Not too long ago, in a hill station not too far away. There was once a football match between two school teams. The visiting team had won the local tournament a few seasons back, while the hosts were minnows to say the least. But in those days of not too quick modes of transport an awkwardly parked trolley on the meandering hilly roads could block traffic and lead to miles of stranded cars. The visiting team was stranded in one such fateful traffic jam. And in those days when cellular phones were yet to arrive, communication was slow and sporadic. So, when the organisers sent someone to check on the holdup, they were told that the players had left ages ago. But they never arrived.
As per the rules of the tournament, ‘walk-over’ was awarded to the minnows. Their strikers scored a goal into the opponent’s empty goal and won. Something similar happened on Saturday evening at the Wembley Stadium. Manchester City just didn’t show up for the game against Wigan Athletic.
When the players arrived, their game didn’t. And when the game began, the demons in their head beat them even before Wigan took to the field. A not-so-fruitful season is on the brink of culmination.
The reputation of champions of yesteryear was shredded apart by a side that had never laid its hands on silverware. Wigan had never won a major trophy, until Saturday.
A side that has oft been criticised this season by their manager Roberto Mancini, for lack of ‘killer instinct’, sat back and let the opponent take the game away, much to the exasperation of their befuddled boss. He gesticulated, threw his hands wildly in the air, but his players looked like they couldn’t care less. They played into the hands of their opposition as if to tell Mancini that his future lay in their hands; and not vice-versa.
With City being linked with Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini, Mancini’s neck was sure on the line even before the FA Cup final began, and his status at the helms looks even more precarious after the 0-1 defeat.
Mancini had said before the game, "I won seven trophies in Inter (Milan) in four years and they sack me after four years [in 2008]. This is football. I know football enough to understand this situation." Yes he did understand the situation, but also, he could have done things better to improve the outcome.
Tactically, subbing-in Jack Rodwell ahead of Edin Dzeko was a major blunder he committed during the game. But apart from that, it was his team that was his undoing. The misfiring playmaking duo of Samir Nasri and David Silva looked tactless before the Wigan defence. And the defensive line-up consisting of Gael Clichy, skipper Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastastic faltered and floundered. Forwards Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez looked like they were trying but it all seemed gloomy at the end of the long, tiring, season.
Perhaps fresher legs, newer faces in the City setup next season will help resurrect the mood in the camp. And a new manager will perhaps, make them turn-up and dazzle like the champions that they are.