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GRAHAME L. JONES / ON SOCCER

Manchester City gets its day in the sun

The 'other' team from Manchester defeats Stoke City, 1-0, to win the FA Cup for the first time in 35 years.

May 15, 2011|Grahame L. Jones | On Soccer
  • Manager Roberto Mancini, shown during UEFA Europa League game against Dynamo Kiev, has led Mancester City to the club's fifth FA Cup title.
Manager Roberto Mancini, shown during UEFA Europa League game against… (Andrew Yates / AFP / Getty…)

After waiting for 35 years, another 90 minutes wasn't going to be a burden for Manchester City fans.

Decades of living in the shadow of Manchester United have taught City's faithful to expect the worst. Without a bit of silverware to call their own for so long, would Saturday afternoon's English FA Cup final also escape them?

The answer took 74 minutes to reveal itself, but when Yaya Toure crashed a shot into the back of the Stoke City net in front of 88,646 fans at Wembley Stadium in London, it arrived.

A quarter of an hour or so later, when the final whistle sounded and the 1-0 victory was secure, it was Manchester City's sky blue colors that adorned the 140-year-old trophy. The Blues had won soccer's oldest knockout competition.

They will come to Los Angeles to play the Galaxy in a July friendly as FA Cup holders, and if there is an added swagger to Coach Roberto Mancini's high-priced lineup, and possibly even a few new big names, it is fully deserved.

For the moment, though, there was the chance for the team assembled at a cost of more than $450 million by its owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, to celebrate the triumph.

"We won it for them, for the supporters," said Mancini, a former Italian international who has done wonders in keeping a stable full of high-strung horses focused and functioning.

Simply listing the roster and knowing the background of the players is enough to indicate what an astute coaching and man-management job Mancini has done this season in qualifying Manchester City for next season's European Champions League and in winning the FA Cup.

Volatility does not begin to describe things when mentioning the likes of Argentina's Carlos Tevez, Italy's Mario Balotelli and Holland's Nigel De Jong, to name but three.

Balotelli, to his credit and amid some provocation, did not implode Saturday and was still on the field at the end, even though he afterward used a four-letter word to describe his turbulent season.

Tevez, formerly of the "other" Manchester team and winner of almost every honor a player can win, has repeatedly indicated a desire to move on, so whether he will be around for the Galaxy game is uncertain.

"He's a vital player for us, the real key player," City's elegant and elusive playmaker, Spain's European and world champion David Villa, has said of Tevez. "It's very important that he stays."

Mancini, though, isn't concerned at losing players. He shouldn't be, because the funds are obviously there to replace quality with quality.

"If they aren't happy to stay at the club, it's better they leave," Mancini said. "But this is not just for Carlos, it's for players in general. When you start your job, you should be happy because the season is long and there could be a thousand problems."

Toure knows that only too well. Acquired from Barcelona last July for a staggering $39 million and paid what is believed to be an English Premier League high of $300,000 a week, the Ivory Coast international has experienced some of those problems.

His older brother, Manchester City defender and captain Kolo Toure, was forced to watch with mixed feelings from the Wembley stands Saturday after a failed drug test earlier this year brought about a suspension.

Yaya Toure, who also scored the decisive goal in Manchester City's 1-0 semifinal win over Manchester United, dedicated his goal Saturday to his brother, who reportedly failed the drug test after taking a weight-loss product.

Still, the brothers and teammates could celebrate the end of the long trophy drought.

"We have made a small piece of history," Yaya Toure said. "The dream is now real. We wanted to win something and get through to the Champions League. It's amazing."

Manchester United, which secured a record 19th English title Saturday when it tied Blackburn Rovers to win the Premier League, might scoff, but Manchester City's England international goalkeeper Joe Hart made his views on that abundantly clear.

"I couldn't care less what they do at Old Trafford," said Hart, who was festooned in blue paper streamers after the victory. "I'm annoyed even to say their name today because it's got nothing to do with them.

"It's about us; it's about Man City winning the FA Cup, Man City getting in the Champions League. Getting a trophy that shuts everyone up is important for the fans and for us."

So there you have it.

Spare a thought, meanwhile, for Stoke City and its own long-suffering fans. The Potters have not won anything since 1972 and the club, formed in 1863, is the only surviving founding member of the English league never to have won the FA Cup.

Saturday was Manchester City's day, though, and Stoke City's 148-year wait to win the Cup will have to last a while longer.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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