‘Boring, boring’ City
Its fair to say whilst it wasn’t the best FA Cup Final, it certainly wasn’t the worse. It was clear from the beginning that we were the side with more purpose and drive. Thomas Sorenson was kept busy from the start, producing a good save to deny the buzzing Carlos Tevez early on, and then a top drawer save to deny the curling shot of a (surprisingly) workmanlike Mario Balotelli later on in the first half.
The chance of the half fell to David Silva, who could have more or less picked his spot when the ball fell to him in the area, with the Stoke defence at sixes and sevens. The Spaniard drove his shot into the floor, and it bounced agonisingly high, over the bar. At that stage I must admit I wondered whether it was going to be our day.
And then, in the second half, came Stoke’s big chance. The largely ineffectual Kenwyne Jones wrestled past Lescott and bore down one on one with Joe Hart, but the keeper was equal to the task - just as he has been in the vast majority of big games this season, and blocked the Trinidadian's toe poke. After that Stoke offered little else in the way of a direct threat on goal.
The support of the Stoke fans is to be commended, but they went a bit far in their chanting of ‘boring, boring City’. You try to not be judgemental when it comes to assessing the way Stoke play, you try to see what else they have in their locker, but the truth is they have little apart from a physical, long ball game. We were the team that was trying to win the game. Stoke didn’t appear to know what they were doing at times. I’m sure their fans must feel that their team did not turn up.
Much was made before the game of what Stoke’s approach would be. High balls into the box, Delap’s long throws, strength, commitment, fight. Pulis would surely have called upon his men to out compete the Blues, rile us up, unsettle us with their aggression.
But five minutes into the match, and it was totally clear who was taking the fight to whom. From the moment Nigel De Jong won his first tackle, the Stoke players must have known that they were in for a battle. As the game wore on, we dominated in this department – De Jong (my man of the match), Kompany and Lescott all gave excellent performances. Perhaps it took Stoke aback that we were so combative, as they pressed little and so had few chances to really dictate the game.
If there is a special element to this Mancini side, it is that very merging of power and skill. We are less of a machine than
00 years: a moment of huge significance
At risk of sounding completely overawed, this could potentially be the biggest moment in the club’s history. The naysayers will of course say this is nothing, just one trophy, we have a long way to go to match the best, this victory is nothing that other teams haven’t won before.
But whilst this is partially correct, it is only part of the picture. This is a very different
Resetting the counter from 35 years to 00 years is also hugely significant. The 35 years hung as an albatross around our necks, the source of endless mocking and taunting. The 00 years banner brought out onto the pitch by the backroom team represents just how much it means to banish that mantle. And whilst we’re talking about the backroom team, we cannot fail to mention Roberto Mancini, who will now go down in the history of this club as the man who started to change our trajectory. The Italian has had his critics, but no-one can credibly argue with him now. He was brought in to deliver Champions League football, but he has delivered more than we could have possibly imagined, with two league games still to play. We usually leave things to the last minute, so it is very un-City like to be going into the last days of the season with our two central targets secured.
And just as important - if not more important - than the man who has delivered this success are the men who had the judgement to bring him here in the first place. None of this would have been possible without Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak. Their financial power is a key element, but this season’s successes show that they are also excellent judges of character and ability. It was a big call to sack Mark Hughes, and an unpopular one at the time. But no-one can argue with that decision now.
More than anything else, this victory represents a springboard to success, the first brick of a house that Arabian financial might is slowly building. We now have a group of players that have won together – massively important for our team spirit and togetherness – things that have been questioned so much this season. Before, we were a team of individual winners, now we are a winning team. We are now laying the groundwork for a new era, whilst drawing the curtain on an old one.
If it has not ended already, the era of typical City is finally coming to a close.