Whilst I hope the feeling at the end of last season sticks with our players for a long time, serving as the motivation for them to work even harder, I have spent the past couple of months trying to pretend that 2011-2012 didn’t happen. We didn’t drop eight points behind then go eight points clear, only to lose it all with the last kick of the game at the Etihad. It was only last week that I saw the Sergio Aguero goal that won them the league, spending weeks carefully avoiding the footage.
Danny Pugsley, who isn’t very bitter but is very blue, who owns the excellent Bitter and Blue blog, has shared his thoughts on this coming season.
Scott the Red: What would have to happen this season for you to class this as a successful one?
Danny Pugsley: This has been the most asked question of me for the various previews this summer. Having done what City have the past couple of seasons there is a platform for continued success. By that, of course we mean lifting trophies so to go without a trophy would be classed as a disappointment. The hope will be for a better showing in the Champions League but the big prize will be to try and retain the title. Success breeds success, but it also breeds expectation so this will be an added pressure for the squad to cope with.
STR: After years of United fans rubbing it in your face, how much satisfaction did you take from winning the league in such a painful way for United fans?
DP: It would have been far, far worse had City lost the title on the final day. For me, and certainly the wider impression I got was that it was about City, not United or anyone else. The thoughts in the final ten minutes and then at the final whistle were no way concerned with United or anyone else apart from City. Maybe this was to do with the manner of the win and how the title was ultimately achieved but the feeling was that this was solely about City.
STR: How do you feel about your club’s business in the transfer window this summer?
DP: Lack of you mean? Far too much has been placed on the lack of activity I think. Mancini’s comments make for good headlines but the market is not huge and City are no longer in the position to have to throw money around to quickly catch up. They also have the added problem of being burdened with some of the contracts from the early days which are hampering them due to FFP.
Rodwell is an interesting signing. There doesn’t feel an obvious ‘fit’ at the moment but the fee is not huge and he will have a couple of seasons to emerge. If he then goes on to be a dominant player for a decade then it will be a great signing. I suspect it will be 3-5 years before we can really assess the signing.
STR: Who do you think will be your most important player this season?
DP: City have a spine of Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero which I think are unmatched. Silva is the obvious choice (and one I long went for) but Yaya Toure continues to impress more and more and was such a key figure over the final games in 2011/12. I wouldn’t rule out Tevez having as successful a season as 2010/11 however. If Mancini does field a 3-5-2 (or loose variant of) this will fit him perfectly.
STR: Speaking of Tevez, Mancini said he would never play for the club again and the fans showed up with “Tevez Out” banners. How do you feel about him now?
DP: I know football fans are supposed to have a black and white view on these sort of matters but the overwhelming feeling I had was one of ambivalence. So much nonesense had gone on that I was indifferent to the whole thing. It felt such a shame as where was he trying to move to, and for what reason? In hindsight that was a mistake for Mancini to say that (regardless of how he felt) but what had happened clearly affected him and he was caught immediately after the game. Tevez can come back and repair things (forgive rather than forget) and amidst everything it shouldn’t be forgotten that he is one of the top players in the Premier League. It does look – for now – that everything is rosy in the Tevez garden and he may go on to have five or six successful seasons. You do feel though that those six months will inevitably be a footnote or an asterisk on his City career.
STR: How do you rate your manager’s ability to take your club forward?
DP: It’s easy to dismiss what Mancini has achieved given the players and money at his disposal but last season proved quite how tough the league is to win. To maintain form when United were so relentless and to then bring the team earned him plenty of credit. He can be quite an emotional character at times (witness the incidents with Tevez and Balotelli) but he has fostered a strong spirit and identity with the squad, despite the common outside view of them being a disparate bunch of mercenaries. I’ve always thought though that he may ultimately be judged by his ability to win a Champions League. His record at Inter was underwhelming and he needs to improve on last season. The title win will have bought him some time however.
STR: Who do you think will win the league this season?
DP: City have been installed as slight favourites and I think that is about right. Chelsea and Arsenal will improve but let’s not forget how big a distance they were behind last season. Tottenham I’d expect to post a similar season while Liverpool will improve; even a slight improvement in them converting chances will increase their points total. United will be challenging again as there is plenty of talent still within the squad plus there will be the motivation of how last season ended. Don’t forget that historically United price very adept at winning titles back once they have lost them.