It’s probably not often that Manchester City and Prince get mentioned in the same sentence. I doubt the little funky fella spends much time pondering events at Eastlands or writing songs inspired by Micah Richards. However, we can look to his hit, Little Red Corvette to inform us about the current situation at the club. Yes, of course we can.
As you may recall, in the song, our hero is getting, what the younger generation might call jiggy, with a fast lady and goes to place where her ‘horses run free’ (euphemism alert: he’s not talking about horses) and there spies, “all the pictures of the jockeys that were there before me.”
Naturally, this intimidates him somewhat, “Believe it or not, I started to worry, I wondered if I had enough class.”
And that’s exactly the position that City find themselves in today.
After last nights 2-1 win over United in the League Cup semi-final 1st leg, they stand on the threshold of their first final since 1976. More than that, they stand on the threshold of breaking into the big time in the Premier League, of maybe even winning it.
Have they got enough class? Well if they haven’t you can be sure they will go out and buy some more. Acquiring top quality players will not be a problem with infinite money to spend and no profit required to be made.
The only thing that can hold the City juggernaut back now is self belief. Their rivals have all been there and done it; cups, leagues, Europe and that counts big when the pressure is on. If City doesn’t believe they’re the real deal then they won’t be.
It’s not as easy as it might seem for a manager to break down the inhibition and doubt that decades of lack of success can ingrain into a club. Although the players are all from elsewhere, it makes no difference. They all know the club’s history. They are charged with changing it. That takes bottle and nerve. It’s a battle in the head as much as on the pitch.
This was Mourinho’s greatest achievement with Chelsea. He inherited a team which had almost won the league under Ranieri and turned them from nearly men into winners. The difference was every bit as much psychological as tactical. The great motivators make you believe not only you can win but that it’s your destiny to win; that you really are the best.
This will be the big test for Mancini. Last night’s game shows how far he has to go and how far the club has traveled. For long periods of the game, especially in the first half, City stood off United and let them play. They were inhibited, scared by the occasion. Once they got the lucky penalty, briefly their confidence returned. But after half time they went back into their shell again. A mis-firing United side dominated play for much of the game but they were not the better side. Had City only had belief in their class from the start, they could have had the tie won already.
The return leg at Old Trafford will only test their psychology more. Will they buckle or will they, like Prince, ‘try and tame your little red love machine’?
Editor’s note: It’s with great pleasure to announce the return of John Nicholson, football columnist for Football 365 and author of FootyRocks to EPL Talk. Nicholson is well known for his tales of sex, drugs and rock’n roll and, of course, football glory; and he’l be writing for this site on a weekly basis moving forward.