Having hammered Portugal's top team FC Porto in the previous round, going into the second leg against Sporting Lisbon with home advantage and with only a slender 1-0 deficit to turn around, without sounding arrogant nearly every Manchester City fan expected us to progress against the distinctly average Portuguese outfit.
However as it turned out, for the first 55 minutes at the Etihad Stadium last night Manchester City were just not at the races. The fact that we only decided to wake up for the last half hour and provide a nearly glorious fightback pales into insignificance as in the cold light of day we are not even in the hat for the quarter finals in Europe's Mickey Mouse trophy.
Firstly focusing on last nights game, in the first half everything that could have gone wrong unfortunately did. From Mancini's decision to select David "speciality is giving the ball away" Pizarro whilst leaving De Jong, Nasri and Milner on the bench was not a promising start. Remember we had both Centre Halves missing and yet played a guy who is still not match fit and who gives no protection to the back four behind him whilst spending the vast majority of the game hitting long passes to the opposition full-back, his selection was clearly the wrong option. Personally I think it showed why we have stuck meticulously to our short passing game all season. Yesterday we tried to win without a holding midfielder preferring to unleash creative players on Lisbon in search of a first half lead yet all we ended up with was aimless long balls and a three goal deficit. We were rubbish, god we were rubbish. It was 100% complacency, with another big problem being the fact that we are beginning to believe our own hype, Bob and the players think we are better than we are. Newsflash we are not.People constantly bang on about our amazing 'squad' yet whenever I see the names Savic, Kolo Toure, Kolorov, Johnson or Dzeko in the starting eleven I instantly fear the worst.
There is a lingering feeling as a City fan that i just cannot shake, the feeling in my stomach of impending doom that has grown over the years
Last night four of those players started in arguably one of our most important games of the season, we are not good enough to rotate and last night proved it, when we start players of that ilk we become an average side yet, like last night, we continue to go in to any game thinking we will win it easily and we'll get the job done but our exit confirmed it is just not that simple. Finally when the holding player came on at half time in the shape of Nige De Jong we kept the ball, moved forwards slowly but relentlessly and murdered them. Incidentally we also looked miles better with Spanish Dave off the pitch, who once again was absolutely awful. He looks a sad shadow of his early season self, completely out of sorts and slowing our play down. I would start either Milner or Nasri next week against Chelsea in his place but I do appreciate that is a huge risk to take.
Our exit makes it four separate cup competition we are out of now with four separate sob stories, we seem to have perfected the art of losing with dignity and considering we've only won 1 FA Cup for all of Sheikh Mansour's investment that is just not good enough. Last season we exited the Europe League to a team that we should have dispatched with ease and this year it was the same sorry story. Sporting are average and yet we somehow managed to gift them 3 goals over the 180 minutes. Last week a rare error from Hart meant we had a mountain to climb and last night a daft and needless foul by Balotelli in a dangerous position made the task a little harder, then the purely awful Aleks Kolorov decided to head the ball back into play rather than putting it into touch leaving him needlessly out of position and we were punished making our mission near impossible.
Admittedly the lads provided a rousing comeback in the last 30 minutes which went someway to restoring a smidgen of pride but in the end we are out and so we actually gained nothing from the whole experience. Our only solace now is the Premier League title and I am far from confident that we will win that, however now there are no excuses left.
Mancini came out and said he got his tactics all wrong but I'm not taking what he said so literally.I suspect his mea culpa was, like Everton, to deflect criticism and take the pressure off the players but he can't keep doing that because prepared or not, the 1st half last night was pretty much a low point of the season. Bobby won't get away with it as an excuse for a fifth time this season and any further cock ups will probably mean it's United title. With ten games left what is required is now crystal clear, 10 wins and the title is ours, In my opinion anything less will not suffice as United will not drop that many points if any at all.
There is a lingering feeling as a City fan that i just cannot shake, the feeling in my stomach of impending doom that has grown over the years after experiencing one kick in the teeth after another watching The Blues, yet another part of me has to pinch myself when i realise that with 10 games left with have a realistic shot at the league title, mixed emotions yes, however come May i have a horrible feeling that the first all too familiar emotion will prevail.
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