Pablo Zabaleta did not have the look of a man who had just got his manager the sack, but the Argentina international knows his reckless actions at Wembley could well have hastened Roberto Mancini’s route out of Manchester City.
Mancini came into the game amid headlines the club had already lined up Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini. He angrily denied the reports afterwards, but Zabaleta was Wembley-weary enough to know this shock defeat could spell the end for many faces at the club.
Zabaleta hacked down Callum McManaman to earn his second yellow card with seven minutes to go and would have taken up a near post decision to defend the corner from which Wigan scored, had he remained on the pitch.
He was as frank as he was downhearted afterwards. Zabaleta said: “I knew it was a difficult situation; McManaman was going to the goal and obviously I was already booked. I knew that, but in the game my decision was to try to stop him and I went a bit late.
“I was frustrated to get sent off in a big game but this is part of football. I know as a defender we can sometimes be exposed at the back and we need to make these types of tackles and fouls.”
“Now we need to be more stronger than ever. It’s hard to understand why we haven’t won anything when you look at the team and you see the players we have got.
“Now this season has practically gone and we need to come back next season stronger and try to win something again.
“You always need to learn about mistakes and this season we were not at our best. In this league if you are not 100 per cent good, not consistent then you can’t win important things.”
Zabaleta, only the third player to be sent off in an FA Cup Final, was less convincing on the subject of Mancini’s future. He added: “It’s not our decision; as players we need to be focused on what we do now and we will see what happens with Roberto in the future.
“We have got two games left and we will see the chairman and sports director and all the people who have to think about this, and if they make some changes its because I don’t know.”
“Yes, we have got good enough players. We need to wait for the transfer window because always you expect some change in the summer. We don’t know if new players come in or other players leave the club, we don’t know. That’s why we need to try to finish this season, win the last two games.”
Midfielder Jack Rodwell, who made a rare substitute appearance, believes he will be back for more attempts at glory, though.
He said: “We will definitely be back; it’s why I joined the club, big ambitions. We got here, but just didn’t perform.”
And he refused to be too low about Ben Watson’s headed goal, despite being the nearest defender to the Wigan winner.
He added: “You have to shake it off and move on. We were marking zonal and obviously we were a man down with Zabaleta who is supposed to be at the front. There were men everywhere but he just managed to score.
“We just didn’t make enough chances. I don’t know if that was whether Wigan were really good or we were really poor, or a bit of both. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
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