Beaten 1-0 by the 10 men of Stoke, the men from Eastlands were little short of a disgrace. Shay Given, the latest recruit to the City circus, will have watched footage of this game through a lattice-work of fingers.
City’s fans, watching in near-silence, would be forgiven for thinking they had just seen a bunch of highly-paid mercenaries go through the motions.
Stoke’s hard-running midfielder Glenn Whelan was trying hard not to be judgmental, but he said what everyone else was thinking. The Ireland international, 25, left clutching Robinho’s shirt as his reward for a day of hard graft.
“Was there a lack of spirit from them?” he pondered. “I don’t know but any team coming to Stoke will find it’s cold, the wind gets up to gale force and they don’t always fancy it.
“They have terrific players but they didn’t play as well as they would have liked in the conditions and we capitalised on that.
“I got Robinho’s shirt at the end. It was the quickest I had moved all day, just to get the shirt.”
From the point that Rory Delap was correctly sent off for kicking the ball at a grounded Shaun Wright-Phillips, City should have taken over.
But two shots on target from 75 per cent possession says it all about City. Then James Beattie climbed at the far post to head home Matthew Etherington’s cross in the fourth minute of first-half injury time.
City manager Mark Hughes has spent £128m in six months under his command, after recruiting Shay Given from Newcastle last night, while Stoke’s starting line-up cost around £11m.
“It was difficult to break them down, they are resolute and they got people behind the ball,” he said.
Hughes held transfer talks with chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak before the game. Reporting back to City’s Abu Dhabi owners after this will not be easy, no matter how many Irish legends he throws their way.
STOKE (4-4-2): Sorensen 7, Wilkinson 7, Shawcross 8, Abdoulaye Faye 6, Pugh 7, Delap 5, Whelan 6, Amdy Faye 6 (Griffin 78, 5), Etherington 6 (Sonko 86, 5), Beattie 7, Fuller 5 (Cresswell 46, 5).
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Lawrence, Kitson.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Hart 6, Richards 6, Kompany 6, Onuoha 6, Bridge 5, Wright-Phillips 5, De Jong 6 (Caicedo 72, 5), Zabaleta 5 (Elano 55, 5), Ireland 6, Bellamy 6, Robinho 5.
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Fernandes, Garrido, Jo, Vassell.
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 6: No choice but to send off Delap but Wright-Phillips could easily have followed him for his retaliation.
MATCH RATING: *** City were shocking. They could learn from Stoke’s spirit.