Date: 21st December 2017 at 9:36pm
Written by:

So, the Carabao Cup quarter-finals are over and we now know that City are through to the semi-finals, courtesy of yet another nail-biting penalty shoot-out and the Busmen of Stretford are out. What, on Tuesday night was a major trophy to win, is now, once again, in the eyes of the deluded idiots from Salford and London, a Mickey Mouse Cup.

It is funny how a collection of Mickey Mouse Cups, last season became a vital treble.

This may be the competition nobody wants to play in, and United’s players made that abundantly clear as they were swept aside by lower-league opposition, but it still yields an appearance at Wembley with a trophy at the end of the line.

Guardiola, with bigger fish to fry, can be forgiven for placing his priorities elsewhere and delivering game time to half a team under the age of 21.

Restoring Bravo into goal behind an unlikely back four of Danilo, Mangala, Adarabioyo and Zinchenko with Foden, Yaya and Gundogan ahead of them with Bernardo, De Jesus and Diaz up top, Pep put his faith in his youngsters alongside a mix of experience and endeavour.

Leicester made a few changes as well but their starting line up looked like it was built for its robustness, rather than its style.

The match opened with even this City team in command and the hosts on the back foot. Chances were however limited and de Jesus seemed to be ploughing a lone furrow and not seeing a lot of the ball. Gundogan put in a useful early performance, which did die a little as the game progressed and the combinations between him and Bernardo Silva looked to be City’s best route to goal, especially in and around the fourteenth minute mark when each of them had a chance but could not get past Hamer, ably standing in for Schmeichel between the sticks. Both also went close in the 20th minute, Gundogan once again forcing Hamer into a neat tip-over.

Diaz and Foden were also looking lively in the early stages, keeping the ball alive first-eleven style and added a threat against the more cumbersome Fox and Hounds defenders. Both took their fair share of digs and both showed that they are up to it.

Shortly thereafter a short looking backpass from Danilo meant that Bravo had to race from his box to try to beat ex-City youngster Iheanacho and just about did. But he took a bit of a clatter resulting in Kelechi going into the book.

A few minutes later the Gundogan/Silva axis was in sync again and forced City’s only goal of the match. The German won the ball on half way and darted towards the edge of the Leicester box before slipping a neat pass into space for Bernardo who was on it in a flash to poke it between Hamer’s legs and into the net. I must mention here the incredible diagonal run made by de Jesus to confuse and move three Leicester defenders and create the space for Silva. A superb piece of football intelligence I fear we would not have seen from Kun Aguero.

This was no more than City deserved. The hosts had not really posed any kind of threat to City and whatever chances abounded were destined more for Hamer’s attention than Bravo’s. City eased to half time a goal to the good and in the early exchanges of the second half didn’t really look in any danger of allowing Leicester back into the game.

Around the hour mark, Puel sent on his “rescue squad” in the shape of ghastly Vardy and Mahrez. Albrighton accompanied Iheanacho to the bench. This changed the dynamics of the match almost immediately as England’s worst starting striker sought to get in behind the City defence and on to the passes that would inevitably come from Mahrez. But the Blues hadn’t read the script and it was with some ease that they resolutely defended the barrage of set pieces, which because of Fuchs involvement included a number of long-range throw-ins. The tiring Zinchenko struggled against the renewed power of Mahrez, but he could not make it count as Vardy wasn’t getting into the correct places.

With ten minutes left a collision of heads saw Mangala forced to leave the field, unable to stop the bleeding and this meant that Guardiola entered Kyle Walker, the reshuffle seeing Danilo move to centre and Walker slot in on the right. As the ninety-minute mark approached, Pep decided to “blood” Nmecha, a local lad from Wythenshawe and Dele-Bashiru, a robust-looking young man very much in the Yaya Toure mould.

I think unexpectedly, referee Bobby Madley saw fit to add on eight additional minutes and it was in the seventh of those that Gray ventured into the City penalty area and without any contact took to the grass leaving Madley pointing to the spot. Walker was the man penalised. How significant that the referee who presided over City’s only Premier League points loss so far this season, and sent Walker off in the bargain, now levelled things up here with a penalty that never was. Up stepped the absentee Vardy to send the match into extra time.

This left Pep in a dilemma. Now, most of the players on show were under 21 and Leicester had more or less a Premier League starting eleven on the field. But fair play to City. They confidently kept the Foxes at bay, despite constant assistance from the referee in the royal blue favour and just as it did against Wolves in the last round, the match went to penalties. Once again the ABBA system was in play and once again it worked in City’s favour. And it was in his order of taking selection that Puel made his major mistakes.

Although Fuchs was first man down for Leicester, City used the experience of Gundogan first to get their shoot-out on the move. Leicester scored their two and City their next two through Yaya and a very confident Nmecha sent Hamer all over the place. Next up was de Jesus who also had Hamer grabbing handfuls of fresh air in one corner while he steered the ball the other way. 3-4 City.

Now it was time, time for the rescue squad to do their work. Up stepped Vardy. He hit it the same way as he had during the match but this time found the outside of the post. Mahrez followed him to the spot and tried a down-the-middle only to find Bravo waiting for it, turning himself in mid-dive to keep it out. So City were through. Arsenal also progressed beating West Ham 1-0.

On Wednesday it was down to Stretford’s finest and Chelsea to present the expected semi-final line up. Chelsea just about saw off Bournemouth 2-1 after the south coast side had equalised in the 90th minute only for Chelsea to restore their lead in stoppage time.

At Ashton Gate in Bristol though, something completely unexpected was playing out as Bristol City scored deep into stoppage time to eliminate United to ignite unprecedented scenes of joy at the head of the West Country.

Mourinho couldn’t believe it and his face at the end was a picture. But such a lack of dignity has this man, that he told the viewing world that Bristol were “lucky” and all the “luck” went with them. What he refused to do, until some time later was pan his players for a no-show. He, too might have made changes, but those changes included Pugba and the clown prince Ibrahimovic in a team that included the boy-wonders Rashford and Martial. No words of well-done to a team that cost a couple of weeks of Zlatan’s wages and worse still he didn’t do the Bristol manager the honour of sharing a drink with him form a bottle of Portuguese wine that cost £450. The sooner the Premier League is rid of this pathetic excuse for a football manager the better. Even the Stretfords on today’s phone-ins were saying they were sick of him, sick of the atrocious, unappetising tactics and sick of falling a long way behind City.

I for one will not gloat. My work colleagues who support United have been waiting for it all day, but I just went about my day’s work and left them to stew. We know that in the 2-leg semi-final, Pep will play an experimental side in at least one leg and it could just see City facing the same problems as United. The only thing for sure is that City will not find themselves unmotivated. That is not he gospel according to Saint Pep.

At least United can concentrate on the FA Cup now.

Click for the forum