There was a fleeting moment of guilty pleasure just prior to 6pm on Sunday night. The pleasure as Mario Balotelli finally, deservedly, saw red and Manchester City’s title bid evaporated at the Emirates. Guilt as a young City fan broke down in tears, live on national television. Inconsolable heart-break played out for all to see in its humiliating indignity.
Oh no. That’s right. It was, of course, pure joy. Every last moment.
Not least because of the £210 million spent over the past two summers under Roberto Mancini’s management; each moment of presumptuous crowing last autumn; and every last reference to United’s apparent demise. “This City is ours,” they cried. Not yet it isn’t.
City’s defeat was all the more fun for the spineless manner in which the Blues caved against Arsenal. In a match Mancini’s men absolutely had to win, coming after United’s victory earlier on Sunday, City was fortunate to escape north London without suffering a severe hiding, so abject was the side’s display.
Yet, if City’s demise has brought joy to United fans, who can now prepare to celebrate domestic title number 20, what machinations must Mancini’s paymasters in back in Abu Dhabi be planning? Half-a-billion pounds investment has earned, if not the title, then a dignified campaign. This has been anything but.
On the pitch City’s autumn form, which brought a string of eye-catching wins – not least that match – disappeared as the year turned. That Mancini’s side transmogrified from the ‘next Barcelona’, to a side that cannot win on the road, and whose collective spirit is broken, can do little else but shock. Not least when placed in stark relief with a United side that has powered to 11 wins in the past 12 Premier League fixtures.
Moreover, while Mancini’s performance is judged predominantly by results, it is off-the-field events that have largely shaped City’s season. These are events in which Mancini is highly culpable.
Carlos Tevez’ refusal to
play warm-up against Bayern Munich in last September precipitated a break down in team unity that has only been magnified by Mario Balotelli’s irresponsible behaviour. Far from the lovable rogue of a thousand articles, the Italian has proven to be little more than a petulant thug with an overbearing sense of entitlement. From training ground fights with Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng, to the disgraceful studs-up challenge on Alex Song at the Emirate.
Mancini may not be the cause of his players’ errant behaviour, but he is certainly responsible. That is, after all, management in a very literal sense. And as a senior City executive – “the most important employee” as Sir Alex might put it – so too comes accountability.
The Italian has shown little to date. Only now when the desperation of his team’s situation is in full bloom has Mancini rounded on Balotelli, claiming that the young striker may never play for the club again. After a similar statement about Tevez, the coach has no credibility left in the bank.
“I like him as a guy and a player,” said Mancini of Balotelli, who signed from Inter Milan for £24m.
“He is not a bad guy and a fantastic player but I’m very sorry for him as he continues to lose his talent and his quality. I don’t have any words for his behaviour. I hope for him he can understand he is in a bad way for his future and I really hope that he can change his behaviour in the future.
“He will probably not play in the next six games. I need to be sure I always have 11 players on the pitch and with Mario this is a big risk. Mario made a mistake and I hope for him – not me – that he can change. He clearly created a big problem, but he has also scored important goals for us this season. He needs to change his behaviour if he wants to continue to play.”
Yet, it is almost unimaginable that Ferguson would have tolerated Balotelli’s behaviour, no matter how talented the Italian. Ravel Morrison will attest to that. So too will a string of former United players who failed to conform to Ferguson’s demand for a unified front.
How Sir Alex must have enjoyed the campaign, despite European failure. The Scot, often at his obdurate worst when discussing the club’s financial situation, has nevertheless taken criticism of his squad’s quality as a personal affront. It has proven to be a key tenet of United’s season.
Many an assessment of Ferguson’s squad is legitimate; structural weaknesses in midfield and defence have been exposed at times this season. Not least in Europe, where the Reds suffered two humiliating campaigns. But Ferguson has forged a side that is, to invoke the old cliché, greater than the sum of its parts. Certainly one whose unity is admirable.
No wonder Ferguson was so sharp in his assessment of City’s public division after Balotelli and Aleksander Kolarov squared up during last weekend’s draw between the Blues and Sunderland.
“I wouldn’t allow it but it can happen at moments in a game,” said the United manager on Friday.
“Peter Schmeichel used to have a go at Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister and they’d give it back. Roy Keane used to do it. There’s a difference, though, a distinction there. The general demeanour of a team is more important. The general atmosphere when a team scores a goal. That’s how you judge it. You need unity if a team is going to win the league.
“Teams are about unity – we have got experience of that. Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs can ensure that’s the case. Young players in the dressing room can look at how they have lasted so long – they are great examples. We take unity for granted here. We expect it – but it doesn’t happen everywhere.
“The unity and spirit you get when players stay together is now coming through,” added Ferguson, who took his side on a three day golfing break to Scotland before United’s victory over Fulham last week. “That trip to St Andrews was fantastic.”
How Mancini could learn something from Sir Alex’ ability to forge a group. The Italian’s brusque style, in contrast to his laid-back public demeanour, has seemingly served only to create tensions among a group of players brought together primarily for financial gain.
Ferguson is often painted as a bruiser, unleashing the hairdryer at the slightest provocation. Yet, there is unlikely to be a United player unwilling to lay everything on the line for the cause this season. Mancini cannot make that claim, which is an assessment that if also concluded in Abu Dhabi, may yet lead to the Italian’s demise.
And despite the frustrations of a campaign that has often overwhelmed, United will come out with a 20th domestic title. Far from the greatest team to don United’s red this may be, but beating the most expensively assembled team in the history of English football is no little feat.
In that there is much joy for United fans, with not a hint of guilt.
29 thoughts on “United in triumph over divided City”
Balotelli needs a leash, Mancini needs to grow a pair! Mario would never behave the same in united or even chelsea; a serious dressing room bare-knuckle beating would remind him the difference between boys and men. There is no English pride in the whole of Eastlands, such a disgusting lot. Ask The King, he said the difference in his career was that Sir Alex treated him like a man
Let’s win it at etihaf…wont it be great to dream of that??,wonder hw ballotelli would reqct on the guard of honor like hw the chelshit players did for us.
Balotelli is NOT the problem… he’s just a side show.
The problem is the manager… Mancini’s a decent enough manager for a regular club… but City is NOT a regular club… it’s an expensive collection of very good players, who are overpaid, (the only way to attract their signatures to a club, they normally wouldn’t go anywhere near)… overpaid, and molly-coddled means they mostly have warped attitudes about their own importance…
Such a collection of fat egos needs an equally fat head to take charge… or a hard cunt of a manager, of steel and experience.
Mourinho, Hiddink, Ferguson… these are the type of manager necessary to run this lot… and until City get such a character, they’ll struggle to maintain discipline.
Alf – yes kind of my point. Mancini can’t handle the monster unleashed at City. It’s not about time: time will gain him nothing if all it does is create greater division. Catastrophic mistake bringing Carlos Tevez back IMHO. This didn’t show unity, it was an act of desperation. And all it said was that you can get away with anything at City.
Bringing Tevez back “MIGHT”, have made sense, if he was fit… but he hasn’t even been able to make a contribution, because of a lack of game time.
It was a decision without an upside really… the only thing it did was bring Mancinis authority into question.
IMHO the main reason of their collapse was the African Cup and what it did to YaYa.
SAF does have a point about value in the market; there are indeed very few players of this position in the world now, Toure being one of them, and Citeh were very reliant on him.
Mancini was indeed very dangerous as a manager when Toure was a monster, Mancini won titles and knows how to do it..
But in the period of crisis Citeh somehow collapsed, and it Mancini’s fault.
Plus, they had a very poor PR campaigner in Vieira, who basicly piled pressure on the Citeh team in the tough run-in. The first to be fired IMO.
No pity for City, welcome to Manchester, etc.
They are going to remember 1-6 as the highest point of the campaign. Does it come under the definition of being bitter?
City fans will always point out 6-1 but we United fans can simply point out that one match does not win you the league,accepting 2nd best is okay, and most importantly passion not money.
I hope Mancini stays at Chyte and fuck them up for another year. I do not think he is a good manager, of the three Seiria A title he won, one was handed to him and the other two where when Juve where doing their tour of Seiria B clubs and his record in the champions league is very mediocre.
Some of his game time decision are to say the least are confusing, his motivational skills are a joke and his man management – well do we even need to site examples. To be honest I would not wish the Chyte team on anyone, even Sir Alex and Mouhrino would have problems controlling these egos; including the egos of the owner who think all they have to do is unlock the oil money and the title will come rolling in.
So let Mancini stay, get rid of 6 – 8 players and buy another dozen or so; they still will not have a team that has learned to rely on each other – they will have mercenaries that have guaranteed contract who don’t care if they win or lose.
Love you biassed, partisan, red glasses wearing idiots. Post a story regarding city, yet too cowardly to allow any opposing views to be aired. Love it though as it just reinforces why rags are universally hated, keep it up…
Heavyriffs – happy to post ‘opposing views’. Just don’t accept it when it comes with a personal insult, which when it comes to Blues they always do. Just goes to show why you plastic seating wearing losers are universally hated. Except in Stockport.
Is that why we’re hated?
You sure it’s not because we keep winning?
By the way… what exactly is YOUR point of view?… or is that all you’ve got to say?
Real quality, that…
It is interesting to see the body language of the Citeh players. Once Yaya went off injured against Arsenal, for example, they clearly collectively bottled it. Kunt Biscuit Ageuro hasn’t looked interested since Pappy-in-Law recognised Citeh for the set of no mark, no class, no value bellends they actually are and called them out on it. Watching Joe Hart swear in frustration when Bellendotelli was sent off was the perfect clip and insight into their squad. There’s bound to be factions in there – no doubt Barry, Lescott, Milner and Hart will knock about together, maybe a small Spaniards / Argies group, but they look anything other than together.
And it is interesting to see the difference in United. There’s still 100% commitment all over the pitch. Everyone is working for each other on the pitch, and each goal that goes in is celebrated like it is the most important goal ever scored.
I think all the celebrations and hoopla are way too premature, but if we win this season against the most expensive squad ever assembled, then it really must rate up there as one of the best league wins ever achieved by United and Ferguson – a real benchmark moment. The squad isn’t great. There are only a few really top notch players, with most others in the squad either too young, too old, or too average to really be considered top notch – but what really sets this team apart is its ability to grind through results. The team is so ridiculously resilient, the spirit unwavering, and the determination to win so evident – I honestly think I will celebrate, if we do win, this league like no other before.
I think that’s one of Fergusons greatest talents… his ability to spot leaders.
It’s no coincidence how many of Fergusons players go on to be managers.
We armchair managers to love piss and moan about how we’d spend Uniteds money, if we could… and we often complain how we don’t sign “this and that” player, but Ferguson seems to have his own barometer for what constitutes a “Manchester United” player… and it’s amazing how often he spots die hards… players that just won’t concede defeat.
Sometimes he gets it wrong… and he doesn’t seem to like the pure flair players… even Ronaldo, for all his show pony antics, would leave his lungs on the pitch, before he’d quit.
It’s why Ferguson keeps faith with players like Park and Fletcher, when the rest of us would just have shipped them out.
I fully agree with you Alf. Ferguson seems to keep faith with players that most of us would never have in a starting 11, but those players are ready and willing to put their lives on the line for him and United. We see it with Berba, as good as he is I have never seen Berba as a player who was ready to fully put his body on the line for the club. I think Ferguson has seen this and that is why he will go. Ronaldo, as frustrating as he was sometimes, had this hunger and desire to win and that is what makes him a good player.
Last season we were the best of a bad lot, this time we’re the best of a very bad lot. He’ll keep Rio to see how Vidic fares post-cruciate.
We have performed better this season than last season, in the PL anyway. The form we had at the beginning of the season was sensational = better than anything City managed.
This has been lost in ‘storyline’ of the media though – better to pretend City have always played the best football but we’ve somehow managed to play shit every game and win the league.
Fact is, we’ve had far more absences this season than City and we’re probably going to win the league by a significant margin.
We’ve also scored a large amount of goals and could end the season with one of the highest points tallies ever.
Our first 11 isn’t brilliant but everyone has underrated our squad.
We showed alarming decline untill the City away cup tie and seemingly everything has gone right for United while going in reverse for City. People didn’t expect Aguero and in particular Silva to lose form, City’s team has been shown as not much more then a spine of 4-5 excellent players. They showed great form and similarly great arrogance throughout the first half of the season, that form has gone as teams have figured them out and the arrogance has been replaced by petulance.
Fergie has had a moment of genius in bringing back Scholes. The results don’t lie and I thought it wasn’t going to make a consequential difference but it has. The return since he has been back in the team has been fantastic. He has probably shown his best form in about 4 years.
I heard the stat that Scholes has now gone 4 games without being tackled in posession of the ball. He averages over 120 minutes of play per tackle on him. It’s unreal.
We also have learned how to play away from home again this season and apart from the City game have been excellent in games against our main rivals. Arsenal and Spurs beaten home and away and 4 pts against Chelsea. The team has looked fresher from going out of Europe and while I don’t say it’s a good thing it has helped domestically.
Having a team full of “die hards” is fine for the Premier League but it’s quality which is needed for us to progress to the next level in Europe.
I have said this time and time again (and I apologise for repeating myself) but it really has been a poor year for the Premier League in terms of the quality of the competition.
I would like to think that this season’s European performances have been an aberration bearing in mind how well we have done to get to finals since 2008 but we must spend.
Yes, City’s squad is very overrated. They’ve only a few players who show real quality as well as a battling spirit: Yaya, Hart, Kompany, and Richards has come on a lot too, don’t know why he wasn’t playing against Arsenal. Some of their other players have real quality like Aguero and Silva, but you’ve got to wonder how much their heart is really in it. Wouldn’t surprise me to see both of those looking for the exit soon. A bunch of others have talent but are basically just unmotivated mercenaries who’ll probably never amount to much in the game – Nasri, Ballotelli etc., and others just weren’t that good to begin with – Barry, Milner, Dzeko etc.
With everybody fit our first 11 matches well to theirs.
Every team has some expensive flops, but City have spent their money really poorly compared to Chelsea back in the day. The Chavs had the likes of Robben, Cech, Makelele, Essien, Drogba, Gallas, Carvalho, Terry, Lampard — there’s no comparison between Chelsea in its post-splurge heyday and City right now. Think of all the expensive flops or semi-flops City has spent £20M or more on – Balotelli, Adebayor, Robinho, Dzeko, Tevez, Santa Cruz — fuck’s sake, that’s just the forwards.
It sure feels good to be on top.of the league.winning the league at Etihad will be the ultimate pleasure for such a wonderful year!!Mr hansen are u listening?20th title on the way at our theatre of dreams..better to win it at our neighbor’s own backyard..hhaaha
It’s a good point that this team does have more unity than some past United teams. There are no prima donnas, no wantaways, and aside maybe Nani you could honestly say every member of the squad is a team player. They are more than the sum of their parts.
Is that what United has resorted to..more than the sum of their parts?!
That’s what I hate about the current United squad of last couple years, NO flair players., no player who gets the whole crowd standing up when they get the ball… I’m more than happy winning the league but I’m just not that excited when watching them.
Man Utd should be exciting to watch, our history is not of teams who are just functional, the children need flair players to watch and aspire to…
We’ve always had a Best, Cantona, Kanchelskis, Sharpe, Giggs, Ronaldo, hell even Veron and Tevez…
Who is there now…Rooney? Not so much a flair player the last couple of years..more functional. Nani? Closer but a bit of a donkey.
think you’re missing the point. What ‘flair players’ do City have? Silva? That’s about it.
We have Berbatov – more flair than City’s combined squad in his right foot.
You are also ignoring our defence – apart from maybe Barcelona we have the most skillful collection of defenders in the world. A defence of Rafael – Smalling – Jones and Fabio could (and have) played in midfield.
The reason we have played average football for most of the season is due to injuries / rotation. When our squad was fit at the start of the season we played the best football in the league, including City.
Micah Richads: I wanted to cry http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/20876/7664589/Richards-I-wanted-to-cry
The big fucking baby! Nah, at least it shows he cares unlike the other mercenaries.
It’s good to know that the opposition are watching when we score late goals etc. and that it affects them. The poor twat said he can’t sleep.
It’s to his credit. Richards looks like one of the few players City have with any character and commitment.
Really? I thought that article made him out to be a whinging pathetic cunt. Excuse after excuse and the obligatory swipe at United that seems fashionable now.
Where’s that good football they played for 6/7 games at the start of the season gone? Up the arsehole of their own collective ego, that’s where. They have flattered to deceive all season and now we see the reality.
In hindsight, maybe. Go troll another forum.