Saturday, 25 January 2014

Cup fever!

Wembley here we come…again! And speaking of “again”, another cup game tomorrow. The league has been well ‘n’ truly put on ice for the time being…along with the champagne hey?

Crackin’ day out booked!

In my 28-years of being a season ticket/card holder I’d only ever been to Wembley to watch City once in the first 25 seasons. That single occasion, of course, was a 3rd division (in old money) promotional play-off final. An unbelievably great occasion and eventual result I cannot and would not refute …but nonetheless it was hardly a prestigious cup-competition-winning final was it?

So to then find myself at Wembley 5 times (an F.A. Cup semi-final, 2 finals, a Community Shield and now a League Cup final) in the last 3 years seems, to me, like I’ve been caught up in some kind of footballing version of The Wizard of Oz tornado.

Including the 1999 play-off final against Gillingham my full Wembley record reads: WWWLL. I didn’t go to the Community Shield game against Chelsea (it was at Villa Park anyway) and so I’m due a win…

But what I’m referring to by ‘Crackin’ day out’ is the fact that we’re not playing ‘them’. I’m not for one second calling all Manyoo fans morons (and we have a few of our own of course); I know some of ‘em and a lot of them are decent-enough people. But when it comes down to it, whether it’s a cup semi-final or “just” a Community Shield; it’s a Manchester derby when all said ‘n’ done and, what comes with that, is the usual pre & post-match ‘needle’.

For example…

Two overriding memories that have stuck with me was during my first Wembley trip since the Gillingham game (at the OLD Wembley). This time, at the newly-built stadium, we were in the semi-final of the F.A. Cup against ‘that lot’ from Stretford. What a fantastic day it was; a Yaya Toure-winning goal sending us all into raptures as we headed for the final against Stoke City and our first silverware in 30-odd years (you might want to ask a Manyoo fan for the exact number of years – they were keeping count apparently…)

Before the game my coach had stopped off at some motorway services about 10:30am (having set off about 8:00am) and we were in buoyant mood. Newspapers and i-Phones were being read, a few cold sausage & bacon butties were being consumed and everyone was completely chilled out and having a generally nice time chatting. So what was it that greeted us (apart from the stupidly over-priced snacks) as we disembarked the coach? A hoard of about 30 to 40 Manyoo fans positioned just to one side of the main entrance; swigging booze and coming out with generally vicious comments and, a little later on, song-chants as we passed by in & out.

Because I was so transfixed on the occasion itself – quietly convinced that we’d be victorious on the day – I’d kind-a not thought for a second about bumping into that lot on the way down.

Anyhoo…nothing bad transpired (it was still early morning and so they’d not had TOO much time to get ‘aled up’) and we made it to Wembley unscathed. And, in fairness, once we’d parked on ‘our side’ of Wembley there was little in the way of any ‘bad blood’ it has to be said - just one minor scuffle that I can recall, which blew over as quick as it started. In fact one of my permanent videos on another ‘tab’ was from that very day and sums up the reasonably good mood all things considered…

After the game, however, the atmosphere changed considerably. After joyously singing & shouting so much in the stands and on the way back down the stairs that I slightly strained a chest & stomach muscle; I reached the outside and was greeted by quite a site. It was of a Manyoo fan with one of his eyebrows gushing with blood as he marched around clench-fisted and very angry looking eager to take his frustrations out on anyone wearing sky blue. He passed within inches of my wife & I - wearing sky blue – but decided, for some reason, to look for someone else to take up his grievances with. That was nice of him I suppose.

What I’m getting at is…it’s just not a particularly, fully enjoyable day out when you have to play your ‘derby rivals’ at Wembley and so for more reasons than one last Wednesday night; I was utterly delighted to see Sunderland beat them to reach the League Cup final on 2nd March. Huh…it’s just that the WAY it happened, particularly after their season-long turmoil so far, made it all the sweeter of course! Has Phil (Laurel-Beaker) Jones’ penalty-shot come back down yet? J

V Watford

Perhaps not QUITE as difficult for me to predict as the Pellegrini starting line-up against West Ham United last Tuesday (but not far off), here’s my “educated” guess at what he might select in his effort to reach the 5th round of the F.A. Cup…

Formation: 4-4-2










The problem with this prediction lies in Manuel’s thinking about giving some game-time to recognised / considered first-teamers who were rested for the West Ham clash in mid-week whilst at the same time being mindful of a very tough game away at a much-resurgent Tottenham side this coming Wednesday.

Kolarov (mostly), Demichelis and Kompany were given a night off last Tuesday and all 3 are highly likely to feature at White Hart Lane. So what does ‘The Engineer’ do? Being a home, F.A. Cup game against a struggling Championship side does he give them another day off? Sure, if he did rest them, they wouldn’t be risking injury ahead of a crucial Premier League clash. But, so the experts say, there’s no better cardiovascular fitness workout than playing first-team football – another day off MIGHT leave them a little ‘off the pace’ as they head-off to London

Although it is, indeed, a cup game; I think he’ll give this one to Joe. Surely Pellegrini won’t ‘do a Mancini and leave Costel on the bench for the League Cup final! And although Pantilimon got the Blackburn games; with us now having REACHED the final of the League Cup I think the Chilean will now share the cups out and, therefore, give Hart this one. I might be completely wrong of course…

As I say, I think he’ll give some exercise time to Aleks, Martin & Vinny and I think he’ll give some well-needed game time to Micah too. Fernandinho played in mid week and so I think Garcia is a sure starter. Milner, who got a full night off too in the week, is surely going to start. But with us needing SOME creativity on the pitch – and I think with Yaya perhaps needing to rest his back a little longer (although he’s not been declared unfit) – I think James will get a central role for a rare change. I think he works better in the middle anyway. If he DOESN’T start, I think we’ll perhaps see Yaya on the bench just in case he’s needed.

Although Navas played most of the game at Upton Park, I think he’ll get another 60+ minutes to supply the ammo to try and see off the Hornets as soon as possible. I also think Clichy will get another start because I can see Kolarov being deployed as a left-winger, with David Silva not being risked with, “…some pain in his hamstring but nothing important”.

Aguero should get 45+ as he completes his return to full fitness and Dzeko is pretty much a sure bet too. However, I would hope that Jovetic will get some more time on the pitch than he did against the Hammers – I’m sure he will…

With David out Pellegrini might, of course, be tempted to give Lopes another start. But I wonder whether he’ll think that 2 starts in 4 days might be a little TOO much for the EDS player? It’s the bench for him I think…but with a good chance of coming on.

Fernandinho is a sure starter for the Spurs game and so Rodwell should make the bench; Zaba & Nastasic as cover and so there’s no place for Lescott (oh the rumours will be further fuelled…)

Result? At home against a Championship team who have won just 1 game in the last 10? I’ll look forward to the 5th-round draw…

Moyes gets Mata

Excellent signing for them but slightly over-priced at £37M I think but that’s the January transfer window for you...

I’ve made no attempt to hide the fact that it would have been awesome if we’d have added the Spaniard to swell our creative ranks even further and so I’m a little disappointed to see him move over there. And he’ll do well I think; he’ll certainly be out to prove Mourinho wrong! If they can get the SORELY missed Rooney & Van Persie fit then all 3 should lift the team a heck of a lot – they SHOULD make 4th by the end of the season…

A bit cute by Mourinho actually; I do find myself agreeing with those conspiracy theorists who say that Jose has now handed Manyoo a timely (and angry) weapon to potentially do some damage to both Arsenal and ourselves in the title race.

The cheeky bugger… 

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