Newsletter #1884

Well, is that it?

It’s certainly possible that the gap is now too far and the title has slipped through our fingers. The last time I felt like this was after defeat at The Emirates last season…

Relentlessly hunting United down though is not happening. Draws have killed us so far this season and masked a lack of impetus and fewer options when we need to change the course of games. The dynamism of de Jong and the effectiveness of Johnson when coming on as substitute have been very badly missed. Their replacements are simply not of the same standard – that is obvious to us all.

We have now just had the second consecutive transfer window that we have come out of weaker – and trust me, we are weaker without Balotelli than with him, despite all his foibles.

Nevertheless, there is still that nagging feeling we could… no… surely… not again?!

Next Game: Southampton, St Mary’s Stadium, 9 February 2013, 17.30


Sergio Agüero scored one of the most spectacular goals in memory to secure a point at home to a feisty Liverpool side who gave us problems all afternoon.

Silva forced Reina to tip a lob over in the first minute but Liverpool started off the brighter, pressing us into surrendering possession, and moving the ball smartly themselves.

City took the lead against the run of play. Agüero found Silva on the left and the Spanish playmaker’s clever through ball to Milner allowed the England midfielder to deliver an accurate, low, left wing cross, which Dzeko crisply swept onto the net. It seemed that normal service had been resumed but as City went in search of more goals, Liverpool continued to be aggressive in their pressing, and a foul and very bad refereeing helped them back into the game.

A pass was played up to Dzeko deep inside the Liverpool half, and as the City centre forward went to meet it, Agger ploughed straight through the back of him, sending him flying. It was as clear a foul as any, yet for some reason best known to referee Anthony Taylor and his linesman, neither gave a free kick. Play went on with an obviously furious City crowd unhappy that the game was continuing. Liverpool continued to move the ball round smartly as City got back in numbers, minus Dzeko. Garcia finally made an interception but made a hash of his clearance, gifting the ball straight back to Liverpool and the ball was played to Sturridge who had dropped deep. The ex-City junior steadied himself before unleashing a powerful low left-foot shot past Hart’s flailing left arm and into the net.

As for Liverpool not kicking the ball out, whilst it was pretty poor sportsmanship (though not as bad as handballing the ball and going on to score as Suarez did at Mansfield), they were not obliged to do so under the rules because there was no head or serious injury (it’s the referee’s job to stop play). As it turned out, Dzeko did not require treatment for injury. The fault lies entirely with the linesman and the referee in the first instance for not giving the foul (and for not booking Agger for it), and for ourselves for allowing Liverpool and in particular, Sturridge, too much room. Dzeko, who was not injured, should have got on with the game, because we were never going to change the referee’s mind. Instead he got a booking for his protestations to the linesman.

We could have been trailing by the break after a rare mix-up between Hart and Zabaleta, which saw Hart come rushing out and Zaba’s back pass just going past the post. It was symptomatic of our jittery performance in the first half, which paired Nastasic and Lescott together for the first time in the League.

Despite the very best efforts of City’s Man of the Match James Milner, Liverpool had the edge over City physically in this game and passed the ball better. Garcia was ponderous and slow in City’s midfield, as we struggled to get the ball off the visitors at times.

Sturridge almost added to his tally before the break but Hart saved his snap volley and half time came as a relief, giving us a chance for us to regroup and Roberto to reorganise.

James Milner was at the centre of much of City’s best work all afternoon and he was soon busily creating in the second half with a couple of inviting crosses. The first had no takers, but the second, which was an excellent delivery from a corner, was headed over by Garcia.

Sturridge was given too much room to shoot again but thankfully it came to nought, and Suarez shot so wide his effort went towards the touchline.

Roberto Mancini saw that Barry and Garcia in particular were struggling in midfield and switched to 3-5-2, replacing Nastasic with Kolarov, who came on as a left wing back, with Milner changing from right midfield to right wing back. Zaba and Clichy were either side of Joleon Lescott at centre back.

City were no longer outnumbered in midfield but Barry couldn’t keep his header on target after yet another good Milner cross. Liverpool still looked to have the edge physically and their passing was more assured. Sturridge was always a threat with his running but he embarrassed himself with a dive in the box after he had beaten Lescott for pace. Thankfully the referee didn’t fall for this and booked him (though given the way the game had been handled otherwise, it would have been no surprise had a spot kick been awarded).

Though the game seemed to be heading towards a draw, Liverpool were hungry for 3 points and seemed more likely to score. A searching 72nd minute cross was hammered out by Clichy but unfortunately it fell straight to Gerrard 30 yards out and he was given time and space to chest the ball down and volley in an unstoppable shot inside Hart’s right hand post. Joe had no chance from the moment it left Gerrard’s boot.

Just when it looked like the points were heading back down the East Lancs Road, Sergio Agüero scored one of the most spectacular goals and perhaps the most difficult goal at the Etihad Stadium. He chased Gareth Barry’s long pass down the inside right channel. Also in pursuit was Pepe Reina and a defender, then from a very tight angle, Agüero swivelled and lobbed the ball goalwards. It travelled 25 yards, and incredibly, just inside the left hand post to send us into raptures. It was absolutely breath-taking! Liverpool will rightly ask Reina what he was doing out there, but there is no doubting the quality of the strike, or its very impudence.

City could have lost the game late on but Hart made a brilliant save to thwart Sturridge, who again was given too much room to shoot from long range.

On the balance of play and chances Liverpool should have won this game. However, their first goal should never have happened because it started with a blatant foul. Sergio Agüero’s goal deserved to be a winning goal.

We really missed Yaya Touré who will surely return at Southampton next Saturday after the Cote d’Ivoire’s exit from the African Cup of Nations. He would have given us better passing, speed, movement and physical presence that we lacked here. Garcia has done well against lesser opposition as he settles into English football, but he looked all at sea for most of this game against an improving Liverpool side, and rather outpaced and they got behind him with ease. To his credit, he showed character and battled on.

Our cause wasn’t helped by a referee who allowed Liverpool to nudge in the back or keep kicking the backs of City legs without punishment.

Nine points is huge gap to bridge at any stage of the season. We may comfort ourselves that we overhauled 8 points with less than half as many games, but City had a better squad last season (and United were poorer without van Persie). Gone are de Jong and Balotelli, and the Balotelli we had last season scored 20 goals, rather than just one. Both Agüero and Dzeko have scored less than they had at this time last season.

Whatever happens this season, and we should finish no lower than 2nd, City must strengthen considerably with at least two top quality signings next summer. The emphasis must be on quality. Whilst UEFA’s artificial and anti-competitive financial constraints are an unavoidable consideration, we need reinforcements.

A top class striker such as Radomel Falcao, Edinson Cavani or Karim Benzema, a first rate midfielder and/or a top playmaker (Malaga’s Isco?) to complement David Silva would make us competitive to win the title again and challenge to get out of a Champions’ League group. A quality winger to give us another option would also be desirable.

There will be one or two departures (possibly the disappointing Nasri, maybe even Tévez if he doesn’t sign a new deal), but the 2011/2012 Champions squad does not need to be broken up. Surely new contracts are a must for important players like Yaya, Lescott, Barry and Milner who have 18 months to go on their current deals. We have a very good squad that needs adjustment and improvement, like any team does, and as Roberto Mancini has intimated, he and Txiki Begiristain are already in discussion about this.

Hart: Being beaten twice from long range (the second shot was unstoppable though) was not his fault as it was mainly due to poor closing down. He made a fine save though to deny Sturridge late on. His distribution, though, was very, very poor: 5
Zabaleta: Defended well enough, but even he had a rare jittery moment when he almost put through his own goal: 7
Nastasic: A decent enough showing on the unfamiliar right hand side: 7
Lescott: Some important headers and interceptions, he was the pick of our defence: 7
Clichy: Decent enough in defence, he was unlucky that his clearance fell straight to Gerrard for Liverpool’s second: 6
Milner: An action show, he was head and shoulders the busiest and best player on the pitch for both sides, both as an attacker and defender. His tenacity and work rate were excellent and his delivery of crosses was consistently of high quality: 9 (Man of the Match)
Barry: Suffered against Liverpool’s younger legs and clearly missed the running power of his usual partner, Yaya Touré: 6
Garcia: His passing got better as the game progressed but he was too slow and not up with the pace for two thirds of the game: 5
Silva: Burned brightly early on, forcing Reina to tip over in the first minute, and being instrumental in setting Milner up for Dzeko’s goal but faded out of it in the second half and was subbed: 6
Dzeko: Lost his man and took his goal well. Should have got up and got on with the game instead of sitting on his backside after he had been fouled for Liverpool’s equaliser, though. We didn’t see enough from him in the rest of the game: 6
Agüero: After a quiet start he got stronger and stronger, scoring one of the best ever and perhaps the most difficult goals at the Etihad: 7

Best Oppo: Sturridge: The one that got away… If he did go to Chelsea for better money, so what (though it certainly wasn’t a better chance to play)? It happens in life, though his departure may have been more to do with his feelings towards Mark Hughes (Mancini rates Sturridge), and vice versa. Mark Hughes made some very good signings like Kompany, Zabaleta, de Jong and Lescott and poor ones in Santa Cruz and Adebayor in his time here, but letting Sturridge leave was a big mistake. In this game his movement and link up play was excellent and his finishing was very decent too. Shame that his diving wasn’t (it’s all very well him not celebrating goals against us, but cheating kind of cancels that out). At least he apologised, but would he have done so had he won a penalty and Joleon had been sent off? 8

Refwatch: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe): Apparently listed with the FA as an Altrincham fan, though some have their suspicions as to where his true allegiances lie. Given the fact that he allowed Liverpool players to kick City players through the back of legs or pulling blue arms and shirts back, and one such incident led to a goal (which actually hinders us and helps United), his allegiances should be investigated. His was a truly appalling showing except when even he failed to be conned by Sturridge’s diving: 1

Att: 47,301

City: (Dzeko 23, Agüero 78)
Liverpool: (Sturridge 29, Gerrard 72)

Kolarov (for Nastasic 56): Not so many forward runs as normal reflected Liverpool’s dominance: 6
Maicon (for Silva 76): n/a
Nasri (for Barry 88): n/a

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


I have often wondered just how much I could have taken off the bookies had I put a tenner on every one of them to score on their return to either Maine Road or the Etihad. The always superb reviews of more frequent contributors will cover the action for those who missed the match; I would like to focus on the comments of Daniel Sturridge before and after the match as to his reasons for leaving Manchester for Chelsea, in particular the suggestion that his move was not motivated by financial gain but other factors.

Commentary from 2009 / 2010 suggested Sturridge had rejected £40,000 a week at City and signed for Chelsea for £60,000 a week. He has stated in an interview with the Mail prior to the Liverpool game that he was concerned about the lack of opportunities at City as we brought in the likes of Robinho and Jo and that he would not get the game time required to continue his development.

“People said I was greedy to sign for Chelsea and leave City but they (City) are the richest club in the world, so why I am being greedy going to a club with less money?”

Perhaps because you left for a reported 50% personal financial gain per week to be a squad player at the biggest spenders in the Premier League at the time? As many of us commented when Sweep left us for Chelsea, Sturridge’s move seemed like a real case of the same mistake from another youth academy graduate motivated by short term gain against long term development and heeding the advice of those who would gain from such a move, as opposed to those with more concern over their future. Has he won an England cap or two? Yes. Does he have a few senior medals? Indeed he does. Did he play any substantial part in any of these success? 24 goals in 4 years with Chelsea for a forward suggests no.

“When I moved to Chelsea it was again difficult with (Didier) Drogba and (Nicolas) Anelka there. I knew I wouldn’t play every week but I knew I would learn from both players.”

Did his bank balance suffer as a result of only 75 league appearances and 21 goals in 4 seasons? Exactly how much did he learn from the above named during his loan spell of 12 league appearances and 8 goals at at Bolton? How much did he learn from the likes of Elano, Robinho etc. at the early stages of the Blue Moon rising and the formative years of his career?

When Sturridge scored the equaliser at the Etihad the boos were not reserved for him; yes, many in the stadium elected to voice their disapproval at him for his actions and I do give him credit for his muted response after scoring (and indeed his comments to that effect afterwards) but IMHO the vast majority of the chorus of disapproval was aimed at the actions of the Liverpool players for not putting the ball out when a City player was injured – an issue that others will doubtless pick up on in this and future editions.

Although not happy with what I perceive as his mercenary actions back in 2009 I expect this from 98% of players in this day and age and found this comment a little egotistical, but then again what was I expecting?

If I was offered a 50% pay increase to perform the same job at another organisation as well as receive a generous signing on fee (never reported as part of any transfer package but we know they still exist) I would take it and I would be honest and up front with my employers and colleagues as to my reason why. I wish Sturridge could have done the same before and after this game rather than try and deflect the responsibility for his decision onto our ambition to compete at the top in England and Europe rather than his lack of this and his financial motivation.

The above is my take on the events; in the Internet age fans are more informed than ever about the goings-on behind the scenes at their clubs and City are no exception, although we will never have all the facts. If Sturridge has something extra to add to the story of his departure from City then I look forward to reading it in one of his ghost-written autobiographies as serialised in the Liverpool Echo in 10 years’ time.

CTID, Peter Blyth <blythie44(at)>


Yup, the inevitable happened and Mario has moved on.

I have made my (mostly but not entirely negative) opinions known about Balotelli before, and don’t wish to repeat myself but one thing that really – nay reeeeeeaaaallly – annoys me is the way that now two truly talented players have used their wilful disinterest and lack of effort on our behalf to engineer a move (at our cost) based on their hearts’ desires – AC Milan again must be laughing themselves senseless at us.

Yes, just like Robinho, Balotelli, on the face of it, seems to have been rewarded for showing the sort of work-ethic that the likes of us would merely be sacked for. Though Tévez could never be accused of laziness on the pitch, he came very close last year to burning us in what would have been ultimately the same kind of betrayal.

On a different note, I’m sure this week will be looked at as the one in which we waved the white flag. I’m too depressed to go into it further but at the very end of today’s match, it seemed like we went back in time. In desperate need of a winner, Kolarov had three corners in the last six mins. The knock on him (and thus on Mancini for keeping the faith with him) was that his corners always failed to beat the first defender or were way over-hit. Well, the first two did the former and the third the latter. What a shock!

A sickened Steve O’Brien <bodsnvimto(at)>


With something like 15 games to go in the league, we find ourselves 9 points adrift of the Rags.

Unless United totally implode in their efforts to win the European Cup, I can’t see City catching them.

At the end of this season, where we will probably finish runners-up, we will look back on van Persie’s last minute free kick winner, but also our inability to beat Liverpool twice, our loss to Sunderland and us dropping two points at QPR. City may have the best defence in the League but the sad reality is that Messrs Agüero, Dzeko, Tévez and the now-departed Balotelli just haven’t been consistent enough in front of the opponents’ goal.

Think back to last season when we were blowing apart teams like United, Tottenham, Norwich and Villa, City’s attack had variety and a sense of brashness about them. This year that self-confidence has gone, we are dropping points to teams like QPR and Sunderland who just want to park the bus and we are not getting key goals at the right time. Look at United and they aren’t scaring anybody but they are constantly getting that late goal and eking out 1-0 and 2-1 wins.

The reality is that Mancini, Platt and Kidd were supposed to build on last year’s team but they haven’t. Much was made over whether they should have signed RvP and Hazard in the pre-season. They didn’t because we had Agüero, Dzeko, Tévez coming back with more confidence and Balotelli who had starred for Italy in the Euros. To bring in van Persie and Hazard would have totally disrupted City’s pay scale and would have also meant that either Agüero, Tévez or Balotelli would have had to be shipped out. As it’s turning out, RvP will probably win the championship for the Rags, but we could not have known, with his track record, that he would maintain his fitness and have another great season.

Even without RvP, City should still be clear top if they had an attacking Plan B when they’ve come up against the likes of QPR, Sunderland and even Reading. City’s attacking flair is great to watch, but when they play against a brick wall, they need some attacking options from the wing. Say what you want but Bellamy, SWP and even Johnson, they gave us those options. Yet Mancini is adamant about using traditional wingers. Scott Sinclair must wonder what the heck he’s doing at City considering his lack of time on the field. One player we should buy next year is Gareth Bale!

I also believe that signing those five players right on deadline day was disruptive to our kick-off. Garcia is no de Jong, don’t understand how Maicon replaces Zabaleta, or Richards when he’s fit, Sinclair is a total waste and Rodwell is injury-prone (something I am sure David Moyes was aware of when he sold Rodwell to us). The only decent signing has been Nastasic but even he has come at the cost of Lescott’s confidence. In retrospect if we had kept de Jong, sold both Balotelli and Nasri (useless in my opinion) and not bothered with those five deadline signings, we could have bought RvP and been so much better off. But there is that bit about hindsight being 20-20.

Best we can hope for is to win the FA Cup again, finish 2nd in the League and add some more fire-power to the line-up for next season. Mancini has got to watch himself. I am sure the owners are not happy with his spending this season, the team’s lack of attacking flair and their failure in Europe. These owners do not believe in failure and I am afraid they will start looking elsewhere if they think Mancini has run out of gas and run out of ideas.

Keith Sharp, Toronto Canada <>


Thank you everyone who sent answers to my question about the match in 1978 against AZ. Thank you Colin for providing the names of the AZ scorers, which I could not find in the AZ archives.

It was no disgrace to lose to AZ then; two seasons later they won the double in Holland, they won the league five matches before the end with a lead of twelve points (two points for a win in those days). The subsequent drunkenness and parties led them to lose the first leg of the UEFA Cup final against Ipswich by 3-0. Winning in Holland by 4-2 was not enough and so Ipswich contributed to the English dominance of football in those years.

AZ are quite similar to City; their next championship was in 2009, only 28 years but Dutch football is not exactly at the same level as the Premier League.

I thought all the hallelujahs Mario is gone a shame. Since when are we afraid of characters at City?

The club should have found a way to use his talent. Tony Coleman used to throw beds out of his bedroom windows! Rodney Marsh was an angel, right! You don’t get a great football team with a bunch of regular guys. Normal hard working guys we have aplenty: Barry, Milner, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic – all good professionals, great footballers and team men. To be great you need that bit extra and City should have been able to use the brilliant side of Mario to our advantage.

I will be in Manchester for the weekend of the 9th and 10th of February, where is there a Blue friendly pub to watch the match against Southampton? The last time I was in Manchester for a Rag weekend my hotel was full of Italian and Scandinavian Reds. Thanks again for the replies to my question and thank you to everyone who make MCIVTA possible.

Ian Nixon <i.nixon(at)>


Former City managers Tony Book and Brian Horton will be the guests at the Reddish Blues’ next meeting on Tuesday 12 February at Houldsworth Working Men’s Club, Leamington Road, Stockport SK5 6BD.

Meeting starts at 8.00pm (doors open at 7.30pm) and as always, everyone is welcome. For more information visit our website at

Howard <reddishblues(at)>


Interesting to note the comments re the support of the Manchester clubs after the war.

Thanks for putting me right, I always assumed that most City fans were heroes who perished in the war whilst most United fans were cowards, deserters or conshies who all made it back to games post war.

I’m still not convinced otherwise!

P.S. I have the AZ Alkmaar programme, which is still quite easily obtainable!

Dave Wallace <dw001e8104(at)>


3 February 2013

Manchester City       2 - 1  Liverpool             47,301
West Brom             0 - 1  Tottenham Hotspur     24,978
AC Milan              2 - 1  Udinese
Balotelli 25, 90!

Ciao, Mario, and thanks for your good works last season

Jeremy Poynton <j.poynton(at)>

League table as at 5 February 2013

                    P  GD Pts
 1 Manchester Utd  25  29  62
 2 Manchester City 25  26  53
 3 Chelsea         25  24  46
 4 Tottenham H.    25  13  45
 5 Everton         25  10  42
 6 Arsenal         25  20  41
 7 Liverpool       25  12  36
 8 Swansea City    25   6  34
 9 West Brom A.    25  -1  34
10 Stoke City      25  -6  30
11 West Ham Utd    25  -8  30
12 Sunderland      25  -5  29
13 Fulham          25  -6  28
14 Norwich City    25 -15  28
15 Newcastle Utd   25 -11  27
16 Southampton     25 -11  24
17 Reading         25 -14  23
18 Wigan Athletic  25 -18  21
19 Aston Villa     25 -26  21
20 QPR             25 -19  17

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1884