This feels surreal. I’m on my way back home to London after watching the FA Cup final at my mum and dad’s in south Manchester. Yes I’m a Man City fan and I live in London, such deviance is not exclusive to Man United fans, deal with it.
We won. We won the cup. We’ve won the FA Cup. I should be bouncing up and down in my Virgin train seat, telling everybody on this coach, even the old man with crisps all down his shirt, that my team, MY football team have finally won an actual proper trophy. But I’m not.
Instead I find myself in a blissful daze of light-headed calm, safe in the knowledge that the future of Manchester City Football Club holds no boundaries. And at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if this did indeed actually happen. Why does this feel so weird?
I was at my folks’ house, so I jumped up and down for a while, before asking my mum for another cup of tea.
I remember the match perfectly well, much better in fact than the semi-final against United where I had been at Wembley myself and quickly transmogrified from a level-headed, diplomatic man into a wild and uncontrollable demi-lunatic. The first half was all City – with Thomas Sorensen threatening to have the game of his life as he plucked the ball from dangerous positions, saved well from Carlos Tevez and made one stunning save from Mario Balotelli. Stoke started nervously and improved somewhat after 20 minutes with impressive bursts from Jermaine Pennant and Kenwyne Jones. But the Man City engine was far too quick and sharp for Stoke to deal with in the opening 45 minutes, with Nigel De Jong imperious as ever, Gareth Barry as underratedly effective as ever, David Silva as unpredictably skilful as ever and Carlos Tevez busier than the M6 on the Friday before Christmas in the snow after a bad road traffic accident in the midst of a petrol crisis. But such domination in possession did not lead to a goal, and there was the nagging feeling that Stoke would only need one chance to score. This concern multiplied in strength when David Silva missed a sitter after a Sorensen block from Balotelli bounced kindly in his direction. To play so well and not score, this was typical City.
Stoke emerged for the second half with more intent, drive and style after no doubt a rollicking from manager Tony Pulis. But despite their improved possession and pressure, they failed to create the first real chance of the half. This fell to David Silva. For all his evident skills, Silva is fast becoming a purveyor of “My nan could have scored that” c***k-ups. This time, he allowed the Stoke defence to bully him off the ball after he had been put clean through by Tevez. The price for this miss was nearly heavier than Robert Huth, as Stoke should have scored not long after – Kenwyne Jones clean through after an unconvincing Joleon Lescott failed to deal with a long ball. Fortunately Joe Hart came to the rescue with a vital block – it was then when I knew the FA Cup would be ours.
And cometh the hour, well cometh the 74th minute, cometh the man. The way the game had played itself out, it was looking likely that the winning goal would be a scrappy one, or a fortuitous one rather than a 25 yard screamer or overhead kick. A deflected Balotelli shot dropped to Yaya Toure, who had a fairly quiet second half much to the credit of the Stoke midfield. Toure wasted no time in unleashing a jet-powered thunderbolt of a shot past Sorensen from 10 yards out. Game over, man. Game over.
Had I been at the game, no doubt I would have once more allowed my body and mind to transform into that of a screaming, weeping, neanderthal type as the Man City fans greeted the bulging of the net with delirium. But I was at my folks’ house, so I jumped up and down for a while, before asking my mum for another cup of tea.
A brief spell of Stoke pressure soon gave way to the final whistle. Our 35 year wait for a trophy was over. That stupid banner over at Old Trafford can finally come down. FA Cup Champions 2011, Manchester City. Sounds pretty good.
But I still can’t put my finger on why this feels so surreal. Why I can’t fully enjoy this monumental victory. I am delighted, but if I’m honest, there is something anti-climactical about winning this trophy. It feels a bit like coming to the end of a really satisfying book. Maybe I was expecting too much. It’s become nothing short of a mission amongst Man City fans over the years to see the team reach a final and take home the cup. And now we’ve done it. Well, I just don’t know what to do with that.
Seeing Tevez and the rest of the City players parading around Wembley with the trophy, swigging champagne and celebrating wildly, it didn’t feel real. Perhaps I’m so unaccustomed to football success, that my brain is taking its time to process the information. Had we performed disappointingly and lost – I’ve no doubt I would have been instantaneously depressed, and would have remained so for a number of days. That’s how I’ve been programmed. I’ll probably have a good cry later.
While I feel sorry for the wonderful Stoke fans, who may have a longer wait than me before seeing a day like this again, today’s victory was fully deserved. Manchester City haven’t been brilliant this season, as Mancini himself admitted after the game. But Manchester City have had a brilliant season.
Ooh, I think there’s something in my eye. Has anybody got a tissue?
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