Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 November 2019

United treble dashed by City


When the final whistle went at Wembley last night, the end of Manchester United's treble hopes seemed like an afterthought.

Manchester City had achieved something more important, more epic and more intimate. Even the most ambitious clubs who can throw money at any problem sometimes depend on one pivotal moment.

"For us, it is important to win the first trophies," Roberto Mancini, who may have saved his job last night, said afterwards. "If we win the FA Cup we can play for the title next season."

As he had all season, Mancini spent some time afterwards answering questions about Mario Balotelli who had enraged Manchester United players with some provocative celebrations at the final whistle.

"I didn't see it. I want to wait. Because every time it is Balotelli's fault," Mancini said. Pressed further, he added. "We can put him in jail? Next week we can put him in jail for this."

Every City fan would organise the jailbreak. Balotelli played the role of provocateur but Yaya Toure, who scored the game's only goal, was City's energetic core.

The game turned at half-time when City felt they had to do something to justify their season. "All the players were very emotional at half-time because we knew we could do better," Mancini said.

In the second half, they did and they shocked United. Toure got the goal, United lost Paul Scholes after a high tackle on Pablo Zabaleta and City will now have to beat Bolton or Stoke to end their wait for a trophy. Mancini might now be asked to stick around. "If you win, you are the best. If you lose, you are the worst manager. I would like to win this cup for the club, for the supporters."

United had only started talking about the treble on Tuesday night but it ended last night. Scholes' madness contributed to their downfall.

Ferguson has spoken in the past about how victories in one competition brings momentum in another. He has also painful experience of the reverse.

City will now hope they benefit too. They will want to finish fourth for a chance at the Champions League football which will match their ambition. "We deserve Champions League," Mancini said. "Everything is in our hands. I think this game is a turning point. Maybe because we beat United in an important game."

Mancini, too, may have reached a turning point, although nobody would be surprised if this grandiose version of Manchester City demonstrated some old Manchester City failing between now and the end of the season.

"The final will be harder," Mancini said. Even if he's right, he will have a hard time persuading people to believe him.

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