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Manchester City vs. Sunderland: 6 Things We Learned from Sky Blues' Cup Win

Phil KeidelContributor IIMarch 3, 2014

Manchester City vs. Sunderland: 6 Things We Learned from Sky Blues' Cup Win

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    Nasri's goal in the Capital One Cup final must be his finest moment in sky blue.
    Nasri's goal in the Capital One Cup final must be his finest moment in sky blue.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    World football fans who dislike Manchester City will come up with any reason to minimize anything the club accomplishes. Before any mention of football, these detractors start talking about money.

    City pay too much for their players, they say. City were horrible before Sheikh Mansour took control of the club, they obnoxiously remind.

    And when City do manage to achieve something notable, as they did with their 3-1 win over Sunderland to claim the Capital One Cup, the rhetoric from the haters is that it is a prize nobody really wants.

    Don't you listen to them.

    Nobody who follows City will pretend that this trophy is anything more than it is. But it is far, far more than nothing.

    City are still alive for three more trophies this season, which after securing the Capital One Cup means the quadruple remains in play.

    You'll never get them all if you don't get the first.

    Here are six things we learned from Manchester City's 3-1 win over Sunderland.

It Don't Come Easy

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    Starr (left) had it right all along.
    Starr (left) had it right all along.Zach Cordner/Associated Press

    Ringo Starr famously sang "It Don't Come Easy." At this point, Manchester City would do just as well to adopt this as the club's anthem as against "Blue Moon."

    City's ability to shoot itself in the foot, then as an intended remedy cut the healthy foot off is the stuff of legend. In the FA Cup final last season, they ended the match with one fewer player and one fewer goal than lowly Wigan Athletic.

    So the traveling supporters at Wembley must have loved it when Sunderland's Fabio Borini carved City captain Vincent Kompany up en route to putting the Black Cats ahead just 10 minutes in.

    And those same die-hards were no doubt psyched to see the Citizens trudge to the changing room down by that same goal at the interval.

    City can roll Premier League opposition with some regularity. But put a specific prize at stake and the Sky Blues have been known to tighten up.

    So it was against Sunderland.

Vincent Kompany's Resilience Pays off

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    Kompany (winking) was very busy against Sunderland.
    Kompany (winking) was very busy against Sunderland.Jon Super/Associated Press

    There are plenty of jobs in the world where one can make a mistake, easily fix it and move on.

    Centre-back for an elite football club is not one of them.

    Manchester City captain and centre-back extraordinaire Vincent Kompany was at fault on Sunderland's goal, scored by Fabio Borini in the 10th minute.

    Everyone in the building knew that the rest of the match could play out hundreds of ways, with Borini's goal still being the difference in the end.

    But Kompany shook the error off and played great defensive football during the balance of the first half to keep Sunderland from putting the Capital One Cup out of City's reach.

    Borini looked to be in again alone on Costel Pantilimon's goal later on in the first half until Kompany tracked him down and snuffed out the threat. Such a play can go horribly wrong, but Kompany got it right.

    It is indeed rare to have the chance to so quickly make up for an error, as Kompany did.

There's Only One Yaya Toure

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    Toure's goal restored City's belief.
    Toure's goal restored City's belief.Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    So there were Manchester City, 10 minutes into the second half against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final, still down by a goal.

    Still looking for someone in sky blue to make a play.

    Then Yaya Toure happened, as usual.

    Probably only Toure knew that his 55th-minute strike from 30 yards out was goal-bound. Certainly, Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone did not seem to know. But how could he? 

    Toure's strike was the sort of play that approximately 2 percent of the world's midfielders have permission to try. Of that small group, about 1 percent could actually pull it off.

    The Ivorian's goal would have been a highlight-reel play in a friendly. But in a cup final, down a goal and with nothing going right for his side?

    There's only one Yaya Toure.

Samir Nasri Is All the Way Back and Flourishing

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    Nasri (left) has all of his confidence back now.
    Nasri (left) has all of his confidence back now.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    There are as many reasons why football players lose their form as there are football players in the world.

    Some of them we as outside observers know about. Players get injured. Managers change and put in unfavorable schemes. Players just get old.

    Then there is the stuff those outside the game will never know about. The personal lives of football players are usually lived behind closed doors, and even if you get through the doors the room is often roped off.

    No one can say for certain why Samir Nasri went from one of the most electrifying players in the Premier League with Arsenal to an afterthought at Manchester City, particularly last season when former manager Roberto Mancini seemed unlikely to trust Nasri to park Mancini's car at the stadium.

    Surely Manuel Pellegrini has something to do with Nasri's re-emergence, but no one can say with complete confidence why Nasri is now all the way back to that great player he was at Arsenal. And, well, so what?

    City fans who watched Nasri score the goal that ultimately proved the Capital One Cup winner against Sunderland need neither know nor care about Nasri's motivations or thought process.

    It is plenty fun just to watch Nasri create, score and play with joy again.

City Win a Cup the Chelsea Way

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    Three City midfielders, including Navas, scored against Sunderland.
    Three City midfielders, including Navas, scored against Sunderland.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has the Blues atop the Premier League again. Mourinho's club leads all the sides who have played as many matches as Chelsea have by at least four points in the current table.

    Mourinho doing this without using a competent striker is like a champion Scrabble player dominating world-class opponents without ever using an "s."

    Of course, the only way it works is if the lack of a striker is covered by transcendent midfield play, which Mourinho gets from Eden Hazard, Ramires and now Andre Schurrle. If the midfielders are pumping goals in, the strikers can sit in the stands and chat for all the boss cares.

    In a related story, Manchester City won the Capital One Cup against Sunderland without the benefit of a goal from a forward. Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas all scored for City from midfield positions.

    City always look more potent and threatening when Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko are wreaking havoc in the opponent's box.

    When they're not, though, it is nice to have other capable goal scorers hanging around the middle of the pitch.

The Inevitable Question

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    Will this be the first of many for Pellegrini at City?
    Will this be the first of many for Pellegrini at City?Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Will the Capital One Cup be just an appetizer for a feast of multiple courses in the FA Cup, the Premier League and (yes, dare to dream) the Champions League?

    Or will this lesser trophy be all there is for manager Manuel Pellegrini's side this season?

    The answer to these questions is that we will not know until the season is over.

    If City take at least one of those other three prizes, the narrative will be that the Capital One Cup victory served as sort of a springboard for future success.

    If City fail to grab at least one of those bigger trophies, though, the story becomes about the great, big club with the enormous aspirations and the little, tiny trophy.

    Whatever. City fans must live for the now anyway.

    And right now, City have a new piece of hardware for the trophy case.

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