City move on to the next false dawn whilst the sun is setting on Benitez….

Been a big weekend for some of the main football teams in the north-west.  Dealing with my own lot first, United got pasted 3-0 by Fulham, which is about the third time we’ve lost at Craven Cottage in the last few years.  For all United’s much-publicised injury problems, I am somewhat baffled by the continued appearance of midfielders like Carrick and Fletcher in the back four. 

Michael Carrick; note to Fergie – this man is not a central defender….

Surely, the standard procedure at any club is that if your first choice is unfit, you go to the Reserves for a replacement and so on down the line until you find a fit replacement.  Looking at recent reserve games, they’ve had injury problems as well and have been starting games with 4 centre-backs across the back four.  Having seen the likes of Scott Wooton and Oliver Gill play fairly often, I’m quite sure that they would have done a better job yesterday than Fletcher & Carrick managed.  It could be that Ferguson may decide to draft them in after yesterday’s defensive debacle.  Whilst on the subject of United I would also like to know what is happening with Berbatov, who seems to have slipped down the pecking order in Fergie’s mind….I wonder if we might not see a new striker brought in next month? For all the hysterical headlines, Owen doesn’t really contribute consistently enough to be anything other than an occasional impact sub and Rooney seems to be labouring under the weight of being United’s sole striking option at times.

Still, it could be worse….and certainly is with our Noisy Neighbours, who contrived to lose 2-0 to Portsmouth yesterday and have Mascherano sent off as well.  I’m now actually getting worried that Benitez is doing so badly that he will get the sack; like most United fans, I am more than happy with Rafa in charge but it’s important that he does just enough to keep the bulk of the Dippers support onside….he now needs a few heart-stirring victories to rekindle a sense of dewy-eyed optimism over there.  Rafa must stay!  After all, we wouldn’t want them to get anyone in who actually knew what they were doing ….

The Gallery - Liverpool in the Europa League

Thanks to Ben Stokes and ‘The Guardian’ for this cracker……

Both Ferguson & Benitez will be grateful for the  fact that events at Middle Eastlands have stolen most of the headlines this weekend.  I feel quite sorry for Mark Hughes, but with increased budget comes increased pressure and increased expectation – among the owners at least; most City fans are far too jaded and worldly-wise to expect any success at all until it’s a done deal.  Anyway, it will be good not to feel ‘compromised’ any more – Sparky was always a big favourite of mine and I found it very hard to dislike him. 

Mark Hughes, Manchester City football club manager (C) poses with players Roque Santa Cruz (L), Carlos Tevez (2nd L), Steven Ireland (2nd R) and Gareth Barry after a Manchester City press conference at Emirates Palace on July 16, 2009 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

It’s like the Identity Parade in ‘The Usual Suspects’…….

The Abu Dhabi Boys have replaced him with one of the greatest footballers I have ever seen in Roberto Mancini, who, for me, is right up there with Zidane, Best, Cantona, Zola, Rui Costa and Cruyff (to name but a few) in the foremost creative talents of European football of the last 50 years.  I saw him towards the end of his career when Lazio came to Birmingham to contest (and win) the last ever European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1999 and he just ran the game, basically.  A great talent and – by all accounts – a really nice bloke, too.  Mancini, of course, is strong where Hughes was weak; he has coached teams to win big titles.  On the other hand, despite dabbling for a few years (he even played, briefly, for Leicester) and being (no doubt) mentored by his former coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, Mancini lacks the first-hand knowledge of British football that was Hughes’ strength.  Perhaps that’s why City have drafted Brian Kidd in to help him.

Tevez, Ireland, Bellamy, Adebayor & Robinho model the latest  City away strip…..

It will be interesting to see  how he does and who he retains/brings in.  Robinho seems to have come to the end of his traditional ‘honeymoon’ period that he goes through with each new club he joins and should probably move on, but Tevez and Bellamy have both been playing well.  It remains to be seen whether Santa Cruz moves on to join Sparky at his next gig and if Mancini can inspire Adebayor or whether he will splash the petrodollars about and bring in another new hero for the City fans to worship.  They won’t be fazed by all this, having seen more new dawns than most in recent years……

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