The pairing of Manchester City and Manchester United has illuminated the FA Cup third round draw. It is a fixture that thrills the senses of the incurable romantics and nostalgics alike, for whom the event of the draw still forms one of the highlights of the football season. Whilst it won’t compensate for the decade-long decline of the competition, the match is nonetheless a timely reminder of the quirks that continue to make the FA Cup the most iconic domestic cup competition around.
Before attention turned to the FA Cup draw, City were once more in a ruthless mood as they decimated a gauchely attack-minded Norwich City. The Canaries intentions were admirable, their convictions less so. The result was never in doubt.
At the forefront of City’s latest dominant display was Sergio Aguero. Full of the endeavour that once endeared Carlos Tevez so passionately to the City support, he possesses a grace and naturalism that elevates him beyond his compatriot. The fusion of artistry and artisanship culminated in the opening goal in the 32nd minute. Scurrying to reach a Micah Richards cross, he was faced with four Norwich defenders converging upon him. In one touch, he had deceived all four. The space earned to shoot, he threaded the ball deliciously through the legs of two opponents into the bottom corner. A statement of superiority, no doubt, and one made with real conviction.
The speed at which City attack, and the brilliance with which Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero interlink in attack is matched only by their constant harassing and haranguing of the opposition. Perhaps weakness can be found at the heart of the defence, where Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure – picked ahead of the England international for his first start if the season – have not convinced as partners for Vincent Kompany. However, the pressure exerted out of possession right from the front asphyxiated Norwich, stifling any attack at source.
Chances came and went, with Aguero surprisingly profligate, before the second half goal glut. Samir Nasri’s free-kick deceived everybody as it dropped kindly into the bottom corner, before Yaya Toure’s smart finish capped another typically energetic midfield display. Briefly Steve Morison threatened a comeback, but this was soon rendered an afterthought as gloss was added to the scoreline with late goals courtesy of Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson; the enigmatic Italian notching his with his shoulder.
City’s football, in its glorious daring and rich with attacking intent, invokes the ideals of Danny Blanchflower, the captain of the great Spurs double-winning side of 1961. In famously proclaiming that “football is about glory, it is about doing things with a style and a flourish,” he produced the blueprint to which Mancini’s men today adhere. They are winning, and they are winning with panache and bravado. David Platt, standing in for Roberto Mancini in conducting after-match press duties, was a little more understated. “We’d be happy with just one, so long as one doesn’t go in at the other end,” he solemnly declared. Despite Platt’s pragmatism, there is no doubt about it: an attacking City is indubitably a fearsome prospect.
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