City 0-1 Wigan: How the Cup was lost

Dejected: Manager and Captain look on as Wigan lift the trophy - Mike Hewitt

A look back at the shattering FA Cup Final defeat to Wigan and the key elements that ensured it was a miserable day for all associated with the club…

Manuel Pellegrini

The shadow of the Chilean Malaga manager loomed large over this showpiece occasion. In a manner not dissimilar to the departure of Mark Hughes, where rumour spread around the stadium before and during a home encounter with Sunderland, with the clubs deafening silence effectively hanging the manager out to dry – Roberto Mancini led the team out at Wembley with the axe hanging over his head. Speculation had intensified initially via an AS article in Spain which broke on Friday night stating that Manuel Pellegrini would be replacing Mancini come the seasons close. As City fans travelled down to London rumour accelerated as reports emerged via the English press that there was credence to the story and Mancini was to be replaced. Whilst it would be doing Wigan a disservice to suggest that the uncertainty around Mancini was the major contributory factor to City’s downfall, it would certainly have filtered down to the pitch at a time when complete focus and a united front is imperative. The strangely listless, passionless display could be accredited to a team no longer united behind their manager and the failure from a senior official at the club to make a statement on Mancini has only served to undermine the team’s efforts at the worst possible time.

Complacency

There is no getting away from the fact that City were overwhelming favourites to lift the FA Cup for the 2nd time in 3 years against a Wigan side who had never been as far in the competition before. The subsequent upset was on a par with the Crazy Gang of Wimbledon overcoming Liverpool in 1988. That City were so poor was surprising, given that there should have been no reason for complacency having been outplayed for long swathes of their recent League encounter with Wigan at the Etihad. It was strange therefore to see a team who practically to a man, failed to perform to the level they are capable of. The body language of the players was poor from the start, with one sensing it could be ‘one of those days’ for City inside the first 15 minutes. And so it proved.

Yaya Toure

The Big Ivorian, the hero for the Semi-Final and Final in 2011 when City lifted the trophy was withdrawn at half-time of last Saturdays tepid encounter with Swansea and subsequently rested in midweek in order to be fresh and fighting fit for this match. In spite of this, Toure patently looked short of full match fitness. Whether still struggling with injury or not, neither Toure nor the pedestrian Gareth Barry were able to get to grips with the central midfield area and as a result City were unable to dominate possession and control the game as they normally would. When, with around 20 minutes remaining, Carlos Tevez was withdrawn for Jack Rodwell, in theory allowing for Yaya to push further forward to Aguero in attack, the Ivorian again was unable to influence proceedings. His mobility appeared reduced and his passing was not as accurate or sharp as we have come to expect. His non-performance was a major factor in this demoralising defeat.

Callum McManaman

The 22 year old winger has really come to prominence for Wigan this season and will be key in the remaining Premier League fixtures if the Latics are to stay in the league. His fearless performance on Saturday, where he frequently skipped past Gael Clichy at left back was an inspiration for his team mates. Indeed, it is hard to think of an opponent who has troubled the French left back as much as McManaman. Although he arguably should have done better with a first half opportunity, the young Scouser provided a constant threat out wide on the right and set the tone for the Wigan performance. After his heroic display in the surprise Quarter-final victory at Everton, followed up by a goal against Millwall in the Semi, McManaman has been the star of the closing stages of the tournament and fully deserved to take the man of the match plaudits here.

Team Selection / Tactics

Mancini had two decisions to make for a team that largely picked itself ahead of kick off. The first was to decide who was to feature between the sticks. Costel Pantilimon, who had played in every cup tie til this point was largely expected to be given the nod ahead of 1st choice Hart. However Mancini sprung a surprise – possibly on the back of Pantilimon declaring that he would be looking to move on in the summer – and selected the Englishman instead. He had no chance for the goal - a near post header conceded from a corner –a familiar failing for City who conceded in similar fashion against Ajax in the Champions League on more than one occasion. In midfield, Samir Nasri – much improved in recent weeks – was selected ahead of the tireless James Milner who has been in consistent form since the turn of the year. That Nasri was removed not long into the second period and Milner’s introduction immediately provided some width and energy to the City attack suggests that Mancini made the wrong call. Removing Carlos Tevez, who had appeared the liveliest of City’s forwards in order to push Yaya further forward in midfield was another move that did not come off, on a day when nothing did for Mancini.

Pablo Zabaleta

It was a shame that the shoo-in for player of the season Pablo Zabaleta should experience the ignominy of being sent off in the FA Cup Final. A model of consistency throughout the campaign, the Argentine was left hopelessly exposed by some slack play in midfield by Gareth Barry and was forced into a reckless challenge that rightly saw him dismissed for a second yellow card. The loss of a man ensured that there would be no late push for a winner from the 10 men, who were gearing up for a draining 30 minutes of extra time until Ben Watson rose to break City hearts and send Wigan fans into a euphoric frenzy.

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