Manchester City’s exit from the FA Cup at the hands of bitter rivals Manchester United has caused much furore and consternation.
Roberto Mancini has been complicit in the latest bout of cross-Manchester blustering, accusing Wayne Rooney of being key on the sending off of captain Vincent Kompany.
Tensions are still running high, but when the fallout has died down and dust has settled sufficiently, Mancini may see the defeat in a different light.
It would not be unreasonable to suggest that the Citizens actually came out better off in the clash at the Etihad Stadium. This may seem silly at first glance, but there a couple of factors to consider that may mean Manchester City’s absence from the fourth-round draw on Sunday will turn out to be a positive.
Firstly, there is one less game for the Barclays Premier League leaders to have to worry about. While there can be no suggestion that City fans will be glad to have left the competition, they will admit the FA Cup was not their number one priority.
They have a Carling Cup semi-final with Liverpool as it is and a trip to Anfield in the FA Cup would hold the possibility of a morale-sapping defeat in a crucial time of the title race.
As it is, they will now have a number of weekends off throughout the season that their championship chasing rivals may not.
However ridiculous Mancini’s claims of a shortage of first team players are, one less competition to worry about will help in this respect. They have already made it clear the Europa League is not a priority and failure in that competition will not displease their followers a great deal.
The FA Cup, regardless of much it has been maligned by big club attitudes towards it in recent year, still has a pressure placed upon it by romantic fans and to appear to not take it seriously would anger many.
The reality is a competition that is nice if you are in it, but one that can be highly inconveniencing due to plucky underdogs and midweek replays. The bigger Premier League clubs will take it very seriously come the latter stages, but will not lament too greatly should second-string squads fail to get them there.
There will be disappointment that they were unable to retain their first major trophy in decades, but, such is the transformation at the club, their real priority is to maintain the push for a first title since 1968.
The manner of defeat will help to galvanise the squad and could help promote the kind of squad unity that is said to be crucial in winning a championship.
The perceived injustice over the Vincent Kompany red card will help to create the fabled ‘siege mentality’ that so many managers appear to be aiming for when their club or one of their players is punished or criticised in any way.
The most unifying aspect of the loss, however, will be the second half performance of Mancini’s players when a man and three goals down.
Half-time analysers were speaking of a reverse of the 6-1 thrashing Sir Alex Ferguson’s team were dealt at Old Trafford and suggest the United chief would be urging his players to try and emulate the City dominance in that fixture.
The reality was a shrewd tactical move by Mancini that shored up his backline and set his side up to counter-attack when United lost possession around the area.
This, combined with an extremely underwhelming second half performance by United, almost led to a most unlikely comeback by the home side. Despite significant effort the Citizens left the Etihad Stadium with a loss, elimination from the competition and the prospect of a four-match ban for their captain.
Most importantly, you could say, they left with their heads held high and a sense of achievement at the way they battled while against the odds.
This rallying may not have been enough to see them into the fourth round, but it could prove decisive in the race for the league title.
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