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Those who trudged out of Etihad Road on 90 minutes, and away into the sideways rain and Christmas traffic, missed a moment of great import.
For this victory, more than any other this season, represented a zenith of performance not seen in the previous 17. Here are three reasons why:
1) Mancini's tactics
Often much derided for both picking the wrong team (e.g v United); and also swapping and changing in a bizarre fashion when chasing a game, buggering it up even more (e.g v Ajax) - this time Bobby, Platty and Kiddo went the Full Monty. Not only did he pick the wrong team, leaving out Lescott (who has done nothing wrong) AGAIN and putting in Garcia (who can do nothing right.) He also played the inexperienced Kareem Recharge against the trickery, fakery and downright dishonesty of Jimmy 'Who, ME?' Kebe: determined to redress his PR disaster of earlier in the week in which he called the entire team useless and said they should buy another 20 just like him - or something like that. It was always going to go tits up.
THEN, having started with a 4-4-2, he went to a 4-3-3 and finally a 4-5-1. Only a quick American Smooth in the Strictly final can have had more moves in it. The team was so narrow, it even became 3-2-2-2-1 for moments in the first half. Silva was irritatingly obtuse, Yaya at his most bovine and Tevez and Sergio gave the only hint at width by playing about a thousand miles away from each other. Then he puts Silva on the right, coming in on his left, and brings on Sinclair on on the left, coming in on his right. Oh and the whole game was played as if it was a 7" single stuck at 33 and a third (a pre-CD joke for older readers). It was all complete madness, and Reading, after about 10 minutes of rabbit-in-the-headlights, eventually got the fags out.
'So why are you praising him then', I hear you ask? Well, what Bobby proved was what he has been saying all along - that we DO have a squad deep and flexible enough to cope with any situation and any tactical variation he cares to throw at them. He just managed to stumble upon it in time for us to get out of jail. This must augur well for the rest of the seaon - or at least until we go one-nil down at Sunderland.
2) Zabaleta: The Myth, The Man, The God
Looks into the depths of your very soul: can you think of ANY City player who has managed to string even two consecutive good performances together this season? Zaba is the only one. In fact, he NEVER has a bad game. All Bobby has to do, now he has finally realised that he should be first choice, is to keep playing him. A City team with him in it will always have a chance against anybody. He can play anywhere; and indeed if I could be bothered to look at yesterday's game statistically, would probably be our top crosser, run-maker, tackler, and would be there or thereabouts in terms of attempts on goal. I've seen at least 5 games this season when he has played the opposition ENTIRELY ON HIS OWN. The man is a colossus, who puts the rest of the workshy wasters to shame. Without him we would not have stood a chance yesterday. 10 more of him please Santa.
3) Mario Was In Town Shopping
A tactic always going to give us a realistic chance. Contrary to rumours in the press, Balotelli had not been unwell during the week and rested: Bobby had in fact forgotten to buy the missus that Clinique box set that the lasses always love from Debenhams (20% off ATM, boys) and had given Mario express instructions to get to Market St early doors, stand in line when it opened and nab one (making sure the free handbag came with it). Mario dutifully obliged, and he was just leaving Picadilly to come to the game when his phone rang. Bobby needed some crackers - the nice ones from the 3rd florr of Kendals - and a book token from Waterstones (from which no-one who enters during Christmas will ever get out). By the time he'd done that, knocked back a cake and a coffee at Pattisserie Valerie and handed out a few fivers to the poor, Mario had well and truly blown it for the game. I believe that the sales will have started in time for the Sunderland match, and that Bobby has already hatched a plan to send Mario to the Trafford Centre to stand in the queue at Next.
So, dear reader, 'for this reason', our intrepid management has chanced upon a set of circumstances, the repetition of which down the year should see us home and hosed for the title. Remember the Reading game in May, and see if you aren't smiling...
HAPPY XMAS FROM LTGN!!!