Before this game, the pre match talk was aimed generally at the managers and it’s clear from Mark Hughes’ comments that there is still a great deal of animosity regarding his departure form the club last December.
Indeed, his comments recently of how City would be better off under him than Roberto Mancini rather gave the feeling that today’s game was more like a revenge mission for Hughes, an opportunity for him and his new side to put one over on the club that treated him with such ill regard twelve months ago.
Meanwhile Mancini, who controversially replaced Hughes on the same day as his dismissal, has come under increasing pressure for his expensive side to perform. Two successive goalless draws following the win at West Brom has seen the doubters, myself included, surface once more.
But today we finally saw what this team can do. Fulham’s players will have been fired up to give a good performance against the blues, yet City stifled them from the off and once they took the lead, there was never going to be any other outcome than a City win.
By half time I was fearing for Hughes as it looked like City were going to run away with it and we had enough chances throughout the match to equal or better last year’s 6-1 win at Burnley. As City headed towards their fourth away win of the season, Hughes’ was sat, arms folded eating a nice handful of his words. Hughes would have had a smile as wide as the Thames had he won this game but the end of match handshake, where he barely acknowledged Mancini and seemed reluctant to be anywhere near him, told the full story of Hughes’ disappointment.
Many comparisons have been made, saying that this time last year we had one more point or a better goal difference, but does that really matter? This time last year, we had two away wins and certainly not sitting in fourth place, three points behind the leaders, as we do this evening.
With that in mind, it is now time for those of us who doubt to firmly put our faith behind the manager. At the end of the day, we are fighting for a Champions League place next season and we are not going to achieve it if we are baying for blood every time we fail to beat someone. I could understand calling for the manager’s head if we were in Fulham’s position, just outside the relegation zone and only staying out of it because they have conceded ten less goals than Wigan.
We are in a very good position and are one of only nine teams that have a positive goal difference. Every now and then we are going to be prone to a slip up. It happens to every team. Chelsea have lost to two teams that should be considered inferior to them, United threw away a two goal lead at home to West Brom, Arsenal lost their North London derby at home to Spurs. That’s football.
And although we’ve set a precedence that we need to continue against Stoke next week, it wouldn’t surprise me if the doubts returned should the blues founder. That again I’m afraid, is football.
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