May 14 2011, and a long barren run was about to come to an end.
Yaya Toure’s strike 16 minutes from time earned Manchester City a 1-0 win over Stoke City at Wembley, and in the process the club’s first trophy since the League Cup was captured at the expense of Newcastle United in 1976. A certain much-publicised banner at Old Trafford could be torn down, per the Daily Mail.
That trophy was of course the FA Cup, and whilst back then it demonstrated a new awakening at City, the first real stirrings of something special and―as the club’s fans hope―the beginning of a successful dynasty that will last as long as some of their north-west rivals’ have done, the club can be forgiven for letting the same competition slide down their list of priorities this season.
A potential Manchester derby Capital One Cup final awaits in a couple of months―with City’s first leg of the semi-final at home to struggling West Ham coming up on Wednesday―and with the identity of those possible Wembley final opponents adding a level of gravitas to what is traditionally considered the weaker of the cup competitions, perhaps the FA Cup could suffer.
City go to Championship club Blackburn Rovers in the third round on Saturday. It is a match that they should win, and one that they probably will.
Manuel Pellegrini of course has the luxury of being in charge of one of the most talented squads in the world, and so whilst the Chilean is pretty certain to make sweeping changes to his team for the trip to Ewood Park―his first ever experience of the FA Cup―should those changes end up on the losing side he needn’t really feel too downhearted.
Of course Manchester City exist to do their best and to try and win every game, but with this season’s Premier League title race looking set to be one of the closest in the competition’s history, and, perhaps more importantly, with City having finally made it through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, can the FA Cup be sacrificed?
For instance, the fifth round of this season’s competition takes place on the weekend of February 15th, three days before the first leg of City’s Champions League last 16 clash against Barcelona. Which one is more important? It has to be the latter.
Obviously the likes of Costel Pantilimon, Dedryck Boyata, James Milner and Javi Garcia won’t be running out on to the pitch and looking to lose the clash with Blackburn on Saturday, whilst there is a flip side to defeat in which the negative reaction could seep into other competitions.
But when you’ve got Lionel Messi and Barcelona on your horizon, Scott Dann and Blackburn just doesn’t get you excited.
Manchester City might well possess a squad that is good enough to win all four of the trophies that they are playing for this season, but in striving for all of them they are in danger over over-exerting themselves.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho recently commented on his belief that Liverpool have a real chance in the title race this season due to their lack of European football, per BBC Sport, whilst Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert has even claimed that the FA Cup is a distraction that several clubs in the top flight could do without, BBC Sport reported.
Do City feel the same?
Football clubs constantly owe fans who travel across the country and even the continent in order to support their team, and once again there is no doubt that every City player who crosses the white line at Ewood Park on Saturday will be trying their best for their club.
In some cases, of course, the FA Cup represents a chance for squad members to get some rare game time, but unless Pellegrini plans to use these fringe players throughout the competition then is there really much benefit to City still being in it?
This isn’t 2011 after all, and Toure and his teammates have moved onwards and upwards from there.