness will have too and will try this tactic against us in the semi-final. I hope Mancini has a better solution to this problem than today because unlike Boro, United will punish us if we let them have the ball outside the penalty area at set pieces.

Given 4 – Stayed on his line too much. No shots to save mind. But what he had to do he didn’t do well. He needed to dominate the box more.
Richards 5 – Not a good first half. Buck up son to the standards over the last 4 games or you will be toast. He looked like he was carrying a knock at the end of the first half.
Kompany 9 – Outstanding defensive work and passing. MOTM.
Boyata 7 – Grew into the game. Defended well, but not the best at passing when we had the ball.
Sylvinho 4 – Too slow for the English game. Alan Johnson skinned him on 4 occasions.
Weiss 5 – Fluffed his big chance I’m afraid. Mind you there was little support from Benjani for the 1-2 pass. He kept the ball well though. I expect him to get shipped out on loan to Burnley or Stoke in the near future.
de Jong 7 – Played really well. Protected the back 4 magnificently. Not enough forward passes though till he got more protection in front of him.
Garrido 6 – No great shakes but did better than OK.
Zabaleta 7 – Mancini’s Mr Utility. Does a good job wherever he’s played.
Petrov 7.5 – Our best attacker. What I love about him is he can skin a defender but if it doesn’t come off he doesn’t lose possession. Superb passer of the ball too.
Benjani 4 – If you remove 1 point for the goal he was pretty damn poor. Not great service mind – but he was pretty anonymous in the 2nd half.
Barry 6 – Not as good as de Jong at defending but better at the link play attack stuff. Hence in the second half we attacked better but defended worse. Barry and de Jong do work well together though.
Tevez 7 – Continues his great form. Should have scored twice though.
Bellers 6 – Doesn’t seem to quite work using Bellers as a sub. I don’t know why. Stopped all Boro threats from our left though. Loved the bit when he tried to trap the ball and it went under his foot and out for a Boro throw.
Mancini 8 – Not a great starting selection but he made tactical changes to do enough to score and keep Boro out of the game – while not burning out our best players for Wednesday’s game.

Richard Mottershead.<richardjohnm(at)>


In this game City pretty much kept control of it, and what was very noticeable to me, was the way that City defended: nearly every player went back to help the defence when needed, hence another clean sheet. Let’s not carried away over the Blue Moon though, for it will be against our old enemy that the true test will come in the Carling Cup semi-final. In the meantime let’s progress in the F.A. Cup at ‘Boro.

So far I have been pleased with the Mancini team, as so should every other City supporter and fan.

Today at times the play was never as exciting as the football played by Mark Hughes but the main thing was we got the result and with three goals and a clean sheet, how about that?

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <britcityblue(at)>


After reading a couple of opinions in relation to Hughes being replaced by Mancini and all the c**p about losing our identity, our credibility, being compared to Chelsea, thinking of changing clubs etc., it was really pleasing to read a very well written article by Ernie Whalley.

Ernie has obviously thought out his “arguments” before deciding to voice his opinion (which I whole-heartedly agree with) on the change in manager, and what the new owners have “actually” done for our Club. Phil Lines and Steve Burrows also wrote good, sensible pieces. If so many people don’t like City, or the way it is run currently, then go and support a club like Bolton Wanderers. I have had my fair share of failure and demise, following City, and I want to lord it over all others, and this is the first time that City are in a position to achieve the success that I have been craving for all these years (I could not care less if we are compared to Chelsea and their spending ways … look how much success they have had!).

I must reinforce an earlier statement I made re: Mark Hughes; he was a committed, passionate and very well mannered man, someone we all respected, especially the way he conducted himself when interviewed. It’s his “failures” tactically, and the way he has handled some of our star names, that have brought into question “Can he really deliver us a Top 4 finish, and perhaps the Premiership Title?”

We are now a genuine big name player in global football, and with the trappings we now need success on the pitch. I discuss a lot of football matters with colleagues at work, and one guy in particular always said to me “I like the new players City have bought, and also all the potential signings, but MH is just a nice guy, what you’ll really need is a good, proven manager, and then you will see the change!” I always dismissed this as a bit of jealousy but over time, I can see what he was getting at. Mancini has it all to do, and has started off very well with 2 wins out of 2 (albeit against mediocre opposition). On paper we have a really good squad, and it will be interesting to see how Mancini will get the best out of the “malfunctioning” big name players, notable Robinho, before he loses patience and ships him out, and replaces him with a “quality” team player. Mancini is no fool and he is using the next few matches to test out all the players in our squad, before changes are made. I am really pleased Garrido has been given an opportunity; he seemed to be an outcast under MH.

Luckily for Mancini, he has 4 “Duracell” players in de Jong, Barry, Bellamy and Tevez, all of whom have shown good consistency (Given too) in matches to date, that the others in the squad need to take heed of. I can see Mancini buying a defensive player of one kind or another, maybe a centre half, as Kompany will probably stick to centre half in Touré’s absence, and we really only have Lescott as the spare man and he is out injured at the moment. Richards and Onuoha are not tall enough for the 2 centre back positions, and did Spurs capitalise on this … you bet they did! I know I have repeated this before but I hope we sell Robinho, and get in Angel de Maria from Benfica (a star in the making).

Come on City and forza Mancini!

Glyn Albuquerque <glynalbuquerque(at)>


For those of you about to hurl yourself into the River Irwell over Mark Hughes’ departure, I hope the results of our last two matches against Stoke and Wolves will show that Mancini actually knows what he’s doing.

Yes you can say that Stoke and Wolves are sadsack teams but we were losing to teams like these last year.

One word sticks with me in watching Mancini’s two matches: organization. Even with a severely depleted lineup, Mancini is savvy enough to insert Kompany in the back four and bring Garrido back from Purgatory (nice free kick goal against Wolves). He has the defence organized, used Petrov intelligently and had no hesitation in pulling Ireland off against Wolves when he was obviously struggling. Plus he was smart enough to give Robinho five minutes at the end of the Wolves game and is actually showing some smart tactics with his substitutions.

Just wish he’d give Weiss an outing but I am sure that will come. Two wins, two clean sheets. Come on City, give Mancini a chance.

Best holiday wishes to all.

Keith Sharp <keith(at)>


I’m with Ernie Whalley. I’d like to say that I enjoyed those high scoring games that we had under MH. However, looking at the missed opportunity I’d quite happily seen a dull 1-0 with table position gained…

Well Ernie, to extend your analogy, we’ll sit here in the trench waiting for the whistle, and when it comes we’ll go over the top and give them all a good kicking. After all, there is ‘pride in battle’!

Mark Jones <Mark.Jones(at)>


When assessing a manager, it is important to look beyond results (good or bad) to the performances of the team. Individual games can be won or lost on a lucky bounce, unlucky deflection, or terrible refereeing decision but a team that is playing good football will do well in the long run, despite the odd unlucky result. Conversely, a team that is playing poorly will surely be found out even if they have a few fortunate results along the way. This is how we should have been judging Hughes, and it’s how we should judge Mancini. It’s clear that there were strong feelings on both sides of the Hughes debate but in the end the board took the view that despite a reasonable position in the table (and about the ‘right’ amount of points), the football just wasn’t good enough, and would eventually lead us down the table rather than up. So how should we assess Mancini’s reign thus far?

The first thing to note is that it’s very common to get a quick boost when a new manager arrives at a club: regulars try that bit harder to impress the new guy and those out of favour see a chance to get back into the team so it’s dangerous to read too much into the first few results (especially given the randomness involved in individual results, as noted above). So although 2-0 and 3-0 wins look great, those results in themselves shouldn’t lead us to too many conclusions, especially since both opponents came close to scoring on a number of occasions (thanks, Shay!). However, I’ve seen a couple of things that I like already that give me confidence.

The first is Mancini’s ability (and willingness) to change formations during a game. He did this pretty early on against both Stoke and Wolves, with apparent success. Notably this wasn’t some late-in-the-game desperation move, but a calculated attempt to counter the opposition’s strengths or exploit their weaknesses early on. The second notable change was the switch to a zonal defence for corners and free kicks, which frightens me a lot less than the previous strategy of Barry marking their biggest guy and Richards marking nobody in particular. The third difference could have been a coincidence, but I noticed in the Stoke game in particular, that Given was coming out for the ball a lot more than he usually does. As great a goalie as he undoubtedly is, you have to hold him at least partly responsible when an opponent gets off an uncontested shot/header in or around the 6-yard area (as has happened several times this season). Even a shorter goalie like Shay should be dominating that area, but he’s had the tendency to stay rooted to his line, assuming his defenders would deal with the problem, which they haven’t. However, against Stoke, he seemed to be making a deliberate effort to deal with crossed balls himself, which I think reduced the number of dangerous situations, thus reducing the odds that Stoke would score. It’s hard to completely eliminate opposition chances, as Tuncay showed us early on, but the more you reduce them, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

I’ll be watching the next few games very carefully to see if Mancini continues along these lines, and more importantly, to see how he copes when things don’t go our way from the start of a game. He’s currently ahead of Hughes in my reckoning, but with only two games down (both of which should be won by any team with their eye on a Champions’ League place, and may well have been won with Hughes in charge), there are still many questions to be answered before we can make a final verdict on the wisdom of the latest managerial change at Eastlands.

Mike Maddox <mwm2240(at)>


Whilst it’s difficult to make a full assessment of Roberto’s management abilities after 2 games, the signs are good.

Two wins, 5 goals for, and could have been double that, and none conceded.

I was impressed during the Stoke game how he was constantly on the edge of his technical area telling the defence to maintain the line and at Wolves how he changed the formation when it was not working and making substitutions that made a difference.

If he carries on like this we might actually win something.

Happy New Year to all.

Peter Astbury <p.astbury(at)>


They say a week’s a long time in football. One manager gone, another in. A shaky defence gone, well almost, and a couple of clean sheets instead.

Two competent performances, six points, and some players clearly impressing the manager. What I like about Mancini (and not just the suits he wears), is that if things aren’t working he will change them.

Some say Kompany doesn’t like playing in the centre of defence. Pity, he’s got everything. Richards and Zab did a lot right, and Touré looked more at ease. Of the two games, Robinho had a shocker against Stoke, and Barry kept passing to the opposition with regularity. But all in all a vast improvement; hope they keep it up, not just for a few games to impress Mancini but for the rest of the season.

I think most of us don’t mind getting beating by a better team, it’s those games when only half the team turns up to play that annoy me. Hope our owners gives Mancini a fair go, we need a new manager at the end of the season like a hole in the head.

Kevin Williamson <scribbs(at)>


Bravo to Ernie Whalley in the last edition!

Ernie: You summed up and articulated the situation and feelings of many true City fans absolutely perfectly! I and I know many other Blues agree with you 100%.

Our time has come. The press don’t like it, the TV doesn’t like it and best of all old Bbacon Face doesn’t like it! He’s bleating on about us almost on a daily basis now. Why? Because he and other know that with our spending power that success is inevitable. Not if but when. And they all start need to getting used to it! Mancini looks class. Calm, experienced, tactically knowledgeable and from one day one it is clear who is in charge.

Regards and respect to Mark Hughes but to be honest there appears to be no comparison. After 40+ years, this time I genuinely believe we are on our way!

(Written and posted 2 hours before the Wolves game!)

Jack Barclay <jackbarclay62(at)>


Micah Richards’ performance against Wolves was abject to say the least. I know we won but his distribution from the back is appalling. How many times did he give the ball away in dangerous positions? Wolves were poor on the night, a lot of huff and puff but thankfully no killer instinct. Touré was not much better. We will be found out against better teams at the back. What is all the fuss about Petrov? I don’t rate him at all since he came back from injury. He plays what I call ‘scared’, never makes a tackle or works hard enough. All the team need to look at Tevez, he runs and runs for the whole game and this is the type of player we need to buy, by far City’s best signing. Look for some decent defensive signings in the January window, I hope!

Andrew Armstrong <and_arm(at)>


Calvin Chan questions whether he still wants to support City over the Mark Hughes affair. I was a Hughes supporter and I am appalled at the way he was dismissed, even if the decision was correct. Garry Cook has proven himself to be a real amateur in PR.

But if something like this turns people away from City, and there are one or two on some other forums expressing similar thoughts, then I have just one thing to say to them. See ya, shut the door on the way out.

Unless my club start a prostitute ring, get involved in child molestation, murder, rape, or any other despicable crime against humanity, I will always be Blue.

You never change teams.

John Nisbet <nisbet1957(at)>


Eric Hoyle in today’s Guardian (letters and emails) suggested now Mancini has arrived we change Blue Moon to Moon River. What a great idea!

Moon River
Wider than a mile
I’m crossin’ you in style
Some day
Old dream maker
You heartbreaker
Wherever you’re going
I’m going your way.

The lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer and the original title of his and Enrico Mancini’s song was Blue River.

David Bennett <davebenet(at)>


Roberto on being asked who he was and why he took the job said:

Man C in I?

John O’Connor <aardvet(at)>


30 December 2009

Portsmouth            1 - 4  Arsenal               20,404
Manchester United     5 - 0  Wigan Athletic        74,560

29 December 2009

Aston Villa           0 - 1  Liverpool             42,788
Bolton Wanderers      2 - 2  Hull City             20,696

28 December 2009

Tottenham Hotspur     2 - 0  West Ham United       35,994
Blackburn Rovers      2 - 2  Sunderland            25,656
Chelsea               2 - 1  Fulham                41,805
Everton               2 - 0  Burnley               39,419
Stoke City            0 - 1  Birmingham City       27,211
Wolverhampton Wndrs   0 - 3  Manchester City       28,957

League table to 03 January 2010 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Chelsea         20  9  1  0 27  6  5  2  3 18 10 14  3  3  45  16  29  45
 2 Manchester Utd  20  8  1  1 24  8  6  0  4 21 10 14  1  5  45  18  27  43
 3 Arsenal         19  8  0  1 28  7  5  2  3 23 14 13  2  4  51  21  30  41
 4 Tottenham H.    20  7  0  3 26  8  4  4  2 16 14 11  4  5  42  22  20  37
 5 Manchester City 19  6  3  0 22 13  3  5  2 16 14  9  8  2  38  27  11  35
 6 Aston Villa     20  6  2  2 17  7  4  3  3 12 11 10  5  5  29  18  11  35
 7 Liverpool       20  6  2  2 26 11  4  1  5 11 14 10  3  7  37  25  12  33
 8 Birmingham City 20  5  3  2  8  5  4  2  4 12 13  9  5  6  20  18   2  32
 9 Fulham          19  6  2  2 15  6  1  4  4  9 13  7  6  6  24  19   5  27
10 Sunderland      20  5  3  2 18 13  1  2  7 10 18  6  5  9  28  31  -3  23
11 Everton         19  3  5  2 14 15  2  2  5 12 17  5  7  7  26  32  -6  22
12 Stoke City      19  4  2  3 11 10  1  4  5  4 13  5  6  8  15  23  -8  21
13 Blackburn R.    20  4  4  2 13 11  1  2  7  7 24  5  6  9  20  35 -15  21
14 Burnley         20  5  4  1 14  9  0  1  9  8 31  5  5 10  22  40 -18  20
15 Wolves          20  3  2  5  9 15  2  2  6  8 21  5  4 11  17  36 -19  19
16 Wigan Athletic  19  3  3  3 10 13  2  1  7 11 31  5  4 10  21  44 -23  19
17 West Ham United 20  3  3  4 18 20  1  3  6 10 17  4  6 10  28  37  -9  18
18 Bolton Wndrs    18  2  4  4 16 21  2  2  4 10 15  4  6  8  26  36 -10  18
19 Hull City       20  4  3  3 13 16  0  3  7  7 26  4  6 10  20  42 -22  18
20 Portsmouth      20  3  0  7 13 16  1  2  7  5 16  4  2 14  18  32 -14  14

With thanks to Football 365

MCIVTA FAQ [v0910.01]

[1] MCIVTA Addresses

Articles (Heidi Pickup)          :
News/rumour (Alex Rowen)         :
Subscriptions (Madeleine Hawkins):
Technical problems (Paul)        :
FAQ (David Warburton)            :

[2] What are MCIVTA’s publishing deadlines?

Deadlines for issues are nominally 6pm, Monday and Thursday evenings by email. Unfortunately we cannot accept email attachments.

[3] MCIVTA Back Issues and Manchester City Supporters’ home page is the unofficial Manchester City Supporters’ home page. Created in 1994, it is the longest running of the Manchester City related web sites. Back issues of MCIVTA are also hosted on the site. You can also follow on to get the latest updates.

[4] What is the club’s official web site?

The official club web site can be found at and the official club Twitter page at The club also has a facebook page at

[5] What supporters’ clubs are there?

Manchester City FC recognises three supporters’ clubs: The “Official Supporters Club” (; the “Centenary Supporters’ Association” ( and “The International Supporters’ Club”.

[6] Where can I find out about Points of Blue (formerly the Fans’ Committee)?

The committee operates as an interface between supporters and the club. Points of Blue appears on the club website as a minor entry under “Fans Zone”.

[7] What match day broadcasts are available on the web?

The Radio Manchester (née GMR) pre and post match phone-in is available on the web at

Live match commentaries and archives of games, reports and interviews can be found at

[8] Where can I find out if City are live on satellite TV? provides a listing of Premiership games being shown on UK domestic and foreign satellite channels. Useful sites for North American viewers are,, and

[9] Do we have a Usenet newsgroup?

Yes we do: is our home on usenet. If you are not familiar with usenet, a basic explanation is available here:,289893,sid9_gci213262,00.html

[10] Do any squad members have their own web pages?

There are a number available and direct links can be found at

[11] Where can I find match statistics?

Statistics for the current season are available from the club site, but for a more in-depth analysis try

The views expressed in MCIVTA are entirely those of the subscribersand there is no intention to represent these opinions as being thoseof Manchester City Football Club, nor of any of the companies anduniversities by whom the subscribers are employed. It is not inany way whatsoever connected to the club or any other relatedorganisation and is simply a group of supporters using this mediumas a means of disseminating news and exchanging opinions.

[Valid3.2]Heidi Pickup,

Newsletter #1596