Former Manchester City manager Joe Royle has backed Manuel Pellegrini’s assessment that their late return from Abu Dhabi had little to do with their shock FA Cup exit at the hands of Middlesbrough.
The Premier League champions were humbled 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium by the Championship outfit, who progressed thanks to goals from Patrick Bamford and Kike.
City spent the five days prior to Saturday’s fourth-round tie at a warm-weather training camp in the United Arab Emirates.
The team only returned to Manchester on Friday evening and questions were quickly asked about the wisdom of the venture.
Manager Pellegrini denied post-match that City’s travel arrangements were a factor in the reverse, an opinion shared by Royle, who managed the club between 1998 and 2001.
“I honestly don’t think it makes a lot of difference,” Royle told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“Players will have trained out there and the way players travel, they are hardly put away in steerage at the back, they go first class anywhere.
“I don’t think there is any great merit in that, there will be a number of teams that have gone away and won games when they returned. It’s quite a regular thing, so not too much at all in that.”
City return to league action next weekend when they face leaders Chelsea, who were also knocked out of the cup after losing to League one side Bradford at Stamford Bridge, and Royle believes it will be a vital match in their quest to retain the title.
“I thought that the signing of (Wilfried) Bony would give them a stimulus but he’s away at the moment and can’t make an impact at all,” Royle added.
“We don’t know how Chelsea will respond. I think (Chelsea boss Jose) Mourinho will be on their case. I still think City have the stronger squad, but it is hard to peg back five points now on Chelsea.”