Tuesday, 31 May 2011

£110m clear-out: Manchester City prepare for mass exodus

Shay Given Shay Given
Aston Villa have joined Celtic and Leicester in the race for Shay Given as he prepares to head the biggest clear-out in Manchester City’s history.

Given is one of at least TEN Blues players set to exit the club as Roberto Mancini bids to shape a squad for next season’s Champions League push.

Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Wayne Bridge, Patrick Vieira, Jo, Roque Santa Cruz, Nedum Onuoha and Felipe Caicedo are all expected to leave over the summer.

It all adds up to more than £110m worth of talent going out in a bid to free up funds for new signings and ensure the Blues meet UEFA’s new financial fair play rules. And there could be even more players on the way out, with Carlos Tevez still to make a decision on his future and young winger Vladimir Weiss being lined up for a loan move to Spanish side Espanyol.

Mancini flew to Abu Dhabi last week with chief executive Garry Cook and football administrator Brian Marwood to discuss transfer plans with owner Sheikh Mansour and chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak.

Khaldoon’s recent statement that City were only looking to make one or two big signings this summer appeared to be at odds with the manager’s wish to bring in more players.

But it is understood there was actually no huge difference of opinion between Mancini and the club hierarchy, with all parties aware of the need to ship out fringe players to create space for new arrivals.

Mancini is keen to bring in Udinese winger Alexis Sanchez and Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill as he looks to strengthen his squad.

But the emphasis will be on ensuring a leaner, meaner first-team group for next term – as Mancini recently made clear when he spoke of the need for a squad of “23, 24 good players” to see the club through the twin demands of domestic and Champions League football.

Most of the squad departures are being driven by the club’s need to reduce their spending and drastically reduce losses – they reported a £121m loss in 2009/10 – in order to meet UEFA rules for clubs in European competition. Given’s exit, though, is slightly different, as it is being driven by his desire for regular first-team football.

Mancini wants the keeper to stay, but understands his frustration at not playing.

Given has already spoken publicly of his interest in returning to Celtic, where he started his career as a teenager, while Villa could also be on the hunt for a new keeper with Brad Friedel out of contract and set to join Tottenham.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who has also been linked with Given, has been looking for a more reliable No 1 after seeing the erratic Brazilian Heurelho Gomes make a series of high-profile errors.

Championship side Leicester are something of an outside bet for Given’s services, but former Blues boss Sven-Goran Eriksson has indicated an interest in the keeper as he attempts to build a promotion challenge with backing from his club’s Thai owners.

Of the other players set to go, Adebayor has attracted interest from Tottenham and Bellamy is considering a return to home-city Cardiff, where he spent last season on loan.

Wright-Phillips has been linked with Bolton and Fulham, while Onuoha – who has just completed a season’s loan at Sunderland – could also head for the Reebok as part of any deal for Cahill.

Striker Caicedo is set to stay in Spain, where he has been a huge hit on loan at Levante, with Atletico Madrid and Villarreal ready to sign him permanently.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Manchester City paint the town blue

Manchester City players take the plaudits Manchester City players take the plaudits
Can you hear us Ferguson? read the banner, fluttering boldly in the stiff Manchester breeze. Rest assured, he can hear.

All season the noisy neighbours, as the United boss rather dismissively called them last season, have been building up to Monday night, the night when they painted the town blue.

Albert Square hasn’t seen a City victory parade since 1976, but they made up for it with an outpouring of joy and sweet anticipation.

The timing wasn’t great, held on a Monday teatime, when many Blues were struggling to make it to the city centre after work.

But they came in their droves, packing the famous old square, their flags, banners, scarves – and bananas, naturally – waves in a sea of excitement.

Many of the flags carried the legend “The City is Ours”, always a bone of contention between Reds and Blues.

But even the most ardent United fan could deny that – even if it was for one day – City held the day.

Fans began pouring into Albert Square from mid-afternoon and as the anticipation built, every sighting of a face at the windows of the town hall brought cheers.

One tall, young, blond TV technician covering a press conference was regaled with chants of “England’s number one”.

Middle-aged men who were in short trousers in 1976 hoisted their own kids high onto their shoulders, urging them to remember this moment.

Bitter experience has taught them that you have to store up such warm moments, hold them close and cherish them through the barren years.

You get the feeling now that those kids might just have a few more of these days and nights of ecstasy in the years ahead.

The connection with the past was always there. Some wore red-and-black striped shirts and scarves, a tribute to the late Neil Young and to Malcolm Allison, who would have both heartily approved.

Fans of a certain vintage reminisced about ’76, how Tommy Booth had dragged a reluctant Colin Bell to the windows of the town hall to salute the fans who chanted his name.

The injured Bell had missed the final through injury, and ever the shy, retiring type, wanted to leave the celebrations to the men who had played at Wembley.

BBC Radio Manchester commentator Ian Cheesman, as Blue as they come, had a poignant tale to tell.


In 1976, his mum knitted him a scarf which, as an excited 16-year-old, he wore proudly at Wembley as City lifted the League Cup.

His mum passed away the following year.

This year, he gave the same scarf to his 15-year-old son Daniel to wear as the Blues beat Stoke and ended the long wait. The circle was complete.

Such tales of bittersweet memory were many in the throngs who gathered to watch a seminal moment in City’s history

The swag men were also out in force, dodging the police and selling their flags and scarves. Their suppliers have broken out the sky-blue dye from the storeroom after a 20-year run on red.

United fans have been busy getting in the last few jokes they can shoehorn into the situation, of course.

“Flights have been grounded by a dust cloud above Manchester, but City say they are sorry but they had to open the trophy room sooner or later,” was a favourite.

The gags are getting thinner and weaker, and will soon be consigned to a museum, alongside the old “35 years” banner.

Then at 5.35, the expectation moved up a couple of notches as two Fingland’s coaches, followed by two Mercedes people carriers, appeared on Mount Street and turned in at the side of the town hall.

Minutes later the fans got their first glimpse as players signed charity shirts in a first floor room, some venturing to the window to wave to the cheering crowds below.

Inside the town hall, Vincent Kompany, double Player of the Year and all-round hero, wandered down the Gothic corridors holding the FA Cup as if it were a baby, and talking with the kind of authority and inspiration of which the great orator and statesman John Bright, whose statue gazed down on the masses, would have approved.

The fans struck up a chorus of Blue Moon – once the deafening PA music had been switched off and they could hear themselves think – to welcome the players as they emerged from the front doors to board the open-topped bus.

The only man missing was Mario Balotelli, for reasons unknown, although the club line is that he was not there for family reasons.

But the striker did receive some good news following confirmation that he had been recalled to the Italian national squad for their Euro 2012 qualifier against Estonia next month.

Amid the heady scenes of joy, the happiest man in Manchester appeared to be Carlos Tevez, who – rumour had it – had already flown out to Buenos Aires in the afternoon, snubbing the parade.

That turned out to be nonsense, as he emerged from the town hall, he and Wembley goalscorer Yaya Toure carrying the FA Cup between them, and beaming from ear to ear.

The Argentine ace perched himself at the back of the bus, hoisting the Cup, bedecked with two scarves – one blue and white, the other red and black – and grinning until his face almost split.

If anything can persuade him to stay, this was it.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Roaring forties! Roberto Mancini sets Manchester City transfer deadline

JOB WELL DONE: Roberto Mancini JOB WELL DONE: Roberto Mancini
Roberto Mancini wants Manchester City to bring in their summer transfer targets in the next 40 days.

The City boss has asked the club’s player acquisition group to act fast in bringing in targets such as Udinese’s Chile winger Alexis Sanchez.

Mancini wants to have everyone on board when the Blues gather again in early July for pre-season – and that includes Jerome Boateng, who has been targeted by Bayern Munich.

Mancini was reluctant to discuss targets but said: “There are many players that want to play for City. We have time – 40 days to buy players who can help us to improve.

“We are not close but we are not too far from some of them, but all the clubs want the good players.

“This year we can work in pre-season with our players – last year we didn’t. This is important – to work for a month with the players is vital for the team.

“That is how you build a team. And we will have other players who have just played in the Champions League.”

But Mancini says even he was shocked by the storming finish to the season, Sunday's 2-0 win at Bolton making it four wins – and four clean sheets – on the bounce at the business end of the season.

Victory boosted them level on points with second-placed Chelsea and took them well clear of Arsenal, with whom they had been vying for third.

The Blues boss says his players exceeded expectation by achieving such a high finish – and winning the FA Cup – in their first season together.

And that is why he suggested that last night’s Player of the Year award should have been scrapped – and a Squad of the Year trophy presented to the lot.

“Our first target this season was fourth position and to improve on last year, but the players have been fantastic and did a great job,” he said.

“They won the FA Cup and ended up in second position - Chelsea scored more goals than us but we have the same points.

The Blues finished with a flourish, winning the last four games – all with clean sheets – including the FA Cup final against Stoke and the crunch against Champions League qualification rivals Tottenham.

“In the last 14 days we have played really well.

“The player of the year is difficult. We should really have a Squad of the Year prize because so many players played very, very well.”

Mancini says he will take a well-earned holiday back in Italy before turning his thoughts to next season.

But, after declaring early in the season that he had designs on the title“I came here to win the title but we have to do it step by step.

“It is difficult to win the Premier League title as there are four or five very strong squads.

“But this year we got 71 points, the same as Chelsea and four more than Arsenal, who are one of the top teams in Europe.

“This year we did a really good job. Now I think I need a holiday! I am very tired because we have worked hard and the players also need a break.”

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Manchester City players parading ticker banner Turning back the clock: City 'reset' the ticker banner at Wembley
Manchester City's long-suffering fans waited 35 years to get the monkey off their back.
But, just when they thought it was all over, it's revealed that United's infamous "ticker banner" is to taunt them one final time.
Having mocked City's lack of silverware for more than a decade, the "35 years" banner disappeared following City's FA Cup win - much to the delight of Blues fans.
But Stretford End Flags, the independent supporters' group behind the banner, have said United fans will have the last laugh when it returns for the final game of the season.
Spokesman Andrew Kilduff said: "The banner's going back up in some form or another for the Blackpool game.
"What goes up is open to interpretation - it's going to be the same banner but it will just have something else on it," he said secretively.
"We've had suggestions to turn it to 43 which is how long since City last won the league.
"But if we do that it would just give City the motivation to win it again - and it would look a bit petty really."
'Screaming supporters' Focus on the banner has grown since Manchester City's sale in 2008 to billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour and its move into the higher echelons of the Premier League.
A mock-up of the banner at City's stadium on the 35th anniversary Before their FA Cup win, Manchester City's last trophy was the League Cup in 1976 
Their manager Roberto Mancini was aware of its significance, urging his players to "take off this banner" in the build-up to the Wembley final.
At the final whistle, exultant City players even unfurled their own ticker banner on the Wembley pitch, reset to "00".
"It clearly struck a nerve," said Mr Kilduff, 35, from Runcorn.
"There were City fans outside Wembley screaming into the TV cameras, calling for it to come down.
"To me if you're in the FA Cup Final, you've won the cup. It's not about taking a banner down at a rival football ground."
But Kevin Parker, secretary of the Manchester City Supporters' Club, said: "Our obsession was, of course, winning that trophy, irrespective of this banner.
"I'm always a bit confused why Manchester United fans don't just concentrate on their own football team.
"If I was a United fan, I wouldn't be interested in City because, speaking as a City fan, I can honestly say that I'm not interested in Manchester United at all.

Manchester City's victory FA Cup parade route revealed

Manchester City flags Tens of thousands of Man City fans are expected to turn out for the parade
Details of the route for Manchester City's FA Cup victory parade have been confirmed.
Tens of thousands of supporters will line the streets on Monday as the parade travels from Albert Square to the City of Manchester stadium.
The city centre celebration is a free, non-ticketed event but supporters are advised to arrive early.
It follows Manchester City's victory over Stoke City in the FA Cup final, the club's first trophy in 35 years.
Parade organisers said City manager Roberto Mancini and his team would parade the cup from an open-top bus, starting at 1800 BST.
Mancini and the players will address an expected crowd of 10,000 people in front of the Town Hall before the bus winds its way to the club's home ground at Eastlands.
The parade will travel along Princess Street, Portland Street and Newton Street, before heading east along Great Ancoats Street.

The route (approximate times)

Albert Square: 1800 - 1815 BST
Princess St: 1815 - 1830 BST
Portland St: 1830 - 1900 BST
Newton St: 1900 - 1915 BST
Great Ancoats St: 1915 - 1930 BST
Every Street: 1930 - 1945 BST
Ashton New Rd: 1945 - 2030 BST
City of Manchester Stadium: finish

The bus will then turn up Every Street before beginning its final approach to the stadium to arrive at approximately 2030 BST.
Greater Manchester Police have confirmed that Albert Square will be closed from 0930 BST, Princess Street from 1400 BST and Portland Street from 1600 BST.
The rest of the route will close depending on the number of people along the route.
Transport for Greater Manchester, the organisation in charge of public transport, has warned passengers and motorists to expect significant disruption.
Diversions will be in place with the huge crowds expected to affect services including the Metrolink.
Meanwhile, Manchester City has said a ticketed firework celebration party for fans at the stadium after the victory parade has sold out.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Roberto Mancini seeks one last spending spree for Manchester City

Roberto Mancini has urged his chairman to sanction one more major spending spree so City can compete in next season’s Champions League.
Khaldoon al Mubarak has made it clear that the Blues will be taking a more careful attitude in the transfer market as they bid to fall into line with new UEFA rules on overspending.
City’s chairman insists the Blues will meet the strict financial guidelines for clubs appearing in the Champions League and Europa League.
Clubs are being encouraged to spend no more than they earn when the new rules start to kick in from next season.
Mancini, though, fears that if City do not splash out this summer, they could suffer the same fate that has befallen Tottenham.
Spurs beat Mancini’s men to the final Champions League spot 12 months ago but struggled to combine the demands of top-level European and domestic football, seeing their league form slide.
But while Khaldoon has publicly stated City will make only one or two major signings this summer, Mancini believes he will have a little more leeway.
"I spoke with Khaldoon and he spoke in a different way," Mancini said. "Khaldoon is a clever man and a really good man. He understands what the squad needs for next year.
"He understands that we need to improve, because in one year it is impossible that we can improve 200 per cent, that we can play Barcelona and beat them easily. This is impossible.
"We need to work and we need to bring in other players.
"When you play in the Champions League, you should play with 11 good players.
Playing in the Premier League three days later is really, really difficult if you don’t have a good squad, if you don’t have 23, 24 good players.
"If you don’t have that, you could have what has happened to Tottenham this season. They put all their energy into the Champions League, and then they lost a lot of points in the Premier League. The City manager, though, has dismissed suggestions of a £150m bid for Real Madrid¹’s ex-United winger Cristiano Ronaldo.
"We will sign Cristiano Ronaldo for £200m," the manager joked.
"I don¹t know where this has come from. I don’t know anything about it.
"Cristiano Ronaldo is a fantastic player but I don’t think he will leave Real Madrid.
"I said after the FA Cup final, we would sign Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Fabregas and Iniesta if it was possible. But I don’t think this is possible."

Meanwhile, City keeper Joe Hart has received the Barclays Golden Glove award for keeping the most Premier League clean sheets this season.
Hart completed his 17th top-flight shut-out of the campaign against Stoke on Wednesday.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Manchester City scotch Cristiano Ronaldo rumours

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Manchester City have rejected speculation that they are about to launch a big-money move for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The former world player of the year quit Manchester United for Real Madrid in an £80million deal two years ago.

However, despite Ronaldo's 51 goals in all competitions this season, Real missed out on both the La Liga title and Champions League glory.

With relations between Ronaldo and coach Jose Mourinho said to be strained, it has been suggested City could swoop with a bid far in excess of what Real paid for the player.

That move contradicts the claims chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak made in his end of season address on the City website, which was released yesterday, in which he stated firmly that there would not be a mass influx of players this summer and that the Blues were committed to working within UEFA's new financial fair play rules.

And a City spokesman on Friday morning confirmed Ronaldo was not a target.

"There is no substance in these reports whatsoever," said the spokesman.

Before manager Roberto Mancini can think about who he wants to bring in, he must resolve issues around players no longer thought to be required.

Wayne Bridge and Craig Bellamy are both set to return after West Ham and Cardiff were condemned to the Championship next season, whilst it is also expected Emmanuel Adebayor will not have his stay at Real extended.

City can guarantee a third-placed finish in the Premier League if they beat Bolton on Sunday. That would ensure an automatic berth in the group stages of next season's Champions League.

However, they appear to have a battle on their hands to keep star striker Carlos Tevez, who is reported to have told Argentinian radio station Radio del Plata: "I want to leave Manchester City. Football has changed a lot for me and I don't know if I will even make it to the next World Cup. And that has nothing to do with whether I'm selected or not.

"I've been treated very well here and I'm grateful. I also gave my everything for the club to receive the results it has had. But I need a change of scene."

Mancini said after the midweek win over Stoke that he expected Tevez to remain at Eastlands.

"He has a five-year contract and has told us he wants to stay," the Italian said on Tuesday.

"He said that before. He never had any problem.

"I have spoken with him many times in the last 20 days. It is my opinion that Carlos will stay here next season.

"In December he had a problem. But everyone can change his opinion.

"I don't know what his representatives think.

"Carlos is an important player here. The feeling for him is good."

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak cools talk of mega Manchester City signings

Khaldoon al-Mubarak 
Khaldoon al-Mubarak

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak has cautioned against expectations of a mass of new signings at the Eastlands outfit this summer.

With the FA Cup won and an automatic place in the group stages of next season's Champions League confirmed should City win their final game of the campaign at Bolton on Sunday, numerous big names have already been mentioned as potential summer targets.

Neither Xavi nor Cristiano Ronaldo are likely to end up at City by the start of next season but the mere fact speculation linking those two world famous stars to the club was not greeted with shock underlines just how high most observers expect manager Roberto Mancini to go.

However, in an excerpt from an exclusive interview which will be broadcast on the official City website www.mcfc.co.uk on Friday, Khaldoon has attempted to play down expectations.

"It won't be like last summer, or the summer before," he said.

"What you will see this year is strengthening the squad in areas that we feel require more depth.

"We don't need quantity, as today we have quality. We just need a couple of players."

After an overall investment in excess of £1billion and £350million spent on players alone since Sheikh Mansour rescued City from the ill-fated Thaksin Shinawatra era almost three years ago, it is clear the Blues are not far from where they want to be.

As the man responsible for overseeing the growth of the club from within the Abu Dhabi hierarchy, Khaldoon has given unqualified support to the manner in which Mancini has achieved his pre-season aims.

"I feel strongly a winning mentality is coming into the team," said Khaldoon.

"We have an incredible squad with so many talented individuals and a lot of heart in that squad.

"We have an incredible foundation for incredible years ahead.

"I am absolutely delighted for everyone involved in the club. The team, the players, coaches and the fans of course."

Khaldoon has also lavished praise on chief executive Garry Cook, who has not always been blemish free in his work but, more recently, has helped City start to maximise their vast potential.

"It has always been a team approach," said Khaldoon.

"We have a great operation with everyone involved, headed by our CEO Garry Cook, who I must say has done a phenomenal job for us.

"I am so proud of what he has accomplished."

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Roberto Mancini: Carlos Tevez wants to stay with Manchester City

Carlos Tevez celebrates his second goal with Pablo Zabaleta  
Carlos Tevez celebrates his second goal with Pablo Zabaleta
Roberto Mancini has claimed star man Carlos Tevez has told him he wants to stay at Manchester City.

Tevez's future has been in doubt since he handed in a transfer request earlier in the season.

Immediately after the FA Cup final defeat of Stoke on Saturday, the South American claimed he had to decide where his future lay due to family problems.

However, in the aftermath of his side's 3-0 win over Stoke at Eastlands this evening, in which Tevez scored twice, Mancini said he will be staying at Eastlands.

"He has a five-year contract and has told us he wants to stay," said Mancini.

"He said that before. He never had any problem."

Tevez has been linked with a summer exit to Spain or Italy.

But Mancini added: "Carlos has scored 20 goals this season. Every time we say Carlos is an important player. Carlos is Carlos. He is a fantastic striker and a fantastic player for us. I think he will stay here next year. He doesn't have a problem," he said.

"I spoke with him many times in the last 20 days. It is my opinion that Carlos stays here next season.

"In December he had a problem. But everyone can change his opinion.

"I don't know what his representatives think.

"Carlos is an important player here. The feeling for him is good.

"Nowhere else can he find behaviour that all people have for him."

Mancini is clearly anxious to avoid a summer of uncertainty, particularly surrounding his best attacking player, who moved level with Dimitar Berbatov in the race for the Golden Boot with a brace that took him onto 20 for the season.

"I think if he will stay next year he won't change," said Mancini.

"When we play in the Champions League, probably we will have a better squad. We can buy other good players.

"Why should he change? I don't think this will happen.

"Carlos has scored 20 goals this season. Every time we have said he is an important player.

"He is a fantastic striker and a fantastic player for us."

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Shay Given Manchester City exit set to spark transfer scramble

Shay Given Shay Given
Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given is set to spark a massive summer scramble for his signature.

Arsenal, Tottenham and Premier League newcomers QPR will all be queuing up to sign the Republic of Ireland international, who has given up hope of displacing Joe Hart as City’s No1.

Given has watched as his rival has established himself as first choice for club and country this season.

And despite picking up his first piece of silverware as a non-playing substitute in the FA Cup final on Saturday, he is expected to walk away from Eastlands in search of regular first team football.

Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp are both in the hunt for a top class goalkeeper, while moneybags QPR will be looking to make a statement this summer after winning promotion from the Championship.

Liverpool will also enter the race to sign Given if they lose Spanish keeper Pepe Reina.

City will be loathe to lose the 35-year-old, who is a popular figure among players and fans.

But they know they cannot expect him to be happy playing second fiddle to Hart – especially if he hopes to retain his position as Ireland’s No1.

The former Newcastle star has no complaints with manager Roberto Mancini’s decision to put his faith in Hart – but will need to move for the sake of his own career.

“It's not ideal because I don't feel much sharp sometimes when I'm playing for Ireland,” said Given. “I want to be playing, but I don't know what is going to happen in the summer.

“It's frustrating, but the manager made a decision at the start of the season and you can't argue with it because Joe has been great.

“What can you do? That’s the situation I am in. I don't know what's going to happen. I could be here next year, I might not.”

Given has played only four times for City this season – in the Carling Cup and Europa League – but insists he has yet to fully decide on his future.

“I know there are a lot worse clubs I could be at,” he said. “I will have to weigh it up.”

Monday, 16 May 2011

Manchester City looking to start the Blue revolution

Manchester City fans do the Poznan at Wembley Manchester City fans do the Poznan at Wembley
Amid the unbridled joy at Wembley was the realisation that this can’t be where the story ends. A first piece of silverware in 35 years in the same week the Blues secured Champions League qualification, is just the beginning.

City owner Sheikh Mansour did not invest £350m for a day out at Wembley – he could have secured even the most expensive seat in the house on Saturday for less than the change he leaves in the ashtray of his car.

His mission statement when he took charge of Eastlands less than three years ago was to shift the balance of power from Red to Blue.

Roberto Mancini has weathered the muck and bullets of a turbulent first full season in charge to give the clearest indication yet that City can become a major force on the pitch, as well as in the transfer market.

Against a typically physical and dogged Stoke, City had the look of a team that befitted its huge cost – rather than 11 disparate individuals, as has sometimes been the case this season.

And in Yaya Toure they have a player who epitomises what money can buy, and must only embolden Mansour’s belief that the game’s biggest players can achieve his objectives.

Willed away from Barcelona, the midfielder’s intervention in both the semi final and final of the cup showed exactly the type of quality that money can buy.

But they can also help guide through the young England stars such as Adam Johnson, Joe Hart and Micah Richards, who have the hunger to succeed playing alongside the world’s best players.

“I’m sure we’ll go out in the summer and spend a bit more and try to get some even bigger players,” said Richards, who is expected to be offered a much improved deal in the summer following an impressive season for the Blues.

“It’s always nice to get the first trophy out of the way but it’s just a stepping stone for what we’re trying to do.

“The fans have supported us over the years with United doing so well and being so successful down the road.

“Now this is the start of something with the FA Cup and the Champions League, but we are a long way behind them.”

Udinese’s Alexis Sanchez and Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder, are the type of players to add extra flair, Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema could provide the cutting edge that will have to be replaced if Carlos Tevez leaves while Bolton’s Gary Cahill is another possible target.

Toure and Tevez have proved that cash can buy class and will be the benchmarks when Mancini raids Europe’s elite this summer.

Mancini’s assistant, David Platt, believes this season’s success will convince the very best to join the City revolution.

“We’ve made a big step up this year in terms of the players that have come in,” he said. “As the season has gone on, we’ve become more self-assured.


“The next progression now is to go and compete for the title. Nobody is bragging about what we’ve done, we’ve got to make sure we do what we have to in the summer.

“By winning something and hopefully securing qualification to the Champions League we will hopefully become more attractive to the kind of players that will give us that next step up in quality.

“Hopefully we will have a successful summer in attracting the targets that we’ve got.

“We’ve got a target list that is pretty wide at this moment in time.

“We’ve got to narrow that down and make sure we add people that we feel will add quality to the squad.”

Platt wants to see a time when success for City is not judged by United’s achievements but their own.

“The football club has had to suffer, it has had to suffer in the shadow of another club that has done magnificently,” he said.

“They won the league and you can’t take anything away from them.

“We won’t be on a level with them until we start winning trophies on a regular basis.

“But to be in and around them on that level, to compete with them, is tremendous for the football club.

“What we will get eventually is a mentality change in the supporters so the be all and end all isn't necessarily to outdo Manchester United.  The be all and end all will be to win trophies.

“It’s very difficult to them to understand that at this time. What got me the other week was when we were playing and Arsenal beat United. There was a big cheer around the ground.

“You can understand that there is a rivalry but in the cold light of day we can actually get third place if Arsenal drop points.

“If we start continuing to win games and continuing to win trophies then there will be a mentality change.

“What’s important is winning trophies rather than just winning derby matches.

“I don’t think it will be 35 years before Manchester City pick up another trophy.”

Sunday, 15 May 2011

This is just the start for Manchester City, says Roberto Mancini

WINNING FEELING: Roberto Mancini WINNING FEELING: Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini turned his sights on the Premier League title next season and revealed there would be no big celebrations and no alcohol for his Manchester City side after they lifted the FA Cup to bring to an end a 35-year quest for a major trophy.

Yaya Toure scored a second-half goal as City beat Stoke 1-0 in a one-sided final in which captain Carlos Tevez and his team-mates outclassed their opponents.

Mancini also denied City's victory was overshadowed by Manchester United securing the Premier League trophy with the point won in a 1-1 draw against Blackburn minutes before the FA Cup final at Wembley kicked off.

When asked if the cup victory felt devalued, Mancini said: "Absolutely not. In England there are three competitions, the Premier League, Carling Cup and FA Cup.

"We won the FA Cup. It is an important trophy. We need to improve more to do another step (win the title) but it was important to start to win because when you start to win, afterwards everything will be easier.

"We want to try (to match United). We have got to the Champions League, that was our first target and we won the FA Cup. It is very important for this club."

On whether the drinks would be flowing Mancini, whose side play Stoke again in the Premier League on Tuesday, also said: "No, they know that we should play in three days.

"We have another two games and we want to try if possible to get third position.

"This night all the people in Manchester are happy. Next year we will see. It is important we finish well this season. We can try to play for the top with the other teams but this Premier League is very difficult because Liverpool and Tottenham are also very strong teams."

Mancini singled out goalscorer Toure, whose basic pay packet is reported to be the biggest in the Premier League, for special praise.

Mancini said: "We bought him for this. He is a fantastic player. He scored in the semi-final and the final. All season he has played very well."

Controversial striker Mario Balotelli, who shrugged off a physical collision with Robert Huth in the first half and was then named as man of the match, also impressed Mancini.

Mancini said: "Balotelli played very well. This trophy for him could be important. It can help him to improve like a man and as a player."

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Man City 1 - 0 Stoke

Man City   1 - 0   Stoke

Yaya Toure smacks the ball in from 10 yards out to give City the lead Yaya Toure (left) smacks the ball in from 10 yards out to seal City's win 
Yaya Toure's goal helped Manchester City earn their first major silverware for 35 years after they beat Stoke in a closely-fought FA Cup final.
David Silva should have rewarded City for a good first half and Thomas Sorensen also saved superbly from Mario Balotelli's curler.
But after Joe Hart stopped Kenwyne Jones' effort, Toure lashed in on 74 minutes when the ball broke to him.
City's win was their first major trophy since victory in the 1976 League Cup.
And it follows up Champions League qualification which was secured by finishing at least fourth in the Premier League after beating Tottenham on Tuesday.

FA Cup special: The Roberto Mancini story

Roberto Mancini once did an Italian television interview in which he was asked to sum himself up in one word. “Genius,” he said.

It was a response that sums up Mancini’s personality well: Cheeky bordering on provocative, with a self-confidence that his critics have interpreted as arrogance, and a fierce ambition. The man from the Italian town of Jesi, a few miles from the Adriatic coast, has always wanted to do more than just win. He wanted to make a difference.

Mancini’s entire career, as a player and a manager, has been about making a difference. In that respect, it’s easy to see why the challenge of managing City was so attractive to him.

Bringing glory to a club who had gone more than three decades without a trophy is just the sort of test that Mancini has always revelled in.

“I always prefer to work to bring success to a club that hasn’t won for many years,” he said in an interview not long after pitching up at Eastlands 17 months ago. He did it at Sampdoria, at Lazio, at Fiorentina, at Inter Milan. It is something, it seems, he was born to do.

Roberto Mancini was born on November 27, 1964, to furniture maker father Aldo and mother Marianna, a nurse. Raised as a Roman Catholic, his early life revolved around football and religion. When he wasn’t at school or serving as an altar boy at the local church, he was honing his football skills on the grass and concrete pitches of the nearby Aurora Calcio boys club.

Even then, he was marking himself out as a football hero. When he was eight years old, he had to attend his First Holy Communion on the day his team had a big match.

“It started well, but halway through the ceremony, we could not spot Roberto,” his father recalled. “He was nowhere to be seen.

“I knew he had sneaked off to the football match and I was very angry. So at the end of the service, I went over to the priest and apologised for my son leaving.

“But the priest told me not to worry. He’d asked Roberto to go and play because the team were losing!”

The story goes that the young Mancini saved his team from defeat that day. He had, it seemed, already decided that football was his calling.

That was why he was prepared to leave home when he was just 13 to join Bologna, having come to the attention of their youth coach Marino Perani.

“I was very young and it was hard, the first year,” Mancini later said. “My sons are older now, but if I think of them when they were 13, I could not imagine them leaving home. But football was my priority and it changed me.”

Mancini was still two months short of his 17th birthday when he was thrust into the unforgiving world of Serie A for his Bologna debut on the opening day of the 1981-82 season.

In a poor Bologna side, on the way to the first of two successive relegations, Mancini excelled.

He was their only ever-present and their leading scorer as they went down, netting nine of their 25 league goals.

Already, he had established himself as a prodigious talent. He won a move to newly-promoted Sampdoria, owned by Paolo Mantovani, a wealthy benefactor who had made his fortune in the oil industry. The ambitious Mantovani had dreams of challenging Italy’s football elite. City fans may just spot the parallel.

“I spent my life at Sampdoria,” Mancini said. “They hadn’t had much success. I played there for 15 years because I loved that club, and I wanted to win with them.”

Undoubtedly talented, the teenage Mancini was also volatile – and was not cowed by the reputations of others. During that first season with Sampdoria, he got involved in a spectacular training-ground ruck with team-mate Trevor
Francis, 10 years his senior and with a European Cup medal to his name.

“There was a little incident in a friendly training match that at the time I thought was something and nothing,” Francis remembered. “We had a disagreement about it on the pitch, but it continued into the dressing room.

“We had to be split from each other. Let’s just say all the players made sure it didn’t go any further.”

Away from the tensions of top-flight Italian football, in the days before he settled down with his wife Federica in 1990, Mancini was no angel either. A few months ago, he gave an intriguing glimpse into his younger life, when
railing against English football’s drinking culture.

“I do not understand players drinking until they are drunk,” he famously said last October. “We do not have that culture in Italy. We would prefer to go off with a woman.

“That’s what I liked to do after a match, and I tell my players now it is better that they go with a woman than drink.”

It seemed to work for Mancini, as success soon came at Sampdoria. The Coppa Italia was won in 1985, 1988 and 1989. Then came the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990, the Serie A title in 1991 and a European Cup final
the following year.

Sampdoria’s league triumph 20 years ago, the only one in their history, was a remarkable achievement in a formidable division, which included European champions AC Milan, big-spending Juventus, a Diego
Maradona-led Napoli and an Inter side containing world champions West Germany’s three best players – Andreas Brehme, Lothar Matthaus and Jurgen Klinsmann.

Mancini’s strike partnership with Gianluca Vialli was crucial to Sampdoria success. Indeed, Mancini had become a key part of the club’s fabric.

When Sven-Goran Eriksson flew to Monte   Carlo to be interviewed for the manager’s job in 1992, Mancini was part of the interview panel. He was the club captain, he often gave the team talks and he even helped to design the kit.

And yet despite all of this responsibility, he still had a capacity for flashes of temper. Eriksson remembers Mancini the player as being “awful” when it came to haranguing referees.

One match against Inter Milan in 1995 stands out. Having been denied an early penalty, Mancini went crazy at the referee, then flung off his captain’s armband and stormed from the pitch, telling Eriksson he was never going to play again.

Having been persuaded by his manager to return, the striker was soon sent off anyway, for a reckless lunge at Paul Ince. He collected a six-match ban.

It was Eriksson who shaped Mancini as a manager by taking him to Lazio. The striker spent three years at the Stadio Olimpico as a player, helped them win the Scudetto for only the second time in their history in 2000, before becoming Eriksson’s assistant.

A brief attempt to make a playing comeback at Leicester, facilitated by Eriksson, achieved little other than to introduce his then room-mate Robbie Savage to the delights of pasta. It was time for Mancini to make his mark as a manager.

He did that at Fiorentina, a club drifting towards bankruptcy, by guiding them to the Coppa Italia. He enjoyed further cup success as manager of Lazio, another club who were tightening the purse strings at the time. Then came four years at Inter, during which he won a hat-trick of league titles.

Even there, though, there was controversy, with the first title coming in the wake of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal which saw Juventus stripped of the crown and relegated. Mancini infuriated Juve fans by describing that first Inter title win as a ‘Scudetto of the honest’.

Despite an occasional talent for controversy, Mancini has always managed to succeed at clubs where success has been a long time in coming.

“For a player or a manager, it is an exciting challenge to try to make history at a club in this way,” he said.
History beckons again for Roberto Mancini at Wembley on Saturday. End City’s 35-year wait for a trophy, and his place in club folklore will be assured. Genius may yet be the word.

Friday, 13 May 2011

FA Cup special: Yaya Toure - we'll win it for Kolo

City will again get a call to arms just before they walk out onto the Wembley turf tomorrow.
Semi-final hero Yaya Toure was at the heart of the Blues revival against United, cutting an “emotional” figure at half time as the players fired each other up for their dominant second half display.

But he says that the main speakers this time will be skipper Carlos Tevez, his deputy Vincent Kompany and veteran Patrick Vieira – and manager Roberto Mancini will have the last say.

“The important players in the dressing room like Patrick, Carlos, Vinnie - the captain, the most experienced player, important player – they all speak but the responsibility comes to the boss, the manager.

“He spoke before and after United and we have to be together, to work together because football is 11 players.

“Those 11 players have to be ready for the fight because it will be a very, very tough game.”

Stoke pose different problems to United, presenting a physical challenge which is almost unique in Europe.

Yaya admits he found it hard to adapt to that aspect of the Premier League after playing his football in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France and Spain.

But he is relishing the task of getting stuck into Tony Pulis’s dogs of war, even though he has had an incredibly long season, playing 47 games already this season.

“When I was in Spain I said I wanted to play in England because I feel the Premier League is the best. It is powerful, and you have to run and fight to win the games.

“Every game is close, and I love it.

“I have never played so many games, but when I sit on that beach in the summer I want to look back and enjoy it.”

Walking out at Wembley will be an emotional moment for the powerhouse midfielder – he says he will be proud at having helped City achieve so much in his first season, but it will also be tinged with sadness.

Brother Kolo will be watching from the stands as he awaits to hear his fate after failing a drugs test in March.

That is a source of heartache for Yaya, who says: “Before I signed for City I told my brother Kolo I wanted to come to England to play with him, so we could win something together.

“That won’t happen tomorrow, and that means it will be a hard moment for him, and for me as well.

“My brother is very important to me. We talk a lot together, and our family is very proud of both of us.

“We have talked about the best way to win this cup, and he is supporting me and the team to win it. He said if we win the cup we will be winning it for him as well.

“He is a typical sportsman and wants to be on the field with his teammates, but life is like that – we can all make mistakes.

“He is a very strong guy and can walk away from this.”

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini plans summer spree

Roberto Mancini is set to bring in up to FIVE new faces to build a City squad capable of challenging in the Champions League.

The City manager says he is still focused on achieving a “perfect” season by adding the FA Cup to their qualification for the elite European tournament.

But work will begin in earnest in the next fortnight to bring in a raft of new players to bolster the quality of Mancini’s squad.

City fans hoping for the a fistful of world stars may be disappointed, however.

M.E.N. Sport understands that the Blues are looking to add a couple of marquee names – with flying Udinese winger Alexis Sanchez and Wesley Sneijder high on the list – and then two or three less glamorous players.

City are set to clear the decks this summer, with as many as nine players expected to leave – Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Patrick Vieira, Jo, Wayne Bridge, Felipe Caicedo, Nedum Onuoha and Roque Santa Cruz.

And with Carlos Tevez’s future still uncertain until his representatives sit down with City officials shortly after the end of the season, City will need to re-structure their squad.

They originally planned two or three signings, but the potential loss of Tevez and the chance that Kolo Toure may face a lengthy ban after failing a drug test has forced a rethink.

And if the Blues move on those players on their unwanted list, and end up selling Tevez as well, it will generate sizeable incoming fees, vital as the Blues are conscious that Uefa’s new financial fair play rules kick in next season and they have to start living within their means.

The Blues have already expressed an interest in lightning-fast winger Sanchez, who stareed at last summer’s World Cup, and Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder may figure in any Inter Milan bid for Tevez.

They are also monitoring developments with Ajax defenders Jan Vertonghen and Gregory van der Wiel and Bolton’s Gary Cahill.

Mancini has also said that if Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Barcelona star on loan at AC Milan, changes his mind about not wanting to join City, he would “find room” for him at City, but that possible deal is one that might have come off last year but is now dead in the water.

The manager is refusing to talk about potential signings until after the FA Cup final and the pursuit of Arsenal in third place is settled next week.

“I know we can now have a perfect season, if we can recover well for the final,” said Mancini. “Getting in the Champions league means our targets will be higher.

“But in the last year we brought good players – Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli, David Silva, Jerome Boateng, Edin Dzeko, James Milner, Aleks Kolarov. They are all fantastic players.

“Next year these players can improve as it is not easy to play in the Premier League.” The manager laughed off Harry Redknapp’s suggestion that City already had two big signings in the bag.

“I don't know,” he said. “In Europe there are many players who can play for Manchester City. But the same can play in other important teams.”

But he did warn that City need to strengthen considerably if they are to juggle Premier League, Champions League and the domestic cups next season.

“Tottenham had this problem this year, and they had 26 or 27 good players,” he said. “When you play in the Champions League and want to try and win the title, you need many players. It is very hard without that.

“I don't know how many players I will need at this moment. We have four very important days to recover and think about the final. After that we have time to think and talk about new players.”

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Delighted Mancini challenges squad to catch Arsenal

Delight: Roberto Mancini congratulates Patrick Vieira Delight: Roberto Mancini congratulates Patrick Vieira
Roberto Mancini led City to the promised land – then declared: "We can be one of the best in Europe within three years!"
The City manager fulfilled the first half of his remit for the season as the Blues secured fourth place, and can complete the job with victory in the FA Cup final against Stoke on Saturday.
But Mancini will not rest there – he feels Arsenal are catchable, which would mean securing third place and not having to negotiate a tricky Champions League play-off in early August.
Last night’s 1-0 win over Tottenham means the Blues are certain of a place in those play-offs, at least.
But with some big names lying in wait there – including Bayern Munich, Lyon, Villarreal and possibly Benfica, Ajax and this season’s Europa League conquerors Dynamo Kiev – Mancini has his eyes firmly fixed on Arsenal.
City lie two points behind the Gunners with two games to play, and third place would send the Blues straight into the money-spinning group stages of the competition.
"In two or three years we could become one of the top teams in Europe," said Mancini, who said his players will now "eat and sleep" for two days to get ready for the FA Cup final.
Then it will be back down to the league grind, facing Stoke again at home next Tuesday before a trip to Bolton to round off the season.
"It is important we try to get third," said Mancini. "That is why it is so incredible that we lost three points against Everton after playing some fantastic football.
"Now we are two points behind Arsenal, and a lot of it is down to them. If they lose three points, we can do it – it is difficult but we will try."
Mancini has had his own position questioned all season, but he is now just 90 minutes from doing exactly what the club’s owners asked of him at the start of the season.
He said: "I sat down with the owners last summer and they told me they wanted Champions League football – now we have got it.
"We had some problems at the start of the season because players were coming back from the World Cup.
"Next year I think we will be better.
"But we brought in good players, players who deserve to play in the Champions League, not in the Europa League.
"We already have Champions League players, and we deserve to be there because we have been in the top four all season.
"It is a difficult thing to achieve, as there are six or seven teams in the Premier League that are very strong. But we have improved a lot since last year."
As a bonus, Carlos Tevez played 15 minutes and will be involved at Wembley, but Gareth Barry, who has a hamstring problem, should find out today whether he will be fit.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Manchester City eye Ajax centre back Jan Vertonghen

WATCHING BRIEF: Roberto Mancini WATCHING BRIEF: Roberto Mancini
Manchester City are set to join the race to sign Ajax’s big Belgian centre half Jan Vertonghen.

Blues boss Roberto Mancini was spotted at the Dutch Cup final checking out the 24-year-old Belgian, who plays international football alongside City star Vincent Kompany.

Arsenal and Liverpool have already expressed an interest in the £12million-rated stopper, who has already said he will leave Ajax for the Premier League this summer.

Ajax coach Frank de Boer, whose side lost to Twente in the final, said afterwards: “We know that Mancini was there. And I know the rumours from England that City wants him. One and one is two.”

Vertonghen has also attracted interest from United and AC Milan in the past. City may face the prospect of losing Kolo Toure for most of next season as the Ivorian awaits the outcome of his positive drugs test earlier this season.

Vertonghen has also successfully played as a defensive midfielder this season. Mancini will also have taken a careful look at right back Gregory van der Wiel, a player who attracted City’s interest last season.

Manchester City's summer signings will 'blow your brains out'

POSSIBLE TARGETS: Kaka and Wesley Sneijder POSSIBLE TARGETS: Kaka and Wesley Sneijder
Manchester City have lined up a couple of 'mind-blowing' summer signings if they can clinch Champions League football.

The Blues go into tonight's showdown with main rivals Tottenham needing a win to ensure a place in the play-offs for the elite European competition.

And if they do so, rival manager Harry Redknapp claims he has heard they have already got two major names lined up.

“They tell me they've got one or two players signed already who'll blow your brains out,” said Redknapp, whose side need to win tonight to retain any chance of overhauling the Blues.

“That's where they are going. They aren't going to stop until they win the title, and then the Champions League.”

City will be spurred on by the memories of Tottenham’s wild celebrations at Eastlands last season.

Manager Roberto Mancini says that stunning home defeat by Tottenham, courtesy of a late Peter Crouch goal, was a crushing blow.

But this time City need a draw to virtually end their visitors’ hopes and just two points from the last three league games to see off Liverpool’s challenge as well.

Mancini has steadfastly refused to discuss his plans for the summer, focusing entirely on tonight and Saturday’s FA Cup final against Stoke.

But the sight of Spurs players lapping up the adulation of their fans at Eastlands just over a year ago is still raw in Mancini’s memory.

“Last year it was hard to take,” he said. “It was important then that we played until the end.

“That time it was difficult to say whether we deserved a draw because both teams played hard to get into the Champions League.

“They did it, but this time we have a great chance.

“Tottenham are a good team, with a good manager and good players but we have the lead so we have the better chance. It will be an exciting game for sure.”

Mancini also believes his side has improved noticeably from the team which let it slip on that fateful Eastlands night.

“We are better than we were last year,” he said. “We have improved a lot this year, but we need to pay attention.

“It is difficult to say whether we are now better than Spurs, but this year Tottenham have been in the Champions League and that is very difficult.

“We have to beat them. It will be very hard as they will come to win the game.

“All that is important is that we get fourth place – how we do it isn’t important, but if we beat Tottenham it makes it more exciting.”

City fans’ excitement at possibly reaching the Champions League for the first time will be heightened by Redknapp's comments.

His claim comes at a time when City have reportedly been lining up a move for pacy Spain winger Juan Mata, and revives talk the Blues will be back in for Real Madrid ace Kaka and Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Manchester City v Tottenham: Preview

Gareth Barry Gareth Barry
Gareth Barry is expected to be available for Manchester City after recovering from what Roberto Mancini described as "a minor problem" at the weekend, with the Blues knowing victory will secure a place in next season's Champions League qualifiers at worst.

Skipper Carlos Tevez is expected to be named on the bench. The Argentinian was absent for the fourth game since injuring his hamstring at Liverpool when he missed Saturday's defeat at Everton but Mancini wants Tevez to prove his fitness ahead of next weekend's FA Cup final.

Mancini said: “I will tell the City fans to stay calm.

“We are not far from the Champions League – we have three games in which to get three points.

“And then the final is the final and in 90 minutes anything can happen. We know it will be difficult because the final is always difficult and Stoke are a strong team.”

Tottenham will be without several key players for the game.

Gareth Bale (ankle), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (hamstring) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) are out while there are doubts over Peter Crouch (back) and Luka Modric (hip).

Steven Pienaar could miss out with an ankle problem and Jonathan Woodgate (calf), Ledley King (groin), Wilson Palacios and Alan Hutton (both knee) are all unavailable.

Manchester City (from): Hart, Given, Taylor, Richards, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Boyata, Wright-Phillips, Y Toure, De Jong, Vieira Milner, Barry, Johnson, Silva, Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli, Jo, McGivern.

Tottenham Hotspur (from): Gomes, Cudicini, Pletikosa, Corluka, Bassong, Gallas, Dawson, Kaboul, Lennon, Kranjcar, Pienaar, Sandro, Modric, Jenas, Rose, Kranjcar, Van der Vaart, Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch.

City league form: WLWWL

Tottenham league form: WDDLD

Sunday, 8 May 2011

FA Cup: Injured Carlos Tevez rated '50%' for final

Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tevez Tevez's return to the side would be a huge boost ahead of the Cup final 
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini says Carlos Tevez has a 50% chance of being fit for the FA Cup final after his recent hamstring injury.
Tevez has not played since 11 April and Mancini says if the striker is not fit to train before Tuesday's game with Tottenham he is unlikely to face Stoke.
"He must train. In the next days we'll see if it is possible," he said.
"If he can play 20 minutes we can see if he can play or not. At the moment I think he's 50% for the final."
Mancini's team take on Stoke at Wembley on 14 May in their first FA Cup final appearance since 1981 and will they will be desperate for the talismanic club captain to be fit for selection.
Tevez missed the semi-final win over his former club Manchester United and was not involved in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Everton, a result which places even more emphasis on Tuesday's game at Eastlands.
City and Tottenham are leading the race for the fourth and final Champions League place - although Liverpool are also still in the frame - a tussle which was kept alive when City lost at Goodison Park, despite having gone ahead.
"It was incredible we lost this game," said Mancini.
"We dominated in the first half and had four or five chances to score.
"But this is football. If you lose concentration, if you concede a yard to the other team, it is difficult.
"A game like today we should never lose. If we want to become a strong team, we cannot lose this game.
"We shouldn't lose it because we had more chances to score in the second half."
Meanwhile, Everton boss David Moyes played down the spat between his players and City's staff at the end of the game.
Everton's Tim Cahill and City's Aleksandar Kolarov appeared to exchange words while Phil Neville was involved in heated discussion with Mancini and his assistant Brian Kidd.
When asked what sparked the incident, Mancini said: "I don't know because I wanted to take off Kolarov. I don't know what upset them."
Moyes said: "It wasn't Phil Neville. I think one of their players said Seamus Coleman had elbowed them or something like that, but it was nothing.
"All the fighting was done in the 90 minutes, not after the game."

Saturday, 7 May 2011

FA Cup fury: Manchester City fans fume as Stoke handed over 2000 extra final tickets

Wembley Stadium Wembley Stadium
Manchester City fans are fuming after missing out on the last 2,300 FA Cup final tickets - which were given to opponents Stoke instead.

And supporters have accused the Football Association of fouling up over their allocation for next Saturday's Wembley showpiece.

Both clubs were originally handed just over 25,000 tickets for the final, City's first for 30 years.

But now Stoke will have more than 2,000 extra seats to sell to their fans due to the way in which the FA redistributes so-called 'neutral' places.

That is despite the fact that the Staffordshire club have only 21,000 season-ticket holders, compared to City's 36,000.

And Stoke officials have claimed that they got the extra tickets after successfully lobbying the FA.

City sold out the last of their cup final allocation on Wednesday morning ­ and there are fears that Blues fans desperate to be at Wembley will now try to buy tickets on the black market, and could end up in the Stoke section of the ground.

Kevin Parker, general secretary of the City Supporters Club, is critical of the FA.

He said: "My gut reaction is that the FA don¹t seem to have planned this particularly well.

"I know there will be thousands of City fans who will be aggrieved that they haven' been given an extra allocation and Stoke have ­- especially as City's average attendance is higher, and we have more season-ticket holders.

"I don't begrudge Stoke fans their extra tickets for the final, but it's galling that the same opportunity hasn't been given to City's supporters.

"It means now that the search for FA Cup final tickets goes on for City's fans. I'm sure they will do their best to get tickets at face value, but that looks very unlikely now."

Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes hailed the FA's decision to release the extra tickets.

"We stated our case to the FA for more tickets when we received the initial allocation, so we are delighted that this has been successful in securing the additional number of tickets now," Scholes said.

"It was a concern to us that so many who had been among the 34,000 at Wembley for the semi-final [against Bolton] would be unable to get a ticket for the big day, especially as it is the first time the club has reached the final in its 148-year history."

An FA spokesman told the M.E.N. that the reallocated tickets were originally designated for their 'Football Family', which includes non-league clubs and grass-roots football organisations.

He added that those tickets were originally spilt 50-50, with anyone applying told to state whether they would be supporting City or Stoke.

"Both clubs were originally given 25,000 tickets each, with the rest going to the Football Family," the spokesman said.

"At the FA Cup final, there is no neutral section as such, so applicants were given the choice of being in the Stoke end or the Manchester City end.

"The Manchester City allocation of Football Family tickets sold out, but 2,300 tickets for the Stoke section were returned. Those tickets have now been passed on to Stoke ­ but it doesn't mean there will be more Stoke fans in the ground than Manchester City fans."

Parker, though, has argued that the FA's allocation system could be a recipe for trouble.

He said: "The problem is that you could have Stoke and City fans mixed together on the day.

"I'm certainly not saying that either set of supporters would be looking for trouble, but in a hotbed like that, there is a potential for it."

Friday, 6 May 2011

We'll win without Carlos Tevez, says Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini

Carlos Tevez in action against Arsenal Carlos Tevez in action against Arsenal
Roberto Mancini believes Manchester City have learned how to win games without iconic Carlos Tevez.

The Blues can move to within a point of securing Champions League football if they win at Everton, when they will again be without their 21-goal top scorer.

But after three victories on the trot since losing their skipper to a hamstring tear, Mancini feels the Blues have taken a big step forward in coping when one of their top players is not available.

“If we want to improve as a team and keep on winning then you have to play without important players like Carlos, Yaya Toure, or David Silva,” he said. “It’s important but also important you improve as a team.

“Carlos is an important player for us and has scored more than 20 goals this year.

“Without him we are missing a fantastic striker who scores a lot of goals, but we have built a team this year.

“We have bought a lot of good players. When we are missing one or two important players we have a team, we always have a team.

“United played eight or nine different players against Schalke from the side that will play against Chelsea.

“If you want to win you want to win like this. When you can make these changes you can still also play to win, like them.”

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Roberto Mancini warning for Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez

BACK IN ACTION: Carlos Tevez BACK IN ACTION: Carlos Tevez
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has admitted it will be impossible for Carlos Tevez to play in the FA Cup final if he cannot play some part in Tuesday's Premier League encounter with Tottenham.

Tevez has been out with a hamstring injury for almost four weeks and is virtually certain to miss Saturday's trip to Everton.

The South American is desperate to play against Stoke at Wembley but has so far managed to do only light training.

And the clock is now ticking, with Tevez needing to be involved against Spurs to stand any chance of featuring in City's first major final for 30 years.

"It is very difficult for him to play against Everton and if he doesn't play against Tottenham, it will be impossible for Carlos to play in the final," said Mancini.

Micah Richards could be on the bench at Goodison Park as he continues to make progress after a hamstring injury.

"Micah is very close," said Mancini.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Classy Vincent Kompany sitting pretty with Manchester City

Vincent Kompany Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany wants to remain a part of Manchester City’s “beautiful story” for years to come.

The big Belgian defender, favourite to be named the Blues’ player of the season, will sit down to discuss a new, improved contract in the summer.

But he told M.E.N. Sport that he feels part of the fabric at City and see himself remaining at the club for “a long time”.

Kompany has been made captain in the absence of the injured Carlos Tevez, and there have been calls for that appointment to be made permanent, especially with doubt surrounding Tevez’s future.

But Kompany has already said he will be happy to hand the armband back, and simply get on with the job of landing Champions League football and the FA Cup.

The City hero has been in magnificent form this season, and is a major reason why the Blues stand on the brink of achieving their twin aims.


And he says he has immersed himself fully in the culture of the club.

“I have never been embraced as well as I have been by the fans here, and by the country in general,” said the 25-year-old.

“I feel really, really comfortable here and am proud to be part of what is happening.

“The key is not to take anything for granted. I work hard for it every day and when it happens we can consider ourselves lucky to have been part of such a beautiful story.”

Asked about his future, Kompany sets a few minds at rest. Europe’s top clubs are bound to be eyeing up a player who made it into the PFA’s Premier League team of the season, but the urbane star feels he could be at the heart of defence for years to come.

“I am happy and when you are happy somewhere it’s easy to see yourself there for a long time,” he said.

“I have made a lot of progress here and feel like I have a lot more to show and to bring to this club. I am definitely looking to the future and long-term.”

Kompany was a key player in the FA Cup semi-final victory over United, on and off the field.

As skipper, he asked manager Roberto Mancini and the rest of the staff to leave the players alone in the dressing room for a few minutes leading up to kick- off, which they did.

Kompany says that what went on will remain a secret, but made it plain that several players had their say.

“It definitely has to stay between the players,” he said. “That’s the reason we did it. It wasn’t a solitary initiative, there were a few people who wanted to speak.

“It was not about hammering anyone, just to inspire. A few people wanted to step up and speak.”

That win gave City their first FA Cup final appearance for 30 years, but the fact that they can now secure fourth place with four points from the next two games – at Everton and at home to Spurs – has focused minds back on the vital issue of  reaching the Champions League.

A win at Goodison Park would mean City only needing a point when Harry Redknapp’s side visit Eastlands next Tuesday.

Kompany has challenged his teammates to shake off the recent jinx which the Merseysiders appear to have on the Blues, by winning on Saturday.

“We have had three victories in a row, two in the league, one in the FA Cup, so how great would it be to finish the season in a good fashion?” he said.

“Let’s try to win this one at Everton and then see how many more we can win by the end of the season. Let’s challenge ourselves to keep winning and not look at the table any more.

“We know what we are up against. Everton are always a team that seems to gain in strength in the second half of the season so you would suppose they are now at their best.

“These are challenging games and we know what we are playing for so it would be brilliant to get a result there.

“We are on course for what we want to achieve. We have gone a tremendously long way since the takeover three years ago.


“It is a completely different club but with the same fundamentals, and we are definitely looking forward now.

“It would be a great way to start the success story of City by achieving Champions League football and winning the FA Cup.

“That’s our target and it becomes more important than ever now.”

Everton have already won at Eastlands this season, City’s only home defeat in 19 matches, and also beat the Blues twice last season – the only team to do the league double over City during Mancini’s reign.

But Kompany says that now is a good time to put a stop to that dismal sequence of results.

“Every run is doomed to end at some stage, so it will happen some time – if not this week, it will happen soon,” he said.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Mega-deal: Manchester City eye Didier Drogba plus cash swap for Carlos Tevez

Didier Drogba Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba could be on his way to Manchester City – if the Blues are forced to sell Carlos Tevez to arch-rivals Chelsea.

The Blues’ Argentine striker is poised to demand an Eastlands exit in the summer and the mega-rich Stamford  Bridge outfit are one of only a handful of clubs in the world that could afford his huge wages.

City are desperate to hold on to Tevez, but may accept a bombshell deal that would see them pocket around £30m plus Ivorian hitman Drogba as a makeweight.

Out-of-sorts Tevez, currently battling injury in a bid to be fit for the FA Cup final, has limited options if he does leave Eastlands.

Inter Milan have distanced themselves from reports that they want to buy him, with president Massimo Moratti insisting his club have not held any talks about a possible move.

The player was reported to have met with Inter officials during a recent trip to Italy but Moratti claims there has been no contact, adding : “I saw that on TV but there is no connection at all with us."

But the M.E.N. understands City boss Roberto Mancini has been alerted to the availability of Drogba, who has just one year left to run on his Stamford Bridge contract and is becoming increasingly frustrated by the battle for places in Carlo Ancelotti’s team since the January arrival of Fernando Torres.

City’s hierarchy and Mancini are hoping that with Champions League qualification virtually guaranteed, their skipper, who has three yerars left on his current deal, will agree to stay.

But there has been an uneasy peace between the talismatic Argentinian and the club since the 27-year-old, who controversially swapped Old Trafford for Eastlands in 2009, handed in a transfer request in December.

Tevez later withdrew that demand though, unlike Wayne Rooney who got a huge pay rise after his own tranfer plea at United, he was not given any increase.

Mancini has repeatedly dismissed reports of a rift, claiming Tevez can force his way back into the team before the Wembley FA Cup final with Stoke City on May 14.

But the Italian may be persuaded to cash in on the striker to fund an assault on the Premier League and Champions League titles next season, rather than dig in his heels and keep an unhappy player.

City’s big-money buys Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko have struggled to fire in their first seasons in English football while 33-year-old Drogba would come with a proven Premier League goal record.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini demands final push

Roberto Mancini feels Manchester City deserve a Champions League berth for their efforts this season - but is not about to take anything for granted.

City kept themselves firmly on course to win the race for fourth place in the Premier League with yesterday's 2-1 victory over West Ham at Eastlands, a result which means that with four fixtures to go, Mancini's side are seven points clear of nearest rivals Liverpool - who have played a game more - in fifth and Tottenham in sixth.

The Blues' Holy Grail is within touching distance, but their manager is adamant his players must keep working hard all the way up to the end of the campaign.

"We can only relax after May 22, not before," Mancini said.

"We should try to get the maximum number of points that we can.

"I think after what we have done, we deserve to be in the Champions League, but we have another four games - it is not finished.

"We are not under pressure, but we know we have a big chance.

"Our target at the start of the season was the Champions League and now, we are in a good way.

"We are in fourth position and have seven points over Tottenham and Liverpool - and we will play the FA Cup final (against Stoke on May 14)."

City took the lead against the Hammers through Nigel de Jong in the 10th minute and appeared to be cruising to victory when Pablo Zabaleta doubled their advantage on the quarter-hour mark with a shot that went in via Lars Jacobsen.

Demba Ba pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 33rd minute, though, and City then missed a series of chances to make it 3-1.

It eventually turned out that their early double was enough, but it could and maybe should have been a more comfortable triumph against the league's bottom side and Mancini admitted his team may have been guilty of thinking their job was already done after the opening 15 minutes.

"Probably after these two goals we thought it was finished, but it never is until the referee blows the final whistle," said Mancini, who also confirmed that De Jong had come off at half-time merely as a precaution with a view to next weekend's clash with Everton, and that an ankle knock picked up by Zabaleta was not serious.

Although the loss was West Ham's fifth in a row, their manager Avram Grant is staying upbeat.

"We made a very bad start - in the first 20 minutes we were not in the game, they had scored two goals and could have scored more," Grant said.

"We had a great comeback and showed a lot of spirit and the character of the team, and we made it 2-1 - also Robbie Keane had a big chance.

"In the second half we could have done some more, so there were a lot of positives to take for the next games, which are the most important ones."

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Manchester City 2 West Ham 1

Nigel de Jong fires in his first ever goal for Manchester City in the 2-1 win over West Ham at Eastlands Nigel de Jong fires in his first ever goal for Manchester City in the 2-1 win over West Ham at Eastlands
Goals: de Jong (10), Jacobsen og (15)
Bookings: Zabaleta (34), Barry (67), A. Johnson (68)

Goals: Ba (33)
Bookings: Gabbidon (49)

Henceforth, May the first will no longer be known as May Day. It will become De Jong Day.
And in years to come, elderly City fans will celebrate it, and tell their grandkids of the day when they saw the great City player score his first – and possibly his only – goal for the club.
It came at the 94th time of asking, and was as covered in importance as it was dripping in spectacle, a 25-yard drive of great precision.
The last time the tigerish midfielder hit the back of the net, in March 2008, few people in Manchester had heard of Abu Dhabi, and he was plying his trade for Hamburg against Frankfurt.
But his goal set the Blues on the road to a vital, and ultimately edgy, victory against a West Ham side which refused to lie down and take the thrashing which the opening minutes threatened.
Pablo Zabaleta forced Lars Jacobsen into conceding an own goal for the second, but Demba Ba’s goal meant that the Blues were pushed all the way by a side fighting for its Premier League life.
Roberto Mancini, astonishingly, picked the same 18 for the third match in succession, quite a feat for a man who makes Claudio Ranieri look like a model of consistency in team selection.
Not that he had a lot of choice, with Carlos Tevez and Micah Richards still on the injury list, but there were strong cases for Edin Dzeko and James Milner to get their chances.
He was entirely vindicated in a blistering opening 15 minutes, when City did exactly what they did at Blackburn – but with goals.
The nervy Hammers, languishing at the bottom of the table and still horrifyingly aware of what Yaya Toure did to them in the Blues 3-1 win at Upton Park in December, simply sat and awaited their fate, like a hedgehog on a dual carriageway.
Allowed space and time to drop deep, David Silva sharpened his rapier and Yaya hefted his cudgel, and even Nigel de Jong could see the possibilities.
Silva and Yaya had the first attempts, but it was de Jong who ended his amazing goal drought on ten minutes.
He has promised the City fans it would be something special when it came, and he wasn’t kidding!
Aleks Kolarov’s corner was cleared to the edge of the box and the Dutchman thrashed it with some precision through a crowded area, and even managed to bounce it just ahead of goalkeeper Robert Green just to make sure.
The Blues were cock-a-hoop, the Hammers could feel the trapdoor twitching beneath their feet, and we started to check the stat books for City’s biggest recent wins.
That optimism was confirmed five minutes later, with another goal from another unlikely source, even though he has not initially been credited with it.
At least Zabaleta previously had two goals in 116 appearances, prolific compared to de Jong, but not many people had him down as a goalscorer on their betting slips.

The goal was fashioned by the irrepressible Silva, playing a cute one-two with the sallying Zabaleta.
There was still plenty of work to do as Silva’s return chip was chest-high, but the Argentine’s control was exemplary and his shot low and hard.
The powers-that-be decided the goal belonged to the unfortunate Lars Jacobsen, who made a poor attempt to clear, but the dubious goals panel may yet reverse that decision.
They tend to work on the basis that if the ball would have gone in anyway, the attacking player gets it, and the ball was certainly rolling in.
The Poznan was in full swing – or rather bounce – the sun was shining, and the seven-point gap between the Blues and pursuing Spurs and Liverpool looked like a yawning chasm.
And then, just as at Ewood Park six days earlier, the momentum dropped, the Hammers made a cute tactical switch by putting Demba Ba out on the left, and the blue shirts went from satin to horsehair in a matter of heartbeats.
City were grateful to Joe Hart for a fine save from Robbie Keane when the experienced striker sprang the offside trap but found England’s number one in resolute mood.
But with the Blues suddenly giving the ball away, as if dreaming of Wembley days in May, the visitors were encouraged.
They pulled one back on 33 minutes, Thomas Hitzlsperger’s cross deflecting to Demba Ba off the hand of Joleon Lescott. Before ref Howard Webb had time to call the spot kick, the West Ham man had swept the ball home.
Balotelli missed a great chance to seal it on 55 minutes when the Blues broke in numbers, Silva leading the charge.
He freed the Italian, who measured a curling shot beyond Green, only to see it bounce off the bar and straight to the feet of the offside Yaya.
And if City fans were frustrated by that miss, they were apoplectic when the Blues again broke in numbers, Yaya freeing Silva with a gorgeous through ball.
The little man, one-on-one, checked back, allowing a phalanx of defenders to cover. He might have shot himself, but chose to lay the ball left for Balotelli.
The man with a shot like a howitzer opted for a casual swing rather than breaking the net, and James Tomkins raced back to keep it out.
Mancini decided to mix it up, and give the Hammers something else to think about by bringing on Edin Dzeko, taking off Barry – who had been one of the stars – and shifting Yaya back to anchor midfield alongside de Jong.
Any plans Avram Grant might have had were scattered to the four winds as he dropped his notebook and the pages blew across the pitch!
By that point, the Hammers were as spent as their manager’s notes, as City staged a big finish, seeking that elusive third goal.
Silva almost claimed it, rounding off a neat passage of play with a shot which deflected up off a defender and forced Green into a flying save.

Chelsea set to bid £40m for Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez-Manchester City cropped
Chelsea are preparing a £40million bid for Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez.

The London club have instructed super-agent Pini Zahavi to broker a deal that would see Tevez partner Fernando Torres in Chelsea’s attack next season.
City’s Abu Dhabi-based owners are aware that Zahavi has been tasked with landing the 27-year-old Argentine for Stamford Bridge benefactor Roman Abramovich.
But City are unlikely to contemplate selling their captain and top goalscorer to another Premier League club - even if they meet the asking price.
City boss Roberto Mancini last night insisted he would not stand in the way of any players who want to quit the club.
Mancini said: “I will fight for every player who wants to stay here - whether it is Carlos or another player.
“But I think it is difficult in 2011 to keep one player who does not stay at the club.
“Carlos has a contract, but I don’t know what is going to happen with him.”
Inter Milan and Juventus have both been linked with Tevez, while Real Madrid will also be in the market for a new striker in the summer after telling City that they will not meet their £12million valuation of Emmanuel Adebayor.
Those three clubs would be reluctant to meet City’s price.
Chelsea demonstrated with the £50million purchase of Torres from Liverpool in January that they are still willing to pay what it takes to land the right player.
But City’s financial position means they don’t have to sell the former Manchester United and West Ham striker to the highest bidder.