Wednesday 15 April 2009

So...a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Fulham and chaos all around the City of Manchester Stadium. A manager that’s stood on the touch-line and running out of ideas fast, the easy target and subject of abuse from thousands of incensed blues who decide to vote with their feet and leave 10 minutes before the end of the game. A mega-money Brazilian whose season has gone from hero to zero in a matter of months and a captain that fails to rally his troops time and time again on the pitch. Pick the bones from that...

It’s actually quite hard to. Mark Hughes was forced to make changes for the game, with injuries a-plenty and one eye on the UEFA Cup tie on Thursday that will inevitably a) decide his future at the club and b) make or break City’s future, certainly their season. No pressure then. It was good to see Martin Petrov making a long-overdue comeback although he did look fatigued during his time on the pitch. To be expected after being out for so long really. Javier Garrido stepped in for the injured Wayne Bridge and I thought he did a decent job. I think Garrido comes in for a lot of undeserved stick off City fans- there were worst players on the pitch.

Richard Dunne and Micah Richards had absolute howlers. Right from Dunne’s slip at the beginning nearly gifting Fulham an opener, the pair made mistake after mistake and played like a pair of schoolboys, not grown professionals. What has changed so much in a season? Apart from the money arriving, and that should encourage the pair to play better in order to ensure their survival in the team come summer.

The irrepressible Stephen Ireland and fellow academy graduate Nedum Onuoha were possibly the only two figures on the pitch that actually looked like they cared and who were putting the effort in. Ireland’s goal, possibly a speculative effort in his mind at first, was sublime. The fact that he even attempted it in the first place shows how confident the player is right now and his non-stop running and tackles are evidence of his commitment to the team.

Onuoha spoke out before the game praising the attitude and progress of Ireland, and stating that he would personally love to become ‘City’s John Terry’, and with his progress so far there is no reason he won’t achieve his goal. Having won City’s player of the month award for March, Onuoha continued to impress against Fulham, despite his team’s shortcomings. He’s definitely one to watch.

Robinho and Elano warmed up down the touch-line in front of appreciative and expectant fans eager to see their arrival onto the pitch. Chants directed at Hughes included ‘We want Robinho’ and ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’. When City lost their lead and fell behind, Robinho was delivered onto the field of play, but it was too little too late- what did fans actually expect, for the inconsistent Brazilian to wave a magic wand and pull two goals out of the bag? He is capable of that, but the expectation from Robinho and City was phenomenal.

Fulham are a side that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Roy Hodgson’s team aren’t where they are in the Premier League for no reason and credit should be given where it is due. But City were poor and Hughes should be the first to admit that. Whether he would or not is another matter.

When Fulham came round behind to win 3-1, City fans poured out of Eastlands, deciding to vote with their feet and direct abuse at the constantly under-pressure manager Hughes. The Thursday night game, against Hamburg, will undoubtedly prove to be his ‘Waterloo’; a game where the Welshman faces a certain Catch-22 situation- damned if he wins and damned if he doesn’t. The relentless, passionate if not frustrated fans remain positive and optimistic that the two goal deficit can be made up and with a 46, 000 sell-out crowd guaranteed at Eastlands, they will bring the atmosphere. However, it remains to be seen whether the City team can recover from Sunday, regroup and seek some spirit from 1999 to progress through to the semi-finals. As the final English team in the competition, the whole country should be behind Hughes’ side. Fingers and toes crossed, it’s going to be an emotional one.

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