5 Bold Predictions for Frank Lampard's Manchester City Adventure
"People don't start playing ball at your age, they retire!"
So said Roy Hobbs' manager to the aging slugger before he first took the field for the New York Knights in The Natural.
The modern-day example of this fact pattern is longtime Chelsea player Frank Lampard, first signing on as a headline-grabber for New York City FC and now being inked to a six-month loan to Manchester City.
Full disclosure: We can agree that the likeliest outcome of Lampard's Manchester City tenure is a few Capital One Cup appearances and perhaps a cameo against Jose Mourinho's Blues when the teams meet on Sep. 21 at the Etihad Stadium.
But as we did with the idea of an internally injured Hobbs hitting the pennant-winning home run into a light tower at the end of The Natural, let us suspend our disbelief and indulge in a few "Wouldn't that be something?" predictions about Lampard's new playing life in sky blue.
Lampard Scores a Golazo Against Newcastle United to Save City's League Opener
Manchester City's last Premier League visit to Newcastle United was typically arduous.
City caught a huge break when Cheick Tiote's rocket—which cleanly beat City goalkeeper Joe Hart—was flagged down for a very dubious offside.
City won that battle 2-0, but arguably lost the war as Samir Nasri sustained a fairly significant injury in the aggressive, borderline-dirty play that followed.
All of this goes to say that every trip to face the Magpies is tantamount to a trip to the dentist. Therefore, our first prediction with reference to Lampard's City career will be the former Chelsea man saving City's hide in the wake of a managerial miscalculation by Manuel Pellegrini.
Lampard will come on in the 75th minute with City leading 1-0 and fill the slot Javi Garcia usually occupies to close the match out. Predictably, a Lampard gaffe will lead to a Newcastle equalizer.
Fortunately, though, City will dominate play in the waning moments, and Lampard will curl a 30-yard rocket past Newcastle netminder Tim Krul in second-half stoppage time to claim a famous 2-1 triumph for City.
Lampard Seizes the Early Scoring Lead in the EPL
After Lampard fires Manchester City past Newcastle United in the season opener, City boss Manuel Pellegrini cannot help but insert Lampard into the starting XI against Liverpool eight days later.
Not surprisingly, the Monday-night spotlight—and Liverpool's pretty horrific back line—brings out the best in the former Chelsea star.
Lampard scores three times against Liverpool as the Sky Blues hang a six-spot on the Reds in Lampard's Etihad debut as a member of the home side.
"He scores when he wants," the Etihad partisans serenade Lampard with as he leaves the pitch. "Our Frankie Lampard, he scores when he wants."
Aside from causing violent nausea in Chelsea Nation, Lampard's hat trick gives him the early scoring lead in the Premier League.
Lampard Registers a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" Against Chelsea
In ice hockey, the troika of a goal, an assist and a fight is known as a "Gordie Howe hat trick," so named because the immortal Howe possessed that rare combination of skill and tenacity that could easily account for all three in a single game.
Starting against Chelsea for Manchester City for the first time on Sep. 21 at the Etihad, Lampard comes as close to a "Gordie Howe hat trick" as a football player can.
After opening the scoring for City and assisting on a second goal, Lampard leaves the pitch with the result all but secured in the 89th minute after a violent lunge near the center stripe and sideline that sees the former Chelsea man take Mourinho's legs out.
The ball is only a rumor to Lampard as he starts the tackle.
Referee Mike Dean suppresses a giggle as he brandishes red for Lampard, who leaves the Etihad pitch to raucous applause as Mourinho is carried off writhing on a board.
Lampard Saves City from Capital One Cup Ignominy with Late Penalty
For Manchester City, Wigan Athletic are like a rash the Sky Blues just cannot get rid of.
Wigan beat City for the FA Cup in 2013 in Roberto Mancini's last meaningful moments as Manchester City's manager. They also eliminated City from last year's FA Cup—at the Etihad no less.
So it comes to pass that, despite protestations of absolute neutrality and impartiality from the Capital One Cup's officials, City and Wigan are paired in the cup's third round back at the Etihad.
Lampard captains City to a harrowing 1-0 victory and scores the winner in the 79th minute on a penalty. He takes the spot kick because neither Sergio Aguero nor Yaya Toure are even dressed for the match.
City escape and hope not to see Wigan again anytime soon.
Lampard Sees City Past Barcelona in Champions League Group Play
Needing a win over Barcelona in Champions League group play to advance to the knockout round, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini takes the biggest chance of his career at the Etihad and sees it pay off in spades.
"Yaya is tired and to be honest it does not much seem like he wants to play for this club any more," Pellegrini says after Yaya Toure sleepwalks through a desultory City loss at Leicester City on Dec. 13. "We as a club cannot wait for him to decide whether he is staying with us or going to Barcelona. We have matches to win."
Asked who will lead the midfield against Barcelona, Pellegrini avers that Lampard has scads of Champions League experience and is more than capable of doing the job.
Lampard does not score against Barcelona, but he controls the defensive midfield masterfully with Fernandinho. Barcelona's vaunted attack never gets out of second gear as City claim a comfortable 2-0 triumph to secure a place in the Champions League knockout round.
After the match, Pellegrini announces that Lampard's six-month loan to City has been extended for the full season and hints that Yaya will be sold to Barcelona in the winter transfer window with terms still undecided.