With City’s victory over United, is the tide turning in Manchester?

22 04 2011

Based on comments made in forums and chat rooms after Manchester City’s FA Cup semi final win over United, was the result as monumental for the fans as the press would have you believe?

With Edwin van der Sar’s poor clearance, Michael Carrick’s slack pass and Yaya Toure’s opportunistic finish Manchester City clinched a 1-0 victory over their fierce rivals United and marched onto their first FA Cup final in 30 years.

The facts will read thus: Roberto Mancini’s team will face Stoke City in the final of the FA Cup. It will be their best opportunity in recent years to end a trophy-less era stretching back 35 years since winning the League Cup of 1976. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will have to wait another year to challenge for the famous domestic cup, which they last won in 2004 having been beaten in two final appearances since.

In the league the Citizens are competing with Tottenham Hotspur for the lucrative 4th place and Champions League qualification. In contrast the Red Devils now have their sights firmly set on a well-positioned assault on the Barclays Premier League and Champions League crown.

These are the facts, yes, but for the red and blue sides of Manchester the 16 April 2011 has had and will continue to have dramatic ramifications for years to come.

City – A watershed moment

The overwhelming reaction from City fans has been one of unbridled joy and optimism.

“Today the team got a monkey off their back. This will instil the confidence in the players that they can beat the best in the land on a regular basis. The celebrations at the end showed that. This result could be the turning point for the team.” Burtonblue on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

Several City fans see Saturday’s result as a momentous, watershed moment for the blue side of Manchester – with a playing squad and budget to match the top teams in England – marking the start of better things to come for Roberto Mancini’s team.

“We may lose the final to Stoke – we know that would be kind of typical City – but Saturday 16th April for me is now the start of Year 1.” The Blue Panther on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

United – Bitter pill to swallow

For United supporters, the enduring memory from the Wembley defeat was one of indignation. That, and disappointment that these City upstarts dare upstage the team in red and dash their prospects of repeating the treble triumph of 1999.

Unsurprisingly the United fans were also playing down the significance of the result, highlighting how much the team have yet to play for this season.

“If anybody said we had to lose out on one, of course it’d be FA Cup. Yes, to be 90 mins away from a final and not get there is disappointing, even more so when it’s against your city rivals, but I’m sure we’ll forget about this if we win the title or the CL.” MUFCgal on redcafe.net

Some were even feigning relief the treble was no longer on the cards, yet fellow members quickly quashed this suggestion. Clearly the fans are despondent an opportunity to relive the magic of ‘99 has been denied.

“Lets not win the treble because it’s special being a one-off? What a load of nonsense. Good thing our Manager doesn’t have that mentality.” BG on rednews.co.uk

Furthermore, this result has served as a wakeup call for United fans with member comments alluding to a realisation City are now more than mere noisy neighbours – and it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

“We all know Saturday’s loss will need a long time before it is erased from the memory. Now they have finally beaten us in a meaningful way they will want to use it to the max especially with all the moolah they have. No 19 [top flight league wins] would go some way to softening the blow but the taste it has left will be bitter for a good while.” daviephi on rednews.co.uk

Manchester thanks Sheikh Mansour

While the United fans were licking their wounds the City fans were quick to pay tribute to two individuals in particular: their owner Sheikh Mansour, who they feel has more than shown his commitment to the club, and their often-maligned manager Mancini.

“Just can’t believe what has happened to us so quickly and cant thank Sheikh Mansour enough! I look at our squad now and if we get Champions League…it blows my mind! We will be legends for years to come but will never forget our history!” richards30 on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

While the optimism is clear to see some are just thankful for the memories the result provided, presumably none more so than Mancini who looks to have finally endeared himself to the fans.

“I know if we were to finish 5th and lose the final my attitude will change again but I have been saying that even if we finish top 4 I would still like [Mancini] to be removed of his duties…now I am not so sure. Whatever the future holds thank you Roberto for that moment yesterday, something I will remember for a long time!” OriganiNinja on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

A Manchester in transition

So in the longer term, what does the result mean for each team’s future prospects? In brief: a brighter outlook for City, a bleaker outlook for United.

“Fergie has a huge job to do to get us over the line for 19, (I do not think we have the ammunition to win the CL) and an even huger task to recruit/rebuild and shed dead wood this summer. It’s not going to be easy. If the berties [slang for City fans] qualify for the CL, this guy at the Arse puts his hand in his pocket and Dogleash [sic] starts spending we will need to do some very astute wheeling and dealing, starting NOW!” Everred on rednews.co.uk

The red fans have been aware of a transition taking place in the northwest and are wary of the challenge City will bring to their recent dominance. The fraught second Manchester derby last season was billed as such – as this author wrote ahead of that lunchtime contest at Eastlands.

That match was dramatically settled with a last gasp Paul Scholes header, which the United midfielder recently described as “one of the best things I have ever done”. Those memories are set in stark contrast with his actions in the teatime clash at Wembley where Scholes and his teammates cut forlorn figures desperately trying to cling onto a superiority that has been rapidly eroding over the past two seasons.

The Treble and the Auto Windscreens Shield

Despite the immediate implications of Saturday’s result and another reminder of the shift in momentum in Manchester, some fans offered a sense of nostalgic perspective.

“It’s hard to believe the position we are now in. I remember us getting beaten by Bury around 12 years ago and wondered if we would ever get back near to the top. We have and it is all down to one man…” kismet on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk [on post headed “Manchester thanks Sheikh Mansour”]

These memories hark back to the 1998-99 season, when City were battling in the old Third Division (and United were building to a famous treble), chronicled in Mark Hodkinson’s Blue Moon:

“Sensibly, staff at Maine Road seldom mention Manchester’s other team these days,” wrote Hodkinson. “United are success, money, glamour and a 1-1 draw with Juventus in the semi-final of the Champions League, while City are failure, debt, calamity and a 2-1 home defeat to Mansfield Town in the Auto Windscreens Shield.”

It is a testament to how far City have come to be competing, once again, for the most coveted prize of English cup football yet highlights one of the greatest strengths this United can boast under Ferguson – that of a remarkable consistency and staying power at the top.

City have won four FA Cups in their history. In Sir Alex Ferguson’s 24-year tenure at United he has held the trophy aloft on five occasions, with the club amassing 11 wins in the competition overall.

“While they cared on the day, and I’m sure it still hurts a bit, it would have pained us a hell of a lot more. Celebrating is great and we deserve it after beating them but it brings us back around to this small club mentality. We should enjoy this now, enjoy the small victories, because we’ll have them singing non stop when they win the Premiership at the end of the season and God help us if they get to the CL final and Barca have an off day.” Rahart on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

Stoke and silverware is just the start

For now, objectives such as to knock United “off their perch” will have to wait but in the short-term City have all the weapons in their armoury, with gifted players an astute management team and an ambitious oil-rich backer, to challenge their cross-town rivals.

“Even if they don’t win it they’ll bang on about it for ages like the Leeds lot still do. 1-0 blah blah blah. It’s horrible. We better get used to it because they’ll be there or thereabouts as long as they have the money and with SAF set to retire one day it will be tough.” Claymore on redcafe.net

The Citizens won’t be happy until parity is unequivocally confirmed in the League and in the Champions League but ending 35 years of hurt – something that puts Arsenal’s current woes in perspective – will go a long way to restoring the balance of Manchester.

Then of course, if United secure the Barclays Premiership, the blue and red armies will be locking horns again at the home of English football in the curtain-raiser to the 2011-12 season for the FA Community Shield.

Whether United fans like it or not, it appears City have joined the top table of English football and the Red Devils will have a fight on their hands to hold onto the silverware.

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Repeat offences of own goal experts ITV

5 02 2009

Yesterday’s fourth round replay match-up between the blue and red halves of Merseyside was marred by yet another mistake from the serial own goal experts ITV.

 

As the clock ran down to 118 minutes, the last two minutes of extra-time before penalties in a heated battle between Everton and Liverpool, scores locked at 0-0, the unthinkable happened: the ITV coverage cut to ad breaks.ITV expensive advertisement campaign has been let down by their coverage

 

When the game came back on, the scenes of euphoric delight from the Everton players and fans spelt disaster for the Reds. It slowly dawned on the TV audience that the Toffees had scored and knocked Liverpool out of the cup with seconds to go. Yet for the millions of fans up and down the country, those 15 seconds would have felt like a lifetime.

 

Severing the ties between a fan and the impending culmination of an edge-of-your-seat affair between two of the games’ biggest rivalries is a crime punishable by death. Remotes would have been hurled in despair, guiltless TV sets kicked and smacked in vain attempts to right the problem, screams of confusion and profanities erupting from everyone previously enthralled in the match. When the game came back on, only the mumblings of apologies from studio-anchor, Steve Rider, were offered as an apathetic excuse.

 

The broadcaster’s executive chairman Michael Grade attributed the blame to a “technical glitch” yet the mishap could yet prove to be fatal for their FA Cup coverage as they have already received over 1000 complaints. Whether by mechanical fault or human error last night’s debacle was one of countless misdemeanors in a series of blunders by the network.

 

The FAmous Cup 

In this season’s FA Cup coverage so far, ITV have already made glaring errors. In their choice of running extended highlights of Derby County’s anticipated defeat of Forest Green and the scoreless draw between Newcastle and Hull rather than the ‘giant killing’ of Manchester City by Nottingham Forest they completely missed out on the so called ‘romance of the cup’ and incurred scathing reports. The Daily Mail questioned the “pathetic” and “scandalous” coverage as whether “ITV were trying to cover the Cup on the cheap and/or being lazy.”

 

Further mishaps were observed in the second round coverage of Histon versus Leeds. The cameramen made a miss timed tackle in showing Histon players celebrating naked in the dressing room after the game – remember this isn’t Channel 5 and tea time nudity should be left to the pros – and they further capitulated by having microphones close to the crowd broadcasting swearing straight to the delicate ears of the audience.

 

Now all of these slip-ups in standards contrast strikingly with ITV’s seasoned coverage of the Champions League.

 

I grew up with the Tuesday and Wednesday night matches the highlight of the football season. My memory of 1999s Treble winning success of Manchester United over Bayern Munich are as much painted with images of Peter Schmeichel’s jubilant cartwheel at the winning goal as it is filled with the ringing words of Clive Tyldesley in the Semi when Cole scored to take United past Juventus: “Full steam ahead Barcelona!” and the spine tingling impact of his words when United took the 2-1 lead with the final kick of the final at the Nou Camp: “and Solskjaer has won it!”

 

 

They have provided a national service on par with BBC’s Match of the Day coverage of the Premiership or even better given that the games are obviously live and available to anyone with Terrestrial rather than having to stump up the fees for Sky or Setanta.

 

Furthermore they have done well in securing the rights for International England matches – despite having to share it with Setanta – whereas the BBC decided to overlook the national team’s ability to capture the country’s spirit and attention as soon as one result (Croatia 1-4 England) goes their way.

 

Then again, ITV missed a trick in the summer by not covering the Euro 2008 Final in Austria and Switzerland, estimated to have cost them £10million in lost revenue due to advertisements, because England failed to qualify. However, probably due to the reduced stress the national teams participation causes the public, the tournament went down a complete broadcasting success.

 

All of this evidence points to inconsistency and an erratic performance by ITV broadcasters that is forcing their audience to turn off.

 

Just like Harry Redknapp peering through his hands as his gaffe-prone goalkeeper Gomez scrambles out to attempt a punch clear from a corner, the FA Cup viewers are anticipating problems when they tune in for the simple pleasure of a cup game on a weekend afternoon. The viewers are losing faith in a network that incessantly misses a trick, like the shadow of his former self that is Michael Owen, who persists in just not quite producing the goods. And just like the offensive, ill-advised brain child that was ‘the 39th Game’ conjured up by the Chief Executive of the FA, Richard Scudamore, football enthusiasts and ITV devotees are starting to become disillusioned with the network and suspicious of their repeatedly incompetent treatment of the game.

 

The ITV are not taking the tournament seriously, and are above all, not representing the wishes of their audience.

 

The games people want to see, such as Forest’s dismantling of the world’s richest club Manchester City, are not given the time and consideration they deserve. The magic that the FA Cup should be abuzz with as we go into the fifth round of the game’s oldest cup competition is being overshadowed by these inadequate performances. And most distressing of all to those invested in last night’s Merseyside derby – whether football fans or ITV chairmen – is that the goals which are fundamental to the enjoyment of the game are now being usurped by advertisements and sponsor messages!

 

Even in Richard Dunne’s back catalogue of misfortunes and mishaps that is a major own goal.

 

The romance of the cup is still living on as Everton’s ecstatic celebrations testified to last night, but the same cannot be said for ITV. Michael Grade and the network will have to hope for one hell of a second half season revival, or else they will be left floundering at the foot of the broadcasting table, with nothing but Corrie and Emmerdale for company.