BEST OF THE MANSOUR ERA: The FA Cup Semi-Final That Tipped The Balance Of Power

Throughout June on Typical City, we’re looking at some of the best matches Manchester City have played in the Sheikh Mansour-era. Day by day, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to some of the classic encounters the Blues have had since the 2008 takeover – you can view the rest of the featured games on the Best of the Mansour Era page.

As things hot up towards the end of the series, for day 26 we’re heading back to Wembley in 2011. It was the FA Cup semi-final stage and City had been drawn against rivals United. The Blues had failed in their previous attempt to knock the Reds out of a cup at this stage – in 2010’s League Cup double header – but things were about to change for Roberto Mancini’s side…

Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
Saturday 16 April 2011
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Barry, De Jong, Toure, Silva (Vieira 86), Johnson (Wright-Phillips 79), Balotelli.
Unused: Taylor, Boyata, Milner, Dzeko, Jo
Goals: Toure (52)

Going into the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United, it was understandable that Manchester City fans were nervous. Their talismanic striker, Carlos Tevez, had limped out of an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at Liverpool less than a week earlier and the prognosis wasn’t good – he was going to be sidelined for around a month. It wasn’t ideal news going into the biggest match of the season so far.

United, meanwhile, had Wayne Rooney suspended after a tirade of abuse to a live TV camera during a win at West Ham. It meant that both teams were starting a man down on their strongest XI, but it was widely believed the Reds would cope the better. On the day, it turned out otherwise.

There was further angst for the City fans, too. Their manager, Roberto Mancini, had previously promised to tear down the banner at Old Trafford, which gleefully depicted the years since the Blues had won a major trophy, and it was their rivals who were once again blocking their way. In 2010, during the League Cup campaign that the fans had hoped would bring an end to the barren spell, it was United who proved a hurdle that was too big to clear. Here they were again – only this time, City were ready.

Despite that desire, the Blues began on the back foot. Quite how United didn’t go ahead is something only Dimitar Berbatov could possibly answer – he had a one-on-one blocked by Joe Hart as he’d escaped the City defence, before he managed to miss a virtual open goal from very close range as a cross was drilled back into the box.

From then on in, City got their act together and began to take control of the game. Gareth Barry had a turn and shot flash just wide of Edwin Van Der Sar’s post – which the fans at the far end of the ground briefly thought had snook in – before Mario Balotelli thwacked an effort from long range, which needed touching over the bar from the goalkeeper.

At the resulting corner, Joleon Lescott escaped the attention of the United defence and should have found the net when the kick landed to him inside the box. He had more time than he seemed to realise, as he prodded an effort with his weaker right foot over the bar. He had enough space to have shaped up to get it onto his left. His defensive partner, Vincent Kompany, also flashed a shot wide from range, after he was picked out by David Silva following a short corner on the right flank.

It was just after the break that City took the lead. United were casual to a ball over the top, as Barry and Balotelli closed down Rio Ferdinand and Van Der Sar. The centre-back miss-hit a pass to his goalkeeper, whose scuffed clearance landed to Silva. The Spaniard couldn’t control it, but United weren’t out of trouble – as Michael Carrick played it straight to Yaya Toure, who drove past the Reds’ defence and pinged a shot under Van Der Sar.

Many expected a United backlash. However, despite there being most of the second still to play, it was City who continued on the front foot. A ghosted run by Lescott should have seen the Blues double their lead shortly after scoring, but his flashed header from Silva’s cross was wide.

United’s best chance of an equaliser came from a free kick just outside the box. Nani struck an effort towards the top corner and it took a flick off the wall, which could have caught Hart out. However, the goalkeeper stuck out a hand as he appeared to be diving past it and tipped the shot onto the bar, with his defence able to complete the clearance.

Any hope the Reds had of staying in the match died when Paul Scholes took his frustration out on Pablo Zabaleta. A loose ball was there to be won by either player and it was the Argentinian who got there first – while the United midfielder lunged in, studs up, and slammed them into Zabaleta’s thigh. He was rightly sent off.

All that was left for the game was some handbags at full time. Balotelli appeared to wind up Ferdinand, and it sparked a big confrontation that needed both David Platt and Mancini on the pitch to help clear up. The striker was dragged away and down the tunnel, while the Reds continued to argue amongst themselves and with the City backroom staff.

Speaking after the game, Mancini knew the significance of the victory, but he was also well aware that the job wasn’t finished: “I am very happy for our supporters, because they deserve this. It is important to start winning trophies, and I stand by my claim that if we win the FA Cup this year we can try for the title next season. This could be a turning point for us, but it is important to remember there is another game to win. I think we can go on from this to win the FA Cup and secure a top-four finish.”

Written by David Mooney

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