Newsletter #1943

Well it’s here!

The title showdown (not decider… quite!)… and the much-delayed MCIVTA! Apologies to all those who have been waiting and thank you to those who have contacted me with your good wishes.

Hopefully this will make for a good Sunday morning read and pre-match build up to what should be a spectacular at Anfield.

It’s been an intense period for the team since the last edition with the Premier League race turning into what could well be an epic 3-way show down.

Thanks to so many contributions, this is a bumper issue finishing off with the match reports from Phil B for the games in the intervening period. Phil, such good writing,` thank you from us all.

Without further ado I’ll let you read on, though we do start on a slightly worrying note…

Next Game: 13 April, Liverpool, Anfield, 13:37 GMT


I would appear to be another victim of paying for tickets that did not materialise for the League Cup Final.

Whilst I accept you bear no responsibility for what has happened to me and acknowledge the need for the insertion of the above disclaimer, it feels a real shame that my faith in someone who calls themselves a City fan would do this to me.

Five weeks ago I paid a well-known contributor to MCIVTA, £250 for 2 tickets for me and my lad to go to the Final.

After I had paid him he then contacted me to say he was not allowed to sell them on to me as Club Wembley ‘would not allow the re-sale’, so would return the money to me. Five weeks on I am still waiting for the return of my money.

Over the years I have successfully responded to ticket adverts in MCIVTA and on one occasion had a season ticket sent to me in the post for my use for 2 games and was trusted to return it, which I did.

Whilst I understand you cannot do anything about this sort of practice, I do think you should be aware of it.

I leave to your own discretion whether you decide to publish any or all of this e-mail.

Alan Frost <alan.x.frost(at)>


Well, after dropped points and setbacks at the like of Stoke, Villa, The Saints and Norwich, it’s nice to see that over the last couple of away games we’ve started putting this sort of run of the mill, mid-table, journeymen team away.

A funny development has recently taken place eh? For us it’s not about the opposition, it’s about the three vital points in the thick of a title race. For those just beyond our city’s border it’s about hopefully tripping up their lofty neighbours and the bragging rights that go with that.

Wow! Things have changed!

Truth be told, I haven’t approached a match at the Swamp with so much confidence since I was a wide-eyed, ever-optimistic kid. I just wasn’t nervous leading up to kick-off, the day didn’t drag as it so often has, and my serenity lay mostly undisturbed throughout the action itself. The template was set in that very first wonderful minute, not only for the goal but the manner of it; we were fizzing around whilst they were doing their statue impressions. Only a last gasp tackle by Rafael stopped Silva cutting straight through the entire heart of their supposed defence, and when the ball finally came to Dzeko he’d already wriggled himself into a space where not one standstill opponent was within three yards of him. I mean, who in their right mind would ever leave a centre forward so unguarded in their own box?

Did anyone else feel that collective mega-cringe rippling throughout each and every Manure fan from London to Bournemouth and beyond when the cheery one correctly noted that we are the team that his charges should aspire to be? Thanks Mr Moyes but I’m busy reloading right now so could you please throw me and all City fans just a little more ammo with your comments? Actually, on a personal level, I feel his words of wisdom were a return favour after I had attempted to vote for him in the 2013 Sports Personality of the Year award. As it happened, I failed in my mission; apparently he was inexplicably omitted from the shortlist (or probably even the longlist of approx. seven billion people worldwide).

One complaint, mind: I don’t think matches of this magnitude should be played in the evening. For one thing it gives maximum opportunity for potential trouble-makers getting tanked up, and from my own perspective, it doesn’t exactly make for the best night’s sleep. Whilst I didn’t, as noted above, succumb to the nervous meltdowns of old – reaching a crescendo two years ago – nevertheless, that didn’t stop me absolutely buzzing and going through it over and over again in my mind whilst lying on my nest afterwards. And as I have to get up at the crack of silly…

(I’m not keen on any tea-time match which could ruin my Saturday night either, and this weekend will be one where the jitters make an unwelcome return, of that I’m rather sure!)

Steve O’Brien <bodsnvimto(at)>


As the weeks go by I become increasingly frustrated (as I am sure many of your readers are) by the performance of Sergio Agüero. Typically nowadays, he plays one and a half games, gets injured and then ‘enjoys’ a recovery period of, on average, 4 to 5 games. This has happened so many times this season and considering the fact that he plays as a lone striker up front and therefore does spend very much time on the ball compared to his team mates, you have to wonder what the hell is going on with him.

Compare him to David Silva, who gets through easily five times more work in a game than he does and has to endure many more rough tackles but still manages to emerge unscathed most of the time, you have to wonder if Sergio is worth the money we paid for him and how long is this form going to continue for? I well remember him scoring the winning goal in the last minute of the championship decider of 2012 against QPR and City fans will be eternally grateful for it and he will go down in folklore for it, but we should by now be worried about what future lies in store for him.

Philip van Gass <philipvangass(at)>


Can anyone tell me how I can purchase the First Day Cover of Joe Mercer from Stuart Renshaw?

Remarkable Lives Stamp Set from UK – Joe Mercer

Looks like the Liverpool game will tell us where City will finish this season.

CTID, John Lim – New Zealand <johncity(at)>


They say you should not rejoice at your neighbours’ bad fortune, but what the heck!

After the demolition job the ‘Pool did on the Rags last Sunday, the Greeks will not need to bear gifts on Wednesday – instead they will pick up the gifts to be given to them by a useless Rags defence. City should pick up three handy points at the Chamber of Horrors a few days later. Moaning Moyes will pick up his P45 and ten million quid sometime thereafter (there’s ten million reasons not to feel sorry for the Moaner). Even better, Alex Rab C Nesbitt will finally have to retire, keep his trap shut and stay out of sight in the directors’ box. Cannot see Rab C’s advice on a new manager ever being sought again. Further proof, if it was needed, that all great careers end in failure. Maybe Rab C can keep himself busy by writing another mean and nasty book?

Meanwhile, let us hope Kompany gets only a one match ban and City continue to play as they did at Hull and kick on to win the league. Happy days for everyone.

Tony O’Leary <aolearyster(at)>


With Hull’s owner, local businessman Assem Allam, intent on changing their club’s name to Hull Tigers, the Hull fans, particular those in the corner to us, loudly chanted in protest “City ’til I die” and “We’re Hull City, since 1904”. Allam and his son Erhab think that they have a better chance of marketing the club under the name “Tigers”, but they haven’t always gone about it the right way, describing the name “City” as “lousy” and “common”. One would have thought “successful” and “classy” were more fitting. In response to “City ’til I die” chants, Allam has said he doesn’t care when those fans die. Really not the best is it?

Fair play to the Hull fans for protesting as they have done this season, and there were several “City ’til I die” scarves and banners held aloft as they chanted in favour of keeping their name.

I spoke to several friendly and helpful Hull fans on the way to the ground on the bus (from the Park and Ride) and they know which side their bread is buttered on. They know what Allam has done for their club (they would probably be where Portsmouth are without him) and most I spoke to would put up with the Hull Tigers name but would still call them “City”. It seems like the FA are to reject the name change when they vote on it on April 9th after the FA Membership Committee recommended that it be thrown out. After the disgraceful Wimbledon theft by MK Dons and Vincent Tan changing Cardiff’s colours from blue to red, it looks like the FA has stood up to an owner for once.

Fan power may have won the day, but there may be a heavy price for the fans to pay. Allam, who has lived in Hull for many years, is well known for his philanthropy in the area (he once gave Hull Kingston Rovers Rugby League club £1 million, amongst other generous gestures) may carry out his threat to leave if he doesn’t get his way. His son has talked about putting season tickets up by 50% to make up what they perceive as a loss of revenue from not having the “Tigers” name.

Every club has its bad element, but I was not alone in meeting several very decent Hull fans and can only wish them well.

We can only be grateful for Sheikh Mansour. We could have ended up like Coventry or Portsmouth, had he not come along. Remember, John Wardle had to find £2 million to pay the wages after the mess left by Thaksin. Yes, ticket prices have gone up (though not anywhere near as much as several other clubs), but he has done so much for our club, and he has respected and embraced its history.

Phil Banerjee <phil.banerjee(at)>


I cannot believe what I have read in MCIVTA 1942. We lose at home to Wigan in the FA Cup and it is the end of the world.

No, we have just won the League Cup, looking very well placed for the League title and have had a fantastic season so far, goals galore. We are never going to win every game, nobody does that; get real and appreciate everything that we do have!

I have just got back from Barcelona and our fans were brilliant out there, and we deserved a draw at least. We are getting better and better but there will always be slip ups here and there, that’s life!

Come on you Blues, CTID.

Phil Taylor <mariaphiltaylor(at)>



David Silva’s star burned ever bright as the good ship Manchester City overcame a very good Southampton side in style. Manuel Pellegrini made one change from the game at the Emirates with Aleks Kolarov replacing Gael Clichy at left back.

As expected, Southampton started off in typical feisty fashion with their high intensity pressing game and smart pass-and-move routines, which has served them so well. City took the lead after being awarded a penalty in the 3rd minute. Silva fed Dzeko and he was tripped by Fonte in the box as he shimmied and shifted the ball onto his left foot. Referee Foy didn’t hesitate to point to the spot and Yaya steered the ball to the left of the Saints’ ‘keeper, sending him the wrong way. It was a relief to get in front against difficult opponents who have the rare distinction of having won at Anfield this season.

Indeed, the visitors posed a threat with their clever movement and the lively Lallana failed to control a defence splitting lofted pass. City, though, are a team who can score at any moment and could have increased our lead: Navas shot high wide and not so handsome when presented with a half chance then Dzeko headed against the top of the bar.

We were to pay for not taking those chances when we allowed Jack Cork too much room to run from midfield down the inside left channel into the box and he was up-ended by Pablo Zabaleta’s mistimed challenge. Lambert despatched the penalty crisply. Having taken the lead, it was rather frustrating that our good work had been undone, but, for all our chances, Southampton deserved parity at that time.

By this time they were sadly deprived of the talents of Jay Rodriguez, who fell awkwardly when looking to control the ball, and after a lengthy wait he was stretchered off to universal applause. It was a freakish incident with no player at fault and one can only hope Rodriguez is back playing again. The four minutes of stoppage time played for his injury were to prove highly significant as City twice struck to give us what would prove to be a decisive 3-1 lead.

Firstly, Yaya threaded a pass to Dzeko on the edge of the box and his clever back heeled flick found Silva whose delightful diagonal pass presented Nasri with a tap in by the right hand post. Then a super, powerful Kolarov cross from the left allowed Dzeko to head down and into the net at the far post for a beautifully executed 3rd City goal. The Bosnian expertly used the pace of the ball. It was indeed a Balkan belter!

In all fairness, our 3-1 lead at the break flattered us a little bit as our play lacked a little intensity at times, allowing the visitors to push us back. As upsetting as their colleagues’ injury was, Southampton had commendably taken the game to us at 1-1. We also enjoyed a little fortune as TV replays also later revealed that Silva was offside when Dzeko played him in for our 2nd goal. Not that anyone was complaining and City left the pitch to warm applause at the interval.

City improved after the break playing at a higher tempo and showing more drive in midfield. Dzeko could have doubled his tally but his angled volley was well saved and he couldn’t control the high rebound that resulted and his 2nd shot went well wide.

City were denied two penalties by referee Foy – the second of which earned Yaya a yellow card but the earlier grounding did look like he had been impeded just on the edge of the box.

The Southampton fans mocked a tense home crowd for our largely nervy silence but they got a smart double response, which mirrored the response from the City players. “You’re gonna sell all your players” was followed by “We’re gonna buy all your players”. The latter chant drawing ironic applause from the visiting contingent. Without wishing to be arrogant about someone else’s players, Lallana, Shaw and Ward-Prowse would grace this City team. Lallana is a superbly balanced two-footed ball player who makes thrusting runs from behind the lone striker. He does have a hot temper though. Shaw is a very good footballing left back with astute positional sense, a deft touch and an ability to cut inside on his dangerous runs forward. Ward-Prowse is a central midfielder of great strength and he shoulder charged Yaya off the ball: a rare feat indeed! He riled Yaya with a challenge from behind later on and indeed the great Ivorian worried us as he seemed to lose it towards the end of the game. We can ill afford to lose him especially and it took his friend Samir Nasri to take him away from trouble and calm him down.

Negredo came on for Dzeko and sadly couldn’t end his barren run. He was put clean through twice: The Beast hesitated and the chance was gone for his first opportunity, then Gazzaniga made a fine block to deny his second one. It was impossible not to feel for the guy and chants of “Beeeeeast!” led by the North Stand rather commendably showed our support for the Spanish striker.

The visitors certainly weren’t finished and they had a good chance to reduce the arrears sandwiched in between those two chances. With 15 minutes left, Lambert’s low shot fizzed just wide of Hart’s right hand post and we were spared a tense end to the game.

City boosted our goal difference with another super move in the 81st minute. Kompany’s raking pass found the advancing Navas on the right and his cross presented Jovetic with a simple tap in at the far post. It wrapped up a job well done, even if City can play better still. Still the chances were created and Yaya might have made it five but his snap shot hit the post.

4-1 may have flattered us but City deserved this win. We showed great skill, team work as well as finishing in the final third of the pitch, and we had to work hard to defeat a good side that is 8th for a good reason: they play competitive and good football. The Saints’ Achilles heel are their centre halves Lovren and Fonte who are rather ponderous for this level. City’s extra quality throughout was the difference and we merited this win.

Onto Liverpool and perhaps our biggest game of the season. It will be almost 25 years to the day since the Hillsborough disaster, and an emotional occasion. With all respect to the victims of Hillsborough, City must be professional and hopefully win. Come on City.

Goals: Yaya Touré (pen) 3, Nasri 45+2, Dzeko 45+4, Jovetic 81

Att: 47,009

Hart: Handled well, distribution a tad erratic: 7
Zabaleta: The penalty aside (and he was put in a difficult position by midfield runners not tracking Cork), this was another quintessentially good Zaba performance: 7
Kompany: Consistently strong and quick at the back on a day when our defence was tested. Highlight was a lovely pass to allow Navas to cross for our fourth goal: 8
Demichelis: His good form continued in a solid display here: 7
Kolarov: Terrific cross set up Dzeko’s goal. Decent enough all round despite Southampton’s mobile attack: 7
Navas: Worked hard defensively, and set up our fourth goal with an excellent cross: 7
Yaya: Despatched his penalty well and played an incisive pass in the build up to the second goal. Improved his intensity levels after a slowish first half. He should have at least had a free kick with a challenge on the edge of the box then was booked for diving later on. A great player and as ever he is a vital part of the City machine, but he has a hot temper and he could have earned a costly second yellow, but for the intervention of his team mates: 7
Fernandinho: Didn’t play with quite the same verve and vigour as we have come to expect. Booked for an unnecessary hand ball, and subbed at half time: 6
Nasri: Right place, right time for his goal but was part of a midfield that lacked intensity in the first half. Like a few others, he improved after the break: 7
Silva: He adorned this game with a velvet touch, sublime intelligence, sumptuous passing and an innate ability to find space in between the lines of defence and midfield. His free “number 10” rôle behind the striker is his best role and it showed yet again here. He is a player who is adored and cherished by City fans. He should know this by now even if we haven’t satisfactorily come up with a special song to match his special talent. “There’s only one David Silva” will suffice: 8 (Man of the Match)
Dzeko: Linked play very well and always looked a threat: he grazed the top of the bar and took his goal superbly well: 7
Garcia (for Fernandinho 46): Steady Javi: 6
Negredo (for Dzeko 65): Has lost most of the confidence in front of goal rhat he had in spades before his shoulder injury. Needs a goal – any kind of goal: 5
Jovetic (for Silva 77): Took his goal well: n/a

Best Oppo: Ward-Prowse: Didn’t start but looked a very strong presence in central midfield, outmuscling Yaya on occasion and getting under his skin: 7

Refwatch: Chris Foy: A mixed bag of officiating, the nadir of which was when he very belatedly blew for a foul to City after Silva was about to tee up another chance after some quintessential slick City play. Where was the advantage in that? City were unfairly penalised. It wasn’t all his fault that he didn’t spot Silva being offside, but he got two penalty decisions right and might have awarded a third when Yaya charged through for the for the first time: 4


Manchester City totally outclassed United to win at Old Trafford for the third time in succession on a wonderful night. The gulf in class was huge as City played with real panache, verve and vigour. It was simply breathtaking.

City lined up with a 4-4-2 at the kick off with Silva up alongside the recalled Dzeko, but in reality the formation is far more flexible than that. As in previous matches, Silva and Nasri continue to interchange playing just behind Dzeko or notionally left sided midfield. Kompany returned at the back alongside Demichelis, with Lescott on the bench, and Clichy came back in at left back to give us a speed advantage over United. With our full backs pushed so far on, and Zabaleta frequently pressing United in their penalty box, we are often playing with a back two when in attack. Navas was selected for his pace and this paid off as he frequently left Evra standing. As can be expected from Pellegrini’s team, it was a very attacking line up, playing football as it should be played.

What a great start it was by City. From the word go, it was quick, one touch passing and pressing high up the pitch. City attackers, Silva and Yaya were darting into little pockets of space and our passing was cutting United to ribbons. It was incredibly positive and everything that we would want to see from City. United were penned back by our mesmerising passing and superb pressing game, and it took just 43 seconds to score! Navas teased his marker out on the right and bided his time before squaring the ball. Yaya received it and played a short pass into Silva who took a touch but Rafael made a last ditch tackle before he could shoot. Dzeko flicked the resulting loose ball back to Fernandinho who gave Nasri a sight of goal with a brilliant first time diagonal pass. Nasri jinked outside then cut inside, before shooting against the left hand post and Dzeko pounced to steer the rebound in to give City the lead. 1-0. In the blink of an eye! We could not have asked for a better start from our players, and it was such a thrill to see.

With Silva eluding United defenders as he played between the lines, we pressed as a team onto United, denying them any room. United didn’t know what to do in those first 20 minutes.

City carved through United at will and it could have been more than 1-0 in that period if Silva had shot when he had a good chance. We could also have added to the score when Yaya superbly cushioned De Gea’s poor clearance straight to Silva. The Spaniard threaded a clever pass to Dzeko, who was off balance as he forced a save from the United ‘keeper.

Mata and Fellaini had half chances as United enjoyed some possession but City were too well organised and United lacked quality to trouble unduly. Even if they’d scored, the feeling was that City would only go and hit back.

Only referee Michael Oliver knows why Welbeck and Fellaini stayed on the pitch. Welbeck overran a ball at pace and crashed into Zabaleta with a challenge that could have broken Zaba’s leg. Understandably Zaba was certainly in a lot of pain and we feared that he wouldn’t be able to get up. Welbeck may not have intended to hurt Zaba but he was reckless and that should have resulted in his dismissal. Fellaini’s deliberate elbow, right in front of Oliver, was nasty could have broken the City cult hero’s jaw, cheekbone, or eye socket. Maybe Oliver bottled it. Maybe. He once denied a blatant penalty for Fulham at Old Trafford in his début season in the top flight. Zaba was limping for a while, but he kept going, which is a testament to his strength of character.

City resumed dominance in the second half. Fernandinho should have scored with a header after Kompany flicked on a Nasri corner, but it was only a stay of execution for United who looked vulnerable any time we approached their box. Dzeko’s brilliant volley from Nasri’s superb corner put us 2-0 up and put the match beyond United. It was indeed a very good finish from the Bosnian for his 10th league goal and 20th in all competitions this season.

Hart did well to save Welbeck’s flick from a right wing Rafael cross, but that was as close as United got really. City had all the answers. United (and in particular David Moyes) didn’t know what the question was.

It’s not all Moyes’s fault is it that he was left a creaking, ageing squad? Surely he deserves at least one more season! So, the City fans showed Moyes a bit of “support”

“Moyesie… is the chosen one”

“Moyesie, Moyesie give us a wave”

The City fans were brilliant. Not only were there rousing versions of “Blue Moon”, “We love you City” and “We are City from Maine Road”, there were:

“Fergie, Fergie give us a wave”

We can safely say that neither request for a wave was fulfilled!

“60 thousand empty seats”

And to top it off, a “We’re the pride of Manchester” with extra gusto!

Despite a couple of sloppy passes from Demichelis in the second (and one from Fernandinho in the first half), City never looked in danger from a pedestrian United side who didn’t have the armoury to hurt us. It is no surprise that they have only had one victory against the teams above them all season, and they were well beaten, a long time before Yaya Touré completed the scoring with another searing strike.

City’s well deserved third goal came when Silva found Milner down the inside left channel with a deft pass. Milner’s shot was deflected to Yaya Touré who took a touch to the right and swept a beautiful, low shot across and beyond De Gea’s reach to send every Manchester City fan into raptures. It was Yaya’s 21st goal of the season in all competitions and 17th in the League. It was the perfect end to a perfect night.

Bitter, sour faced United fans (well, the 15,000 who were left) were bemused. They have fallen a long way, and this has been coming for a few years now. United have no excuses. They cannot even level the spending accusations at us as their team cost more to assemble than ours!

United were truly flattered by 3-0. Had our finishing been just a little bit better, it would have been five or six nil. As it was, City humiliated United, whose manager Moyes got one thing right when he is said they are “two levels” below us, and that City’s football is something to “aspire to”. They are an average side with no pace or guile in midfield. Rooney ended up dropping into midfield in a vain attempt to get them going but Fernandinho and Yaya own the centre of the pitch.

City in contrast are a pure delight to watch. I make no apology for praising them to the skies, because outside of very few pundits (Souness, and to be fair, G Neville and Scholes) and even fewer national journalists, this City squad doesn’t get the credit that it deserves (quite the opposite, in fact). Anyone can spend money (look at Fellaini), but it is knowing how to use those talents. Contrast how Silva is used with Mata. Both are excellent players, but United don’t know how to get the best out of Mata’s talents, whereas City have clearly maximised Silva’s ability from the word go, and for almost 4 years. City have bought the right players, and we play a superb, thrilling, progressive, pressing game that is improving. Furthermore, this City team is getting better and better at it.

There was a time when many of us dreaded derby matches (many probably still do), and there’ll probably always be an apprehension, because there’s so much at stake, and as the cliché goes, the form book often goes out of the window. However, this exciting, top class City side with its ultra-positive approach, are the closest thing we’ll get to allowing us to be confident about winning. I loved the way we went straight for the jugular. City confidently and assertively went for it from the first and it was a total thrill that we scored so early.

It is always sweet to win a derby match, but to win so comfortably against that despicable club is extra special. It is a real pleasure to say City played beautiful, slick, stylish, exciting football yet again to outclass United, yet again. We mullered them, thrashed them, gave them a football lesson, and we can play even better than this.

Even though we only beat a mid-table side (stop laughing at the back!), this win sent out a statement to the other title challengers. If they didn’t already know, they do now know that we can go to difficult grounds with big crowds and win. We can win even when the referee doesn’t do his job properly and decisions are made which favour our opponents.

There will be more difficult matches than this one. Next up there is a more difficult game where we will have to be at our best despite Arsenal’s recent collapse. If City can continue where we have left off from Old Trafford we can win and maintain our title challenge. Onwards and upwards.

Come on City.

Att: 75,000

Dzeko 1, 56, Yaya 90.

Hart: Made a very good save from Welbeck, and generally handled well. There was one occasion when he could have caught rather than punched but he did very well: 8
Zabaleta: Brave, brave, battered Zaba was fortunate not to have his leg and jaw broken by quintessentially thuggish Rag challenges. He is such a tough man that he got up, didn’t flinch and got on with it. His performance was top class, pressing right into the opposition penalty area and being an important part of a slick unit: 8
Kompany: Excellent assertive leadership, and proactive defending far up the pitch. He dominated Welbeck and Rooney. Picked up a booking when he got drawn into a wide area: 9
Demichelis: Defended well for the most part, reading the game well and tackling cleanly, but still has a mistake or two in him. A top class side (which United clearly are not!) might have punished his two sloppy passes: 7
Clichy: A good, solid showing at left back: good positioning, clean tackling and he used the ball well: 8
Navas: His pace troubled Evra, who was often left trailing in his wake, and he passed the ball well: 7
Fernandinho: This was a terrific show of dynamism and skill from the Brazilian. His pass to Nasri, which forced the play and carved open the United defence was an example of his superb vision and accuracy of passing. One sloppy pass aside, this was a flawless evening from him. Like his team mates he was light years ahead of anything that United had: 9
Yaya: Majestic yet again. Ever the man for the big occasion, his power, velvet touch and skill were a joy to behold. He judges and weights a pass superbly. Rounded off a great night for Manchester City with a beautifully struck low shot: 9
Nasri: Might have scored the opener himself if he’d shot first time. Typical hard working intelligent performance from the Frenchman whose expert corner taking set up the 2nd goal: 8
Silva: Great passing and movement all night. His ball for Milner in the build up to the third was sublime. His movement in a team with good movement is exquisite. He must be a nightmare to mark: 9
Dzeko: Right place, right time for the opener, having been involved in the build up and he took his second very well too. He can be forgiven for not scoring a third in between as he was slightly off balance, and, after all, two out of three ain’t bad…: 8
Garcia (for Navas 68): Steady shoring up of our midfield: 7
Milner (for Nasri 74): Slotted in seamlessly and continued the fight: 7
Negredo (for Dzeko 79): Quintessential work rate: n/a

Best Oppo: Rafael: Made a last ditch tackle to thwart Silva in the 1st minute, battled on and delivered one quality cross, otherwise his final ball was not the best: 6

Refwatch: Michael Oliver: Bottler or biased? Should have sent off Welbeck and Fellaini. Booked Fernandinho for a professional foul that was no worse than one from Rooney. A shocker: 2


It was a night of landmarks. It was:

  • 150th League derby (167th derby of all sorts)
  • The 5th City derby win out of the last 6 in the League
  • Our third double over United in 8 years
  • Our 5th clean sheet in a row: something that has not been achieved by City for 99 years
  • We have won this season 7-1 on aggregate, matching the title winning season of 2011/12 where, as you will recall we won 6-1 and 1-0

I’m sure Gary James could tell you a few more!

The first Manchester derby that I attended was a 0-3 Maine Road defeat for Billy McNeill’s newly promoted side to Ron Atkinson’s table toppers (it didn’t last!) in 1985/86, which was depressing, so it was nice to tick off a 3-0 win for City from the list! A 4-0, 5-0 and 6-0 City win haven’t been done in my time following City… yet. Clearly a lot has happened to Manchester City since 85/86 and we’ve been to hell and back. In all the time that I have been following City (since 1980/81), we have given United a thrashing a few times:

  • 5-1 (1989/90)
  • 4-1 (2003/04)
  • 6-1 (2011/12)
  • 4-1 (2013/14)

Of course we beat them 3-1 in the last Maine Road derby when The Goat notched his 100th goal for us.

Who’d have thought we’d hear a United manager say “It’s a standard and level that we need to try and aspire to get to at this moment in time”?

The last words should be for our players and our manager. They won with a lot of class, as did our fans. They were clearly as delighted as we were and winning means such a lot to them, but their feet are on the ground. That can only serve us well.


Yaya Touré completed a hat trick with yet another world class strike as Manchester City blew struggling Fulham away to maintain our title challenge.

The win was not quite as easy as the scoreline suggests as Fulham started off like they meant business. They came out of the blocks like sprinters, pressing far up the pitch but quickly found themselves falling back into massed defence as City dominated possession. That we didn’t break them down for 26 minutes owed as much to a lack of speed in our passing as to Fulham’s organisation early on in this match. Milner did sting Stockdale’s gloves early on after a Kolarov cross was half cleared to him, but we weren’t quite flowing in the first quarter of the game. Fulham went close themselves when we failed to clear our lines after a shot and Richardson fired just wide of Joe Hart’s left hand post.

A change of pace and a long pass forward eventually led to City breaking the deadlock in the 26th minute. Silva played a ball out to Milner and Negredo ran onto the City number 7’s lofted pass, only to be bundled over by Amorebieta. Referee Moss pointed to the spot after a little deliberation. Yaya coolly slotted the ball home, to Stockdale’s right, to give us the lead.

Fulham could have equalised 7 minutes later after Zabaleta lost out on our right but Riether fired wide from a cross in the 33rd minute. Then, 4 minutes later, persistence from Fernandinho played in Silva who lofted a goal-bound shot, with Stockdale stranded. The Etihad got ready to cheer but a Fulham defender headed the ball off the line. Amorebieta headed wide from a corner three minutes later and it was to be the last time Fulham seriously threatened City’s goal, as City turned up the heat. Kolarov ran onto a Milner pass and smote the bar with his powerful, angled drive.

City may have fielded just one striker in this game, but it was a very attacking line up with Nasri and Silva taking turns to play either just off the front or on the left. It gave Fulham plenty to think about, and never allowed their defence to settle. They were intelligent tactics for intelligent players.

City certainly upped the tempo after the break, and Fulham were swept aside with ease. The game was effectively over as a contest in the 54th minute.

Clever interplay and quick passing saw Silva run onto Milner’s cute back heel from Fernandinho’s clever pass, only to be sent flying by Amorebieta’s mistimed challenge in the box. It was the clear denial of a goal scoring opportunity and referee Moss showed no hesitation in awarding the penalty and a red card. Yaya repeated his clinical penalty, sending Stockdale the wrong way.

Lovely interplay between Silva and Nasri at a corner teed up Milner but he shot just wide of the right hand post just after the hour. Excellent pressing by Fernandinho and Zabaleta allowed Kolarov an opportunity to shoot from distance, but his shot was wide. By now our high pressing game was giving Fulham a real working over.

Then in the 65th minute we had the pinnacle of this game when Yaya scored the most beautiful goal, to complete his hat trick. Receiving the ball from Nasri 25 yards out, in space, he curled out a beautiful shot which gave the Fulham goalkeeper no chance whatsoever. It showed great technique to make the ball arc outwards and back just inside the post. Supreme skill from a master craftsman whose precision passing and poise was one of the finer points of the afternoon. The standing ovation that he received (and reciprocated) from an appreciative Etihad was well earned.

City were rampant as Fulham melted away. A slick one-two between Milner and Negredo saw the Yorkshireman’s shot deflected wide by a defender. Then Demichelis’s header from Nasri’s superb corner forced a goal line clearing header. With Chelsea having despatched Arsenal 6-0 at lunch time, it was important for City to keep scoring.

Pellegrini took the opportunity to save up Yaya and then Silva and Nasri for Tuesday’s game in Trafford, but this didn’t stop City turning up the heat and scoring more goals, which might prove vital at the end of the season.

Yaya’s scorching strike was the most spectacular goal on this showery afternoon in Manchester, but it wasn’t the only one as Fernandinho joined in. Milner astutely cut a corner back to Fernandinho who showed a good turn of pace to run round the left hand side of the Fulham defence (very much in the style of Agüero), and hit a terrific, powerful rising drive in to the roof of the net to make it 4-0. It was great strike from a player who is now important cog in the City machine. More clever combination play between Milner and sub Rodwell saw the City number 7 force a full stretch save from Stockdale, but it was only a momentary respite for the visitors. With Fulham penned back after yet another City corner, Fernandinho slid an intelligent pass for sub Jovetic to cross from the right hand bye-line and via at least one deflection, there was Demichelis at the back post to steer the ball in.

Milner showed some dazzling skills to Cruyff-turn and trick his way along the left hand bye-line and cross. Sidwell mis-controlled it and tried a strange header from on his knees back to the ‘keeper but it lacked power. Negredo pounced but from four yards he somehow stabbed the ball a hair’s breadth wide of the goal. “BEEEEEEAST” went our chant in support of the crestfallen City number 9 who just can’t seem to score at the moment, having gone 12 games without a goal. Hopefully, like Dzeko, he will find that he is getting closer and will net next time.

City won this match comfortably and played some wonderful football, but we didn’t have to be at anywhere near our best to beat a team who, sadly, look like they are going down after 12 seasons in the top flight.

Yet again there was so much to enjoy in this match. Great skills and great goals to savour as well as commitment to the pressing game that Pellegrini wants to play. Every midfielder dazzled in a game where everyone contributed. The spirit is good, every goal is celebrated collectively and there is a universal desire to succeed. No one is getting carried away though. Every game is important.

Our next game is our most important game, no matter who it is, and we need to win it. We have a far better team than United’s, but we have to apply ourselves in Trafford and be at our best as they will give it their all. If we match or better their effort then, with our superior football, we should win.

Come on City.

Goals: Yaya Touré 26 (pen), 54 (pen), 65, Fernandinho 84, Demichelis 88.

Att: 47,262

Hart: Handled well, distribution is more thoughtful. Not tested: 7
Zabaleta: Lost out to one ball down the right, which caused us a problem in the first half, but otherwise it was good, consistent high quality full back play: 7
Demichelis: As at Hull he didn’t put a foot wrong, which is commendable even if the Fulham attack was led by a teenage youth product. Was in the right place to deflect in his first City goal: 7
Lescott: A good, steady show: 7
Kolarov: Hit the bar in the first half and delivered some quality down the left: 7
Milner: Showed some lovely skill to go with the trademark work rate, after looking, uncharacteristically, a little stiff and sluggish in the early minutes. Milner is a gem of a player to have in our squad and his talent is underrated. With one year left on his current deal, and his consistency, surely a new contract will be offered to him by the Summer? 7
Yaya: Showed all the attributes of a great player: skill, strength, vision, accurate passing and excellent finishing. Whether his passes were long, short, low or high he passed with great precision: 9
Fernandinho: He has had to play a deeper role than he did at Shakhtar Donetsk, where he was renowned for scoring from midfield, but the goal topped off another very good showing in midfield. Luis Felipe Scolari is more likely to pick him for the World Cup with every game: 8
Silva: Consistently a delight with his intelligent judgement and execution of a pass. As has been seen before he combined particularly well with Milner: the first two penalties being awarded after such intelligence: 8
Nasri: Industrious and astute. He delivered some quality passes in another show that underlines his consistently high level of performance. In the same position as Milner, he is another player who really deserves to have a new contract: 7
Negredo: Looked sharper, his run won the first penalty, and was involved in some good touch combination play, but a goal still eludes him: 6
Navas (for Yaya 68): Slotted in without making his mark this time: 6
Rodwell (for Silva 76): Nice touch set up Milner: n/a
Jovetic (for Nasri 81): His cross set up the 5th: n/a
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Clichy, Boyata, Garcia.

Best Oppo: Stockdale: Helped keep the score down while others let him down: 7

Refwatch: Jon Moss: A better showing than previously. He even looked like he has lost a few pounds, which must have helped! 7


Manchester City’s ten men gave a master class in possession football to win this match and resume our title challenge. David Silva was the architect of an excellent performance from the whole City team and underlined his brilliance by scoring a beautiful goal in the first half and setting up our second, match-clinching goal with an exquisite pass.

After the double cup exits, Manuel Pellegrini continued with Hart in goal, and selected a back four of Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis and Clichy. Javi Garcia anchored midfield, freeing Fernandinho and Yaya into more advanced midfield roles. Nasri and Silva featured in slightly withdrawn, floating, interchangeable inside right/left positions just behind Dzeko in a very fluid formation. To say it was 4-3-3, or 4-5-1 would be an oversimplification, especially given the flexibility of the players and Pellegrini’s penchant for full backs to push right up.

That we had to win this game with ten men for 80 minutes was down to a very poor decision by referee Lee Mason. Vincent Kompany was caught in possession and was clearly pushed over by Jelavic just inside our half, but Mason didn’t give a free kick. The City captain then pulled the Croatian striker back and Mason promptly blew for a Hull free kick and flourished a red. That it was the denial of goal scoring opportunity was not the issue, but play should have been stopped before then. Replays later showed the both players arms come up simultaneously (six of one, half a dozen of the other), but Jelavic then pushed Kompany back and the City captain lost his balance before he got back up to commit the foul that got him sent off. It was very poor refereeing. Only City’s professionalism and skill prevented the referee from spoiling the game.

City simply regrouped from having our fluid 4-3-3/4-5-1, to a slightly more rigid 4-4-1 with Nasri and Silva slightly further back and in wider positions. Garcia dropped back alongside Demichelis at centre half, with Fernandinho and Yaya in the midfield engine room. Nowadays City are a side that is very comfortable in possession and we just continued to pass the ball carefully and simply, but progressively. Clearly our aim was to retain the ball to create and conserve energy. It was actually hard to believe we had ten men, so effective was our passing.

City deservedly took the lead in the 14th minute with a brilliant David Silva strike at the end of another sequence of patient, progressive passing. Taking Yaya’s pass, Silva cut in from the right, spinning away from his markers, before curling a powerful shot just inside the left hand post and into the net. The City players mobbed him as we punched the air and bounced in joyous celebration of a great goal. It was a goal that Hull goalkeeper McGregor had no chance of saving as it arced outwards then back inside with precision.

Silva led the way with some excellent progressive passing moves as City dominated the first half. The intricate patterns that City wove, tied Hull in knots. More intelligent play saw Nasri tee up Zabaleta whose powerful volley hit the underside of the bar and bounced down onto the line. The Goal Decision System did its job.

The skills of Silva and Nasri in particular mesmerised the home side, whose frustrations boiled over with Elmohamady’s shocking, brutal hack on Silva. The City playmaker was in agony and was lucky that he was not seriously injured by a potential leg breaker. Why Mason only issued a yellow is known only to him. By not dismissing Elmohamady, Mason sent out the signal that it’s ok to make dangerous, leg-breaking tackles. Some unscrupulous managers at unscrupulous clubs (we know who they are) may take that as a sign that a yellow card is a small price to play for taking out the opposition’s best player.

The enclosed KC stadium lends itself to a good atmosphere, and both sets of fans made it a rollicking good atmosphere with some verbal cut and thrust that makes English football grounds so special. We were housed behind one of the goals and the section of Hull fans in the left hand corner next to us gave us reminders of “Wigan Athletic, two years in a row” to which we returned “You’ll play them next year”, not meaning in the top flight (which may well happen, given the form of Uwe’s boys). And who would you rather be: a, ahem, “poor” (or another mild four letter word that I can’t use here) version of United or Grimsby Town?

There were several “City ’til I die” scarves and banners held aloft as the Hull fans chanted “City ’til I die” and “We’re Hull City, since 1904” in protest to their owner’s intention to change their name to “Hull Tigers”. Not being able to resist a wind up, our retort was “You’re not City any more”, which drew a few boos, and “There’s only one City”.

Hull enjoyed a spell up to the break, but their lack of guile in midfield and City’s well organised defending as a team restricted them to half chances. Hart easily gathered a Shane Long flick header then Livermore fired a yard wide from 25 yards after Jelavic laid the ball back to him. Hart had that shot covered too.

City dealt with whatever a fairly limited Hull side threw at us in the second half well, but a one goal lead is rarely comfortable, so there was no relaxing anywhere. Long’s rising drive was gathered at the second attempt by Hart early in the 2nd half but Hull’s best chances came from crosses and set pieces. Hart got his body in the way of a Jelavic flick from an angled free kick and made a regulation save from a Long flick.

City were playing by far the better football, and Silva might have added to his tally if he had shot rather than crossed when Nasri gave him a sight of goal with a superb diagonal pass into the inside left channel.

“Ten men, we’ve only got ten men” went our chant, as the seagulls flapped over Hull (when the seagulls follow the trawler, someone gets assaulted by a United player, in London…).

Just after the hour Demichelis fired wildly wide after being teed up by Garcia at a set piece. At the other end Long headed Boyd’s left wing cross wide, under pressure from Garcia.

Bruce had brought on Boyd and the Scottish winger offered the home side something different with one-twos and his darts to pick up return passes behind the right hand side of our defence. In one such foray, Boyd chased and Hart got to the through ball first and Boyd leapt like a salmon, ending in a heap. The Hull fans bayed for a penalty whilst we collectively held our breath – one feared the worst with this referee. Thankfully, Lee Mason waved away appeals (if Mason didn’t think it was a penalty then why didn’t he book Boyd for diving?) but by this time a mêlée ensued with a furious Joe Hart angrily confronting Boyd, who had made a Lazarus-like recovery. It was not possible to see exactly what happened as we were housed at the far end (it was impossible to see Boyd spitting from the length of a football pitch!), but the stand off was quickly broken up. It might all have been avoided if Mason hadn’t turned his back on the flashpoint.

Pellegrini brought on Lescott for Yaya and this allowed Garcia to revert to central midfield. City were clearly the better side still and Silva was the outstanding performer. Twisting away from markers on the right hand edge of the box, he turned, shot and the ball broke to present Fernandinho with a gilt-edged chance in the box. Unfortunately for our nerves, Fernandinho scuffed his shot wide. He couldn’t believe it, we couldn’t either!

Boyd failed to test Hart with a long range drive and his cross for Jelavic left the City ‘keeper an easy claim too. It was City who looked more like scoring though and we craved that second that would allow us to relax. A superb exchange of passes down the left between Clichy and Silva resulted in the French full back playing a perfect angled ball to release Dzeko, clean through. Frustratingly, McGregor smothered his shot. Were we to pay for such profligacy? With this referee, especially…

Thankfully not, as three minutes later, in the 90th minute, City clinched the match with a beautifully crafted goal. Silva was first to a lofted pass from Clichy, then cut inside and played a sublime, perfectly weighted angled pass with the outside of his left foot that split the Hull defence, and Dzeko swept a low shot under McGregor. It was a testament to the competitive will to win, and sublime skill of Silva, and hopefully the start of another scoring spell for Dzeko, whose finish was crisp and clinical.

Hull fans left in their droves, some of them scowling and muttering darkly, to our strains of “Ten men, we’ve only got ten men”. Indeed, City’s ten men had outclassed Hull in this fine, satisfying win.

This was a very significant victory at the end of a bad week for the club. City showed great character in adversity, not only after those two Cup exits, but after the hammer blow of losing our inspirational leader and captain who is our best defender. This indeed was a win to be very proud of.

Att: 24,895

Goals: Silva 14, Dzeko 90

Hart: Handled well, catching every cross well and gathered regulation shots calmly. Otherwise he had little to do: 7
Zabaleta: Commanded the right hand side of our defence. As ever he worked tirelessly up and down the pitch and dominated his opponent: 8
Kompany: Unfairly sent off: n/a
Demichelis: Didn’t put a foot wrong. Kept it simple: cleared his lines when he needed to or played a five yard pass: 7
Fernandinho: Typical hard working show from the Brazilian, who, like Yaya, had to drop deeper with Kompany’s sending off: 7
Yaya: This wasn’t his most influential game, but he still played his part in linking up play and defensive work, and he played the final pass for Silva’s goal: 7
Garcia: Seamlessly made the transition from central midfield to centre back, performing equally well in both roles. He really has picked up the pace of the game, reads it well and shows controlled aggression: 7
Clichy: Defended superbly well and should have had an assist to his name after he played a beautifully incisive pass for Dzeko: 8
Nasri: Intelligently retained possession, combining superbly with his team mates, Silva in particular, and worked very hard to win it back: 8
Dzeko: Should have scored when pu through by Clichy’s delightful through ball but made no mistake with a crisp finish after Silva’s pass. Worked hard to close Hull’s defence down all afternoon: 7
Silva: He ran this game and was a pure joy yet again. The ball was stuck to his foot like glue and he was typically intelligent on an afternoon when we needed to keep possession. His interplay with his team mates and work ethic were second to none. His goal was brilliant and his through ball for Dzeko’s clincher showed sublime vision and skill. We’re blessed to have him. He was, though, very lucky that his leg wasn’t broken by a shocking Elmohamady challenge. It was strange how Mason failed to show a red card to the Hull clogger for that. It’s a testament to Silva’s courage that he was never affected by intimidatory challenges like that. He would have had the perfect 10 had he shot when he should but I’m sure this genius will get over that! City Legend: 9
Lescott (for Yaya 71): Slotted in seamlessly: n/a
Navas (for Nasri 80): n/a
Kolarov (for Silva 90): n/a

Refwatch: Lee Mason: Consistently made bad mistakes. To say this was an amateurish showing would be insulting to all the brave (yes, brave, as they risk assault) men and women who referee up and down the country at all sorts of levels every week. If he had done his job properly Jelavic would have been penalised and Kompany would never have been sent off. If he had done his job properly Elmohamady would have been sent off for serious foul play, as he could have broken Silva’s leg. If he had done his job properly he would have seen Boyd spitting and red carded him. If he had done his job properly he would never have allowed the confrontation to develop between Boyd and Hart and there may have been no disgusting spitting or “head tennis” (Hart definitely moved his head forward, and Boyd didn’t exactly move his back either). I don’t like to see indiscipline from our players but it’s hard to condemn Joe Hart when Boyd has cheated to try to win a penalty, which would also have seen Joe sent off. It’s harder still to blame Joe when he has been spat at. Mason was lucky that he didn’t lose control of this game. He was lucky that our players and most of Hull’s were professional enough to get on with the game for the most part. Football needs to get its priorities right. Referees must be able to keep up with the game, and not turn their backs. Referees have to punish the real offenders who ruin the game, and if a referee misses something, the FA must mete out punishment. Just because Elmohamady got a yellow for his dangerous challenge should not be the end of it. The FA should be able to go back and punish him for a brutal, dangerous tackle that could have ended the season or worse of a fellow professional. Footballers’ safety should not be compromised by archaic rules and the incompetent showings of referees like Lee Mason who scores 1 (for not falling for Boyd’s cheating).

Best oppo: McGregor: Made a good save to deny Dzeko: 7


I saw one of the most pathetic sights ever at football on Saturday as everyone was leaving the ground. The sight of a middle aged bloke, wearing a Chelsea polo shirt (yes Chelsea, not Hull) in the home section next to the segregation, staring smugly at the City fans with an inane grin on his face, showing off his Chelsea shirt, just two yards from the segregation line. He must have thought it was a clever wind up. The Hull fans in that section had seemed very pleased with themselves and their “that is embarrassing” chant after Silva was hacked down. Maybe they should have told their mate he was embarrassing! Now he wasn’t representative of the Hull fans that I’ve met over the years and on Saturday – they were sound and friendly enough – but I have to say, I always find that “Yarkshire, Yarkshire” chant is worse than nails down a blackboard (remember blackboards?).

Out of the mouths of babies… I was discussing our FA Cup exit with the young (well he was about 21) City fan that was stood next to me, and saying how keenly I felt it, and always have, with City losing the FA Cup Final in my first season (1980/81). I also told him how much I detest Tottenham, to which he replied “Oh yeah, a lot of olders hate Tottenham”. Olders?! “You calling me old?” I exclaimed with a smile. In that moment, it was hammered home, albeit inadvertently (he genuinely didn’t realise what he’d said), that I am now an “older” fan (I don’t always act it though!). Well I am only forty, ahem, cough, er, something, I suppose. Age is all relative…

After my bad experience with an obnoxious imbecile stood next to us at Wembley, this lad and his mate the total opposite. They were good lads, passionately supporting City, and a pleasure to enjoy the game with.

Shame on:

Elmohamady for that appalling, dangerous tackle on David Silva;
George Boyd for spitting: disgusting, sub-human behaviour;
Steve Bruce for saying that some spittle merely came out of Boyd’s mouth as he was talking, when he should have been saying if Boyd did something wrong he should be punished;
Lee Mason;
the 12 year old Hull City fan who was reportedly racially abusing a family of City fans, and his dad who was laughing;
the members of the media who tried and failed to get Vincent Kompany done for the most ambiguous offences (they allege that he gestured a “Jodrell Banker” sign at the fourth official and are trying to make something of him kicking a brick wall in frustration).

Well done: to the Manchester City fans who reported the racism, and to the Manchester City players for their utter professionalism in winning this match.

BARCELONA 2 CITY 1 (Agg 4-1)

City left the Camp Nou with their heads held high after this undeserved defeat on the night. City played some very good football and if we had taken our chances we may well have levelled up the tie. Biased refereeing cost us in the first leg but poor refereeing in this game saw both sides aggrieved at some terrible decisions. In the first half Barcelona had a penalty denied when Lescott caught Messi and then they had a legitimate goal chalked off due to an incorrectly called offside. After the break, City had 2 penalties denied when Silva and then Dzeko were felled in the box.

City started this game well and took the game to Barcelona. There was nothing negative about Pellegrini fielding a midfield of Nasri, Yaya, Fernandinho and Milner with Silva just behind Agüero in attack. Barcelona did get an upper hand, though, and we had a bit of luck with those two refereeing decisions. Messi was just too quick for Lescott, but there again, he be too quick for most defenders, the exception being the excellent Vincent Kompany who gave a super human performance all night.

In the best move of the half, Yaya lofted a pass into the box, Silva deftly back heeled in the air a perfect ball to Nasri who shot straight at Valdes. A couple of yards either of side of the brilliant Barça ‘keeper might have seen City take the lead. I say might because Valdes is a special ‘keeper. Fernandinho cleared off the line but it wasn’t all Barcelona’s way in that first half.

City started the second half with intent. Milner had a shot blocked, Dzeko had a shot easily saved, but of course we had to be wary of Barça. A mistake by Lescott let Messi in and we were grateful that he hit the post. The tie swung from end to end as City took the game to Barcelona. Kolarov crossed from the left and Dzeko’s goal-bound header forced Valdes into a brilliant reflex save in the 53rd minute.

Then City had the first of two legitimate penalty calls, when Silva was clearly clipped in the box by Iniesta.

City were on top and pressing superbly. Another inviting Kolarov cross presented Zabaleta with a clear chance in the box but he shanked his shot wide with his weaker left foot.

It was a really good game.

Messi went on one of his trademark runs and mercifully shot wide in the 60th minute, but it was only a temporary stay of execution, as 8 minutes later Lescott got his feet tangled when trying to intercept a benign ball and the great Barcelona striker picked up the loose ball and deftly lifted the ball over Hart to give the relieved Barcelona fans the lead. It was very well taken by Messi but the referee missed a foul on Dzeko in the build up. Messi then fed Xavi who forced Hart in to a save.

Behind on the night, but unbowed, City never gave up.

Only the referee knows why he didn’t give us a penalty when Dzeko was tripped in the box as he was about to pull the trigger. The City players were furious, particularly Zabaleta, and the referee compounded his appalling night by issuing him a second yellow and red. We still looked good with ten men, committing men forward, and it looked like we’d got a deserved draw on the night when Kompany fittingly swept the ball home from Dzeko’s flick. Understandably we pushed forward in the vain hope of more goals, and got caught out in stoppage time when Iniesta cut back and Alves scored the winner.

There is no disgrace in City losing to Barcelona even if they are some way past their best and we can be proud of how our lads have performed in this difficult tie. They showed great character and self belief that can only bode well for the future. Next season we need to believe in ourselves like we did in this game and be bold enough to attack the very best teams.

The City fans who made it did us proud were clearly audible.

We have exited two cup competitions in the space of four days and the focus is increasingly on Manuel Pellegrini. Whilst he picked exactly the right team in the Camp Nou, his muddled, negative team selection in the first leg, with Kolarov in midfield, when he could have selected Nasri, put us on the back foot, and handed Barça the initiative. Going further back, his miscalculation or failure to go for more goals (call it what you will), in Munich meant that we didn’t go for more goals, which may have let us top the Champions’ League group and thus avoid Barcelona. We’ve progressed in Europe this season, albeit from an easier group than in previous years, but we could possibly have done better if we’d really gone for it in Munich and at home to Barcelona.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team won the League Cup, and they deserve credit for that, but he has made a series of mistakes this season, particularly in the last two months. In the FA Cup his poor team selection, particularly a back four featuring Demichelis, cost us. It doesn’t take hindsight or genius to see that the FA Cup represented a better chance of a trophy and he should have fielded a stronger side, if not his strongest side, for that Wigan game. If we could have got a couple of goals up then we could have rested Kompany et al, if a rest were needed. One suspect Sir Vinny would like to have played.

Now we have just the League to go for. Yes, it’s hard to believe that still after years of fighting relegation etc., and we are grateful for that, but we have the strongest squad (despite lacking a top class partner for Vincent Kompany) and should be top of the Premier League, come the end of the season. Being kind, anything less than emulating last season’s 2nd place is failure, but we shouldn’t settle for 2nd best with these players. We have no divine right to anything, but not winning the League would be very disappointing.

Hopefully Pellegrini will pick the strongest side for every game (that means no Demichelis if we can avoid it) and we will win the League, but we need to take each game as it comes, starting with a win at another port city, Hull. It will be tricky and they will be well up for it with their mobile strike force of Long and Jelavic. If we show commitment and play well we should beat them.

Come on City.

Barcelona: Messi 67, Alves 90+1
Manchester City: Kompany 89

Att: 65,000

Hart: Made some good saves. One parry was nearly pounced on by Messi though. His distribution still needs work: 6
Zabaleta: Tenacious as ever and used the ball well. Should have done better when presented with a gilt-edged chance. Sent off for protesting against the referee’s ridiculous failure to award a penalty when Dzeko was clearly tripped in the box: 7
Kompany: He was absolutely awesome again. So quick, strong and such a great reader of the game, and an assertive leader, he is the perfect centre back. Relished the challenge of Messi and co in both ties and excelled in both. He is the best centre back in the world: 9
Lescott did make a mistake for their first goal and could’ve given a penalty away but otherwise did pretty well in difficult circumstances. Week in, week out he’s far better than Demichelis. 6
Kolarov: Struggled a bit defensively, was booked in the first half and was lucky to have Milner in front of him. He was a threat going forward and the quality of his delivery was top class and deserved at least one goal: 7
Nasri: Not quite the impact as in previous games but he worked hard for openings. Might have done more to test Valdes when presented with a good chance: 6
Yaya: Used his strength and passing to good effect. Unfairly penalised at times for using that strength legally: 7
Fernandinho: Another superbly industrious shift. Great pressing, good passing and cleared one off the line: 7
Milner: Passing not always at his sharpest but worked very hard up and down the left: 6
Silva: Super, silky link play as ever. His airborne back-heeled lay-off for Nasri was the stuff of genius. He was perfectly at home in this rarefied company (and Kompany!): 8
Agüero: Not fit, picking up a hamstring injury in this game. Hardly got a touch. He should have come off earlier than he did: 5
Navas (for Nasri 74): Injected a little pace down the right: 6
Dzeko (for Agüero 45): Linked play very well, was unlucky that Valdes saved his sharp header, and he set up Kompany’s goal. Hopefully goals will soon follow in the vital upcoming matches: 7
Negredo (for Silva 71): No real impact: 5

Refwatch: Stephane Lannoy (France): A stultifyingly incompetent show. How can one man make so many bad decisions for both sides? UEFA plumb the depths to dredge up these referees. At least he was even-handedly dreadful: 0
Best Oppo: Lionel Messi: Clearly one of the greatest footballers ever, and despite our defence doing pretty well against him over two legs, he caused us problems and was influential in key moments in both games. Some say injuries have taken their toll and he is past his best. Has he lost a little pace? Time will tell. Still in the top two players in the world (that Ribery ain’t bad either is he, hee hee). Still a consummate finisher, player of great vision, and balance. He is very sporting, plays the game in a great spirit. Barcelona’s Xavi says they won’t sell him, but what if he wants to move? His mate Pablo Zabaleta says he is always asking about Manchester. We can but dream… 9

FA CUP 6TH ROUND: Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 2

(this report was written before the Barcelona game)

Wigan Athletic again punctured our FA Cup dreams, in a thoroughly disappointing afternoon at the Etihad. Like at Wembley last May, they thoroughly deserved their win but we made it easy for them for too long. The Wigan fans who had joyously trooped into The Etihad Stadium on a beautiful spring day, singing “We beat Man City… we beat Man City, with a Watson goal” (aaargh… if memories of that grey, depressing day at Wembley in May was bad, Starship… 1980s cheesy, cheese on cheese… makes it worse… yuk!) and bounded out of the ground with even more of a bounce in their step and songs about Wembley. In contrast, we were left angry, bemused and frustrated as to how City had allowed this to happen again.

Without being overly presumptuous, we effectively lost a very winnable FA Cup, given the other sides left in, and much of it was our own making. Whilst Manuel Pellegrini can take credit for his City team playing great football and winning the League Cup, he must take a large share of responsibility for this avoidable exit. He hasn’t learned from his previous mistakes. Martin Demichelis and Joleon Lescott do not work as a partnership as was shown in the first half in the 4th round tie against Watford when we trailed 0-2 at half time, yet Pellegrini selected the same pair again, together with out of form full backs Richards and Clichy. To make a mistake once is one thing, but to repeat it is folly. It has been obvious for a good while now that Demichelis is a total liability and he cost us yet again. There is a mistake in him every game. Last week his mistake led to Sunderland’s goal and he can take responsibility for the first goal and partly for the second Wigan strike in this game. Lescott has been a decent servant to Manchester City even if he lacks pace (though he is not slower than Demichelis) and passing is not his strength (it isn’t Demichelis’s either). At least Lescott is still a good defender who knows his limitations, and does not try to over elaborate. Most people would take the more reliable defender rather than a player who is gaffe prone, and whose passing is not as good as he thinks it is. The trouble is as Lescott is not rated by Pellegrini, his wages are expensive, and he is over 30, so he is not being offered a new contract and is effectively being eased out of the club. This, with the manager’s blind spot where Demichelis is concerned, means that Lescott, a player who was part of the tightest defence, often gets overlooked in favour of an inferior player.

As in previous games recently, we again started off too slowly. Our passing lacked tempo and our work rate was not what it should have been. That is where the players shoulder responsibility. Too many of them underperformed.

Scott Carson had to prevent a Ramis interception of a Navas cross from going into the net but it took a whole 22 minutes for that to happen.

Wigan had barely threatened when Fortune tricked Demichelis down the left hand by-line. Demichelis was slow to react, there was a coming together on the by-line, Fortune did his dying swan act and the referee bought it. We had a perfect view of the incident. Granted, there was contact, but it was a case of Fortune sticking his leg out so that contact was made with Demichelis who was also duped, not once, but twice.

Wigan’s second goal was the result of Wigan persistence and a series of defensive errors. Lescott’s clearing header was decent enough, but no one responded to challenge for the ball, and McArthur was given the freedom of the right hand side of our penalty box by the hesitant Demichelis and Richards to advance and cross. Even then Clichy should have cleared the cross but allowed Perch to steal in from behind him and stab the ball into the net. It was a very poor goal to concede.

City tried to hit back through Navas who cut in and fired a left foot shot well wide, but it was to be his last involvement in the game as Manuel Pellegrini finally made changes: a triple change. As well as Navas, off went Negredo and Yaya, which is a rarity. On came David Silva, Edin Dzeko and James Milner. Samir Nasri moved into central midfield.

Suddenly there was an urgency and fluidity to City that had been lacking, and David Silva was at the centre of much of it. Silva played a cross field ball to Clichy on the left, and the French left back’s lofted cross found Dzeko who nodded onto the outside of the post. Agonisingly the ball rebounded away from Silva who was following up.

Silva fed Milner and his cross fell to Agüero who forced Wigan ‘keeper Carson to make a sharp save.

Then at last in the 68th minute City scored. Clichy’s corner was nodded back first by Dzeko and then by Richards into the path of Nasri who volleyed home a low, bouncing shot through a forest of bodies and past Carson. There was no time for celebration as Nasri grabbed the ball away from the time wasting Wigan defenders.

It was all City as Wigan dug in. From Agüero’s cut back, Richards hit a shot that just curled outside the left hand post. Garcia won a fifty-fifty tackle in midfield, and fed Nasri who played a glorious low diagonal ball out to Agüero on the left for a gilt-edged opportunity, but his shot was just wide of the right hand post.

Agüero forced another save as we willed City on. Dzeko flashed a header wide from Nasri’s superb right wing cross, then after another good delivery from Milner under pressure from Boyce, he spooned over from four yards.

It was not to be. There were handshakes all round. Uwe Rösler, whilst professional to the last, and pleased for the achievements of his own team, must have felt a real mixture of emotion given the fact that his team had beaten the club he loves.

Looking at the team sheet before the game, the back four of Richards, Demichelis, Lescott and Clichy gave cause for concern. We still fielded a strong front six even without David Silva, who was on the bench. They needed to be on their mettle to make up for our defensive shortcomings, but not enough of them were.

Pellegrini seriously underestimated Wigan and came a cropper here. In all he made 6 changes from the side that won the League Cup. Resting Kompany, Zabaleta and Fernandinho (neither Zaba nor Ferna were even on the bench), as well as benching Silva, not only weakened the team significantly, but it also sent out the wrong signals. Pellegrini made a half-hearted team selection and this transmitted to the players, and we got a half-hearted first 53 minutes by which time Wigan were two goals up. To compound this Pellegrini was also too slow to make changes. Of course it could be argued that he was saving Kompany, Zabaleta, Fernandinho and Silva for the Barcelona game, but we only have an outside chance of turning over a 0-2 deficit. By Wednesday evening we could be out of, not one, but two Cup competitions.

Even if we go to Barcelona and win the tie overall on Wednesday, it will not make up for the needless tossing away of an FA Cup tie by bad decision making.

We fielded a strong side against Chelsea in the 5th Round (immediately before playing Barça), so why not in the 6th round? Totally illogical, Captain.

Why not pick the strongest possible side, get in front and then take people off? Too many managers these days try to be too clever with their rotation, and they get found out.

Whatever side was put out there, the City players should have matched Wigan for commitment, and passed the ball quicker and sharper than we did. Our finishing was not at its most accurate and our strikers are all short of their best.

For all our shortcomings, it would be disingenuous not to recognise the qualities that Wigan showed. They pressed us far up the pitch, denied us space, and when they needed to defend, they quickly fell back into position. They got bodies in the way and made blocks and tackles when needed as City attacked incessantly towards the end. As someone near us in the Colin Bell Stand remarked, they looked better than a lot of Premier League sides, and they look a good bet for the play-offs. Uwe Rösler, whose name was sung by both sets of fans, got his tactics absolutely spot on and showed himself to be very astute at a high level. Future City manager one day? Why not? He’s tactically aware, resourceful and motivates his players very well. He’s going to the top.

Good luck to Uwe and his boys both in the FA Cup and in the League where they are in terrific form. They richly deserved their win.

MCFC: Nasri 68
Wigan: Gomez 28 (pen), Perch 47

Att: 46,824

Pantilimon: Handled well. Went down a little early when deceived by Gomez’s penalty: 6
Richards: Still a long way from the player who shared right back spot with Zabaleta two years ago. His positioning was lacking a few times in defence, most significantly for Wigan’s 2nd goal. Tried to support the attack, set up Nasri for his goal and went close to scoring himself in the second half: 6
Demichelis: Easily given the slip by Fortune for the penalty and enough of a mug to allow the Wigan striker catch his leg. Poor positioning and indecision meant that he got caught the wrong side and failed to make a challenge to cut out the cross for the second goal as well. There should be a “Why always Demi?” T-shirt for him. Not remotely good enough for this team: 4
Lescott: Didn’t do anything wrong, while all else came crashing down around him. Handed the armband after Yaya’s departure, he did take some responsibility and tried to drive the team forward down the left in the second half: 6
Clichy: Should have intercepted the cross that led to Wigan’s second goal, but he made the cardinal mistake of letting the ball come to him rather than going to the ball, and he was beaten to it. Save for one cross that Dzeko headed against the post, his passing and crossing was poor: 5
Navas: A fairly quiet afternoon, though he lacked service and missed the combination play and partnership that Zabaleta offers. Might have done better tracking his runner for Wigan’s 2nd goal: 5
Yaya: Given the captain’s armband but didn’t lead by example enough on this occasion. Played a lovely through ball for Navas to run onto early on and made some tackles, particularly one immense one on McManaman, but ended up in the book for another. His performance lacked dynamism and drive, and Pellegrini recognised this by subbing him. He could and should have done much better than this: 5
Garcia: Got stuck in and did his job in midfield. Save for one stray pass which thankfully didn’t cost us, he distributed simply and accurately: 6
Nasri: Never stopped trying to create. He could have done with more movement round him in the first half. His passing and delivery in the 2nd half was very good. Booked for petulantly throwing the ball away but at least he always looked like he cared in this match: 7 (City’s Man of the match)
Negredo: Still well off his best form. Has not regained his touch since his shoulder injury: 5
Agüero: Understandably below his best as he continues his return from injury, but he was still lively and set up team mates and went close to scoring. The feeling is though he would have scored if he had been back to his best, but he is getting closer: 6
Dzeko (for Negredo 53): Linked play well, won a few headers but couldn’t quite find the finish: 6
Silva (for Yaya 53): Hit the ground running and immediately made a difference with his customary intelligent combination play and vision. Why didn’t he start?: 7
Milner (for Navas 53): Some excellent deliveries. Fought hard. Why didn’t he start too? 6

Refwatch: Anthony Taylor: Duped for the penalty and made several bad decisions but he is not responsible for this defeat: 5

Best oppo: McArthur: Industrious, creative and competitive. A very good all round performance: 8 (Man of the match)

Phil Banerjee <phil.banerjee(at)>

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