John Guidetti celebrated his new deal with an equaliser and a hand in Shaun Wright-Phillips’ breathtaking winner to spare City’s blushes at Empire Field.
The Blues had been having a miserable evening in a beautiful city, going behind, losing Yaya Toure to a worrying injury and seeing Edin Dzeko fluff an open goal. But second-half sub Guidetti helped to turn that around.
The Sweden under-19 star seemed to be on his way out of Eastlands at the start of the summer, refusing a new deal and seemingly being interested in a move to Dutch outfit FC.
But Roberto Mancini likes the look of the powerful youngster and has it in mind to make him his fourth striker in the coming season.
Including him in the plans for the pre-season tour helped to seal the matter, and it was confirmed on the day of the match that Guidetti had agreed to stay.
He paid back immediately, heading in an equaliser just as it seemed Whitecaps were about to record their third win in three games against the Blues.
City have been to Vancouver four times before, and went home with tails firmly between their legs on three of those occasions.
In 1980, they were tonked 5-0, with former Ipswich hit man Trevor Whymark bagging a hat-trick and ex-Burnley striker Ray Hankin also on the scoresheet.
Gluttons for punishment, the Blues were back the following year and lost 2-0. In the first 45 minutes, it looked like the hoodoo would continue as City laboured on the heavy pitch.
Whitecaps are in the middle of the MLS season, so their fitness was an advantage in such conditions.
The fact that they are bottom of the Western Conference mattered little – they saw the visit of the FA Cup winners, and world’s richest “soccer franchise” as a challenge.
There were fireworks, drummers, barrage balloons and the national anthem before the game and the Empire Field was almost full with 24,074 basking in the sunshine.
There had been a real scare that the game wouldn’t take place as torrential rain had flooded the pitch on Friday, forcing postponement of their scheduled game on Saturday.
A frenzied 48 hours pumping out the water paid off, and the sun came out on Monday to help with the drying out. But the surface soon began to cut up and Whitecaps looked fitter.
Joe Hart was the busier of the keepers, tipping over a looping effort from danger man Eric Hassli early on.
Vladmir Weiss has seen the opportunity to play his way into Roberto Mancini’s plans and, as in San Francisco, he had a lively opening, not least a driving run which freed Dzeko in space, only for his surprise shot to be palmed away by keeper Jay Nolly. Brazilian Camilo gave notice of his long-range expertise with a free kick which had Hart scrambling to his right and hurling himself full length to turn away. But the Whitecaps midfielder went one better when City were caught out on the counter, his shot deflecting off Stefan Savic to wrong-foot Hart.
The keeper had to be down smartly to again deny Camilo, giving Dedryck Boyata a tough time at right back. City should have equalised on 39 minutes when some lovely constructive football down the left, between Weiss, Ryan McGivern and the overlapping Aleks Kolarov, freed Weiss in the inside left channel.
His square pass set Edin Dzeko up with the goal wide open but he screwed his shot wide. That was just the start of the first half woe for the Blues, as moments later Yaya Toure leapt to challenge for a ball and landed awkwardly on his right ankle.
He had to be helped off and limped down the tunnel, to be replaced by James Milner. The Blues made seven changes at half time, and again Weiss – the only man to play 90 minutes on Saturday - remained on the field. We also saw Mario Balotelli back in action, and if he had been a little closer to fitness he might have made more of Shaun Wright-Phillips’ sparky run and cross.
Stuart Taylor almost gifted the Canadians a second with a feeble clearance which Omar Salgado collected and fired inches wide of the post.
Just when it looked like the hoodoo was striking again, up popped Guidetti, powering home a header at the far post from a corner by manager’s son Andrea Mancini.
And it was Wright-Phillips who won it, after Guidetti had led the charge on the right and fed him. The little winger, who scored against Club America on Saturday, smashed his shot from 30 yards into the far top corner, a timely reminder of exactly what he can do.
The win puts City top of the Herbalife World Football Challenge table, leapfrogging United and Real Madrid – a taste of Champions League things to come, perhaps?