Monday 18 December 2017

Johnson reveals City chairman's five-star pep talk

Mark Ogden

Manchester City were inspired by a motivational speech by the club chairman to hammer Sunderland 5-0 on Sunday.

Khaldoon al-Mubarak challenged the players to qualify for the Champions League and end the club's 35-year trophy drought this season.

And winger Adam Johnson admitted it "spurred everyone on" to victory over Steve Bruce's team. The win lifted City to third in the Premier League and opened up a six-point gap with fifth-placed Tottenham, who have a game in hand.

Prior to Sunderland's visit, manager Roberto Mancini had admitted he was uncertain whether his position would be safe should City fail to qualify for the Champions League. With owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan investing more than £350m on players since buying the club in September 2008, Mancini has been made aware that anything less than a top-four finish would be deemed as failure by his bosses.

And Johnson, who opened the scoring against Sunderland, admits that the expectations of the club's owner were made clear by Khaldoon during a pre-match team-meeting.

"To get into the Champions League would be massive for this club and the chairman, Khaldoon, spoke to us on Sunday morning and outlined what it would mean," Johnson said. "I think that spurred everyone on for the victory against Sunderland.

"Khaldoon said he was fully backing us and said that everyone was behind us to get that Champions League place. He also said how important it was to win a trophy because we hadn't won one for over 30 years. It was a really motivational message for us all to push on."

City's trophy ambitions this season are likely to rest with the FA Cup and next week's Wembley semi-final against Manchester United.

After the intervention of Khaldoon, a close aide of Sheikh Mansour, Johnson insists the players are comfortable with the club making clear what is expected in the final weeks of the campaign.

Johnson said: "Khaldoon has a good relationship with the players and gets involved a lot. It was a good message."

City travel to Liverpool next Monday aiming to build momentum in the league ahead of the semi-final.

And England international Johnson believes that City should still believe in an unlikely push for the title until either United or Arsenal put the race beyond them.

"We are battling with all the teams and the top two aren't too far off. A couple of bad results for them and everything changes again," he said.

Johnson admits that City are relishing the chance to claim a place in the cup final at the expense of their bitter rivals. "There is nothing better than playing at Wembley. This semi-final will be a massive pressure game and as a player you want to show what you can do."

Meanwhile, City are in talks with the police and Football Association in a bid to prevent 900 supporters missing the FA Cup semi-final against United following the theft of tickets for the Wembley clash. Supporters have been warned against buying tickets on the black market after two postal bags containing 900 tickets were taken from a van in Manchester last Friday.

But the theft has led to security fears and the prospect of supporters arriving at Wembley with invalid tickets. The stolen tickets have been cancelled by the FA, but no decision has yet been made as to whether duplicates will be printed as replacements.

Prior to the 2006 FA Cup final between Liverpool and West Ham, 1,600 tickets were stolen from a delivery van on Merseyside. On that occasion, the tickets were not re-issued and 1,600 seats remained empty. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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