Though not entirely convincing, Manchester City were once again able to snatch a win late during today’s game against Reading, this time with Gareth Barry becoming their timely hero. Barry’s 92nd minute header put City just three points off top spot in the Premier League table, maintaining the pressure upon local rivals Manchester United who lead the table having played a game less.
Late goals have been a characteristic of Roberto Mancini’s side this year, with late winners earning them maximum points against Southampton, Fulham and West Brom. City also snatched a late draw against Liverpool, and would have netted a 94th minute winner away to Stoke had it not been for a tremendous goal-line clearance from Ryan Shawcross.
Mancini’s squad rotation and various spats with key squad members has hindered Man City from reaching top form this season, while his failure to sign a quality defensive midfielder has created hesitancy in the minds of City’s many attacking players to bomb forward and dominate the attacking third of the field. A number of City’s performances have seemed slow and lacklustre, giving the impression that Mancini’s side are finding it difficult to motivate themselves this season. Away to West Brom in particular, they seemed to completely run out of ideas, and had it not been for a customary super-sub performance from Edin Džeko, the game would have ended with a deserved victory for Steve Clarke’s side. One way or another however, City were able to grab a win with a late counter attack, indicating that they have the kind of luck needed by champions – the ability to play poorly, yet come away with three points. One of the key reasons for Sir Alex Ferguson’s many years of success at Manchester United is the persistency he instils within his side’s mentality; over the course of a season, it is the unmerited points earned during poor performances that make the difference on the final day.
On May 13th – the unforgettable final day of last season – Manchester City demonstrated their resiliency most prominently, with Sergio Agüero dramatically smashing the ball past Paddy Kenny in the QPR net to bring screams of joy from the blue side of Manchester, and screams of horror from the red half. The match summed up Manchester City perfectly; as of yet, they are not an established super-power in the Premier League, and find it challenging to go into important matches with the confidence to dominate and control the game to their liking. Having gone ahead through the ever dependent Pablo Zabaleta, Man City collapsed; conceding two sloppy goals, and a menacing finger began to hover in the minds of City supporters over the ‘self-destruct’ button. No team has ever, and will ever come closer to spoiling their chance of Premier League glory than Manchester City last season. The seemingly simple task of beating relegation scrapping Queens Park Rangers became a monumental ask with three minutes plus stoppage time of the match to go; yet when Džeko shrugged off his marker and powered in a header to level the match, City’s belief propagated until every fan, player and coach wearing a City badge began to genuinely fathom the fact that they were capable of winning the match and earning their first league title for forty-four years.
Though at times tactically naïve, Roberto Mancini has managed to emulate his rival Ferguson’s ability to install a never-say-die attitude into his squad, which has paid diligence this season, and has strongly contributed towards his side’s position in the Premier League. Even during the Manchester derby, City demonstrated their refusal to be rolled over by anyone, and brought the game from 0-2 to United back to 2-2, only for Samir Nasri’s indolence to concede the lead back to Ferguson’s side. The derby was a lesson for us all, manifesting that the courageous attitude possessed by Ferguson is what has separated him from any other manager in the Premier League for so long; however Roberto Mancini has now stepped up to the plate to challenge Ferguson, and be it blind luck, or tactical geniality, has managed to win games for his side through tactical alterations and substitutions, which by May next season, may be what has put Manchester City above all other teams in the Premier League for a second season running.