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Man City & Liverpool bore Eastlands

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Phil McNulty | 22:02 UK time, Sunday, 21 February 2010

In an old Monty Python sketch, the fictional East End gangland duo of Doug and Dinsdale Piranha used to exact revenge on rivals by nailing their heads to coffee tables.

It is impossible to imagine how this vicious form of comedy retribution might actually feel - but try the pain inflicted by watching Manchester City and Liverpool at Eastlands and you might just get a good idea.

Liverpool left with a point and £25,000 rifled from their less-than-bulging coffers by way of a fine imposed for collecting six yellow cards. This was a minor offence because the major crime on the charge sheet was committed by both City and Liverpool, namely impersonating teams with serious ambitions to reach next season's Champions League.

If fortune favours the brave then City and Liverpool will not be in the top four at season's end because Eastlands was littered with frightened men, on the pitch and in the technical area, and it resulted in a thoroughly wretched football match.

They were men who were frightened of defeat and its potential consequences. The climate of fear hung over Eastlands like a bad smell, so it was somehow appropriate that City and Liverpool stank the place out.

In the interests of fairness to Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and his Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez, it is only right to get the mitigating circumstances out of the way first.

Roberto Mancini (left) and Rafael Benitez saw their sides serve up some tepid fare

City were robbed of the inspirational Carlos Tevez, in Argentina with Mancini clearly in the dark about his date of return, and could only place Craig Bellamy on the bench after his recent injury.

Benitez, in turn, could only call on Fernando Torres for a tetchy 15-minute cameo following his lengthy absence after knee surgery and he was unable to influence affairs.

There the sympathy ends because there was simply no excuse for the embarrassing lack of quality, ambition and drive in evidence from two teams with grand designs on finishing fourth and taking their place in Europe's elite group next season.

From first to last there was an absence of action, entertainment, technique and a simple willingness to go and win a vital football match. If you think this sounds bad, in reality and in the flesh it was probably worse.

There was a moment of gallows humours as the players left the field at half-time to the strains of Journey's sugar-coated AOR anthem "Don't Stop Believin'" - believe me it was tough to follow the message and thousands inside Eastlands had stopped long before referee Peter Walton ended the torture.

England rugby union manager Martin Johnson has copped flak this week for admitting: ''Playing rugby isn't about what people want to see." At Eastlands on Sunday it appeared some of that pragmatic oval ball philosophy had filtered through to Mancini and Benitez because there was no suggestion their main priority was customer satisfaction.

Mancini applied a veneer of satisfaction to City's performance, claiming they "played very well" - it is tough to agree with the Italian and it was noisily obvious that many of the locals did not agree with him either.

Benitez at least admitted this was a result that was not beneficial to either City or Liverpool, although the cautious (a kind description) approach of the two managers actually suggested they would have happily settled for a point before kick-off.

Lots of talk about organisation and cancelling each other out, but there was so much more to why this highly-anticipated encounter turned out to be arguably the worst game I have seen this season.

Set against the unambitious, negative tactics of both managers, we had two sets of players unable or unwilling to take the slightest risks, conceding possession with alarming regularity and allowing the game to degenerate into a morass of mediocrity.

There were two shots on target - shared between the sides - and City's new boy Adam Johnson did at least attempt to inject some urgency into affairs before tiring. This, a Martin Skrtel header and late penalty claim when Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun refused to hit the deck after he was fouled by Vincent Kompany (he shouldn't actually have to hit the deck to get a penalty if he has been fouled) provided just about the sum total of so-called incident.

Liverpool have the easier run-in as they eye fourth, but there can be no guarantees of the sort given by Benitez if they play in this unadventurous manner.

No-one would seriously expect Liverpool's manager to arrive at Eastlands and let all guns blaze, but this time last year Benitez hit on an attacking style that served his team brilliantly in the closing months of the season.

The struggles of this season appear to have made him ditch this approach and return to his default option of conservatism. It has made Liverpool more effective defensively in recent weeks but is not easy on the eye.

Human nature perhaps made the approach of the two managers inevitable. The smart money might be on neither being in their current posts at the start of next season should they fail to achieve the minimum requirement of a place in the top four.

Mancini's brief Eastlands reign has been a strange, colourless affair so far despite City doing themselves great credit in the Carling Cup semi-finals against Manchester United.

He has tightened City up at the back, but the overall effect does not appear to have made them markedly better than they were under the sacked Mark Hughes.

And three draws in the space of a week could soon have chief executive Garry Cook studying the infamous "trajectory of results" that did for Hughes on his "Trajectory of results-ometer", or whatever device he uses to judge his manager's progress.

Talk of dressing room unrest has not helped Mancini either, although if speculation that bones of contention are long practice sessions and training times being changed on a whim is true, this is hardly likely to garner great sympathy from supporters.

What will frustrate City supporters, and some of their ire was being directed at Mancini, will be a failure to take advantage of the flaws of others in this unpredictable season and grab what should be a wonderful opportunity to set the platform for progress next term with Champions League football as an added attraction.

And if we are to take what was on offer at Eastlands on Sunday as a guide, it offered more hope and encouragement for Aston Villa, Tottenham and sudden long-shots Everton than it did for either City or Liverpool.

There was one moment of good humour on a bleak day when Mancini offered a puzzled expression when quizzed in his media conference about the booing that greeted the final whistle.

"Booing?" he replied, clearly never having heard the expression. There followed some booing from the assembled journalists, just to help him out of course.

Mancini was gracious enough to laugh - but any more games like this and he will be grimly acquainted with exactly what real booing is.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Awful. Hit it right on I think here, I hadn't looked forward to a league game as much as this in terms of how much it could define our season. Lose and our miserable season takes a near fatal blow, win and 4th spot is almost entirely in our hands once again. But I don't think anything could prepare me for such an awful game.

    I find myself trying to justify the result and a draw is by no means a bad one away to City. Also as you state Liverpool, on paper at least, have the easier run in. But the football played to get a 0-0 was just nausea - inducing, Lucas in particular was dreadful.

    I still think we can get 4th spot, Torres will hopefully stay injury - free and Gerrard maybe can come close to anything like a 'captains' performance, but judging by that lack of ambition we certainly don't deserve it.

  • Comment number 2.

    Forgot to ask.. why isn't there talk of Mancini losing his job? I don't know the stats off the top of my head but he doesn't seem to be doing any better than Hughes did, so unless he's very very popular with City fans who are willing to go against their sheikh sugar daddy then he should be looking over his shoulder for a swinging axe.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well Phil, your comments arent unexpected. Just disappointingly predictable. The match was poor yesterday with both sides determined not to lose as a loss would probably end their involvemnent in the race for the last CL spot.

    3 out of 10 for the teams
    2 out of 10 for your blog.

  • Comment number 4.

    In a week where people have been sticking up for the fourth-placed team's right to Champions' League football Liverpool and Man City demonstrate just how silly that notion is. Neither of those teams deserve to play in Europe after that performance and the idea of them participating in Europe's (supposedly) premier competition seems nothing short of laughable. The fourth-placed team don't deserve to be in the Champion's League. Give the spot to the winners of the FA Cup.

  • Comment number 5.

    From first to last there was a surfeit of action, entertainment, technique and a simple willingness to go and win a vital football match. If you think this sounds bad, in reality and in the flesh it was probably worse.

    Surfeit: An excessive amount of something.

    The only thing that sounds bad is your vocabulary!

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm certain that most people around still remember fixed game between Austria and West Germany during 1982 World Cup. Well if you do remember that game but not watched tie between City and Liverpool then take my word for it. It was at least 5 times worse than that fixed game. There was no tactic, no strategy. It was just plain and simple garbage. How many games we witnessed where 0-0 was red hot exciting? Just compare games between top sides in the EPL for the past - let's say - 5 years. Not one of them was so bad, no that's the wrong word - ATROCIOUS. Simple explanation is that Liverpool and Manchester City are not top sides. We witnessed 2 very average teams fighting against relegation, not ChL contenders. And because of that both of them deserve finish outside ChL and Europa League spots.

  • Comment number 7.

    Another unnecessarily caustic blog aimed at Benitez (surprise surprise) and Liverpool and now Mancini and Man City find themselves in you sights. I'm afraid its not even thinly veiled any more.

    The Sun & Daily Mail would give your blog five stars, I'm sure.

  • Comment number 8.

    To Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake) surprise that you regard this as criticism of Benitez, and you are right because in parts it is. This was an awful game and I am not here to mount a defence for it or anyone involved.

    And if think my blog is "caustic", I would suggest it is mild compared to the view of some of my colleagues in the media this morning - and I support pretty much their every word.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mancini's unassertive manner when talking to the media seems to be reflected in his coy tactics... and because such football (without accompanying success) is anathema to the Man City dream it will surely be his demise.

    Man City need to be cautious that they don't instigate a managerial merry-go-round, while taking care not to let the club be sullied with a reputation of under-achievement in spite of investment... the more 'transitional seasons' they go through, the harder it will get for them to be taken seriously.

  • Comment number 10.

    that match was godawful to say the least....come on Charlie, are you saying you enjoyed that match?

  • Comment number 11.

    i watched the game yesterday and it was an abysmal performance by both the teams - a performance not expected from supposed top 4 contenders. one year before we had all 4 english teams fight in the CL for the top honours and have had a PL finalist in the last CL finals. But after watching the performance of teams this year, the quality of premier league has fallen alarmingly. Of course its tighter than ever but the quality of the top teams have dropped sharply.. once again we will become outsiders in CL

  • Comment number 12.

    Mancinin could have the excuse that it takes time to adjust to a league to understand the opposition and to learn to adapt your tactics, he could have. Benetez has no excuse at all. I can see neither of these teams finishing in the top 5, Spurs Villa and even Everton have all got over their dubious form, Birmingham could catch them too. I will be very very surprised and Happy to see Benetez at Liverpool next season.

  • Comment number 13.

    Supposedly touted to be the "Top Draw' of the weekend match with every pundit predicting a draw (1-1, 2-2, 3-3 draws). Well it met the expectation but not the entertainment.
    Well what do we expect with the inordinate amount of stonewalled and professional fouls especially on Ade?
    Yes, deservedly of a team fine if they don't entertained us!

  • Comment number 14.

    Once again, I am also finding myself trying to look at the positives of this performance by the reds. I can understand that, due to our horrific run, Benitez is trying to make us difficult to beat. Also, we were playing at a side who have excellent home form.

    It just seems like every game this season I feel like we are missing that creativity in central midfield (someone like.....Xabi Alonso). I hate to be one of those fans who keeps harping on about the loss of Xabi but it is so clear that we have missed him hugely. The problem with yesterday is that we also lacked invention in wide areas too. Maxi was really terible.

  • Comment number 15.

    it seems impossible for journalists to keep their feet on the ground about anything. you go mad last season when we beat man u madrid n villa scoring 13 goals in the process and you go mad when we get a goalless draw with villa. maybe if you didnt get swept off your feet so easily you wouldnt be brought back to earth so hard. sensationalist journalism.

  • Comment number 16.

    Mr Cynical on a cold and wet Feb morning. Interesting? Fun? Errrm, boring.

    An early goal by either side would have changed everything.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm not one to jump on the vendetta against Phil McNulty train that seems to manifest itself on your blog every time - personally I think you're a good writer and I enjoy reading your blogs - but, come on, possibly the most dour match so far this season is hardly one that warrants having a blog written about it. Seeing as how well Spurs and Villa did yesterday, maybe a "race for fourth place" blog would have been better? That way you'd still have been able to cover Liverpool ;)

  • Comment number 18.

    I have not seen such a drab affair since watching Hull v Pompey at the beginning of the season (and you expect that type of match to be dull).

    Manchester City have great attacking talent, and to an extent so do Liverpool. The players were devoid of ideas and not helped by a card happy referee.

    I still stick with my prediction that Liverpool will finish 4th.

  • Comment number 19.

    Unfortunately, both managers will view this as a point gained. They will be happy to square with all their immediate rivals ... rather than risk losing ... and let their results against other teams dictate league position.

    Liverpool have taken a backwards step this year and it's difficult to see how they can improve without an overhaul. The thick seam of mediocrity running through their squad is testament to their manager I'm afraid ... I think Rafa's sitting on that long term contract and waiting for the inevitable. The faith that the majority of the Liverpool support have for him is admirable but he has taken them as far as he can.

    As for Mancini? At least Hughes' City were a bit more exciting to watch. I didn't think at the time that he was quite a 'big' enough name for MCFC owners so if he's here this time next year I'd be surprised.

  • Comment number 20.

    As far I'm concerned I'm more than happy to see Man City & Liverpool bore the nation and leave with a point each. From what I heard on Five Live on the way back from Villa Park: Gareth Barry bottled another 'big match' and the rest of the overpaid strutting peacocks picked up their wages regardless of the result.
    Aside from the race for 4th, I'm loving the 3 other leagues within the Prem this season. The Big 3 going for the Big One, Everton etc looking safe in the middle and the amazing competition to see who can get relegated with Portsmouth.
    All-in-all not a bad season, despite this turkey of a game.

  • Comment number 21.

    These games! We critiscise but they serve their purpose. As an Arsenal fan I would have been much happier with two ´bore draws´ against United and Chelsea than the two results we got.

    What Liverpool and City have done is ensure that neither got an advantage and that may prove vital in the race for fourth place. As we have seen in many a title race in the past, its not what you do against your rivals that counts..its what you do against the rest.

    However, watching the game on Spanish TV, I did have a good laugh at the presenters critiscisms of the two teams. As an advert for the great prodcut we think we have, it was dire. All that money spent and that was the best the two could provide.

    As for Mancini, please, is it not time we started questioning the ability of those above the managers, the ones who decide who to hire and fire? Garry Crook has proven himself to be an idiot who clearly refuses to accept the fact that building a great team takes time. His mentality during the Kaka saga was proof he is not very good at what he does. Did he really beleive he would sign him! Perhaps we should question those who hired Mancini first before we allow them to sack him and put someone elses head on the block.

  • Comment number 22.

    To be absolutely honest I think most city fans would have accepted the point before yesterdays game and despite what anyone says I thought it was a really good tactical game, which we could all see; neither team wanted to lose, conesquently both teams were nervous and lacked adventure.
    Having said that, I was really pleased to see football, as it should be played, on the floor for a change; the last few games against Hull, Bolton, Portsmouth and the two Stoke games were AWFUL!. This aerial ping pong that we've been served up in recent weeks is, did I say previously AWFUL! and was getting to the point where I don't want to watch it anymore.
    The next few games are going to be slightly different, as we have quality teams to play instead of the teams battling to stay up, who tend to play the rough and tumble game.
    Let us hope we can, at least put up a similar showing againt the likes of Chelsea to gain a point and play with a bit more adventure against Spurs and Villa. But firstly let's get past this next encounter with the battling Stoke, again!

  • Comment number 23.

    #17 Or a taking stock situation on who has missed who more, Ronaldo from United, Alonso from Liverpool or Lescott from Everton hahahahaha

  • Comment number 24.

    Terrible game, a complete lack of movement led to players second guessing each ther all over, the worst part was... Stevie was possibly the laziest person on the pitch, at times Lucas or Mascha were looking for a pass and he was just wandering aimlessly along, never even looking for the ball. He seriously needs someone to give him a kick up the ****. Rafa you need to put him back into midfield and put Aquilani in the more offensive position! Maxi had a better game, but again the turgid midfield left him with few options. Kuyt was worse than N'Gog has been all season and Babel had a relapse. Mascha was lucky to stay on (but that always seems to be the case) and Lucas again played his teammates into trouble time after time. A frustrating weekend, where's the progress?

  • Comment number 25.

    I can somehow understand the fear factor that Liverpool has, as they will be huge losers if they don't make the Champions league, but City have nothing to lose really. No matter what happens this season they will have the ability to spend huge for next season. City should have really went for it. All they gained was one point in any case.

  • Comment number 26.

    'There the sympathy ends because there was simply no excuse for the embarrassing lack of quality, ambition and drive in evidence from two teams with grand designs on finishing fourth'


    You've pretty much summed it up right there, Phil...'grand designs on finishing fourth'. Finishing fourth - what would have been considered miserable and utter failure for a Liverpool manager just a few seasons ago - is now enough to claim some sort of success and justification for continuance in the job. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel then finishing fourth has become the last refuge of the feeble.

    And yet we live in this fantasy land of UEFA's making where it stands for something, where managers openly admit that they'd rather finish fourth in the league so they can qualify for another competition they haven’t a hope in hell of winning rather than take a punt of actually winning something like a domestic cup. Madness, sheer madness.

  • Comment number 27.

    If it wasn't for the media (including you, Phil) spending so much time and effort 'bigging up' the 'Sky Four/Five', you would have realised a long time ago that this game was always very likely to be a bore draw. You might not have guessed quite how boring, but the boredom was all but inevitable - and distracted you from the other, far more interesting games yesterday - Villa being attacked by Burnley and forced to find their form, Spurs and Wigan struggling wonderfully in a true quagmire, with the 'Arry/Pav' show for added fun, and Big Sam's Blackburn crushing the Messiah's Bolton in a game with so many excellent angles to discuss that it's hard to know where to start... from all the revenge to the Messiah's failure to find even a first 'coming', to that magnificent blizzard!

    ...but no. You've created the Big Four/Five mythology, so you've got to maintain it, against all the other excitement. You made your bed, I suppose, so you'd better lie in it....

  • Comment number 28.

    More boring than the way Chelsea play?
    This article is more boring that Man City and Liverpool.

  • Comment number 29.

    who cares if it was boring, both teams got what they wanted, and they are still in well in the race for 4th, i think the key could be torres, if he can get match fit, having barely played this season, hopefully he could come into form in last 10 games

  • Comment number 30.

    4. TheTomTyke wrote:

    The fourth-placed team don't deserve to be in the Champion's League. Give the spot to the winners of the FA Cup.
    Since the winner of the FA cup is ivariably one of the top four, don't see any real point in changing the systme

  • Comment number 31.

    Re: #26 - excellent point well made.

    Reaching the Champions League would be a bit of a disaster for Villa to be honest, whereas winning the Carling Cup (and possibly the FA Cup too) would be a huge boost. UEFA / Europa fixtures mean far less to me than a Wembley Cup Final and I'm pretty sure I speak for most Man City / Spurs / Everton and even Arsenal fans too.

  • Comment number 32.

    i think the real big club in liverpool is obviously everton

    after the performance against man city. liverpool should just elect themselves to be relegated to save everyone from watch such utter dross ever again.

    i think benitez should be sacked jjust for the simple reason he keeps playing that headless chicken DIRK KUYT. he should be hung drawn and quartered for being so oblivious to the fact that kuyt is not a tevez work man like player.

    tevez actually scores goals
    tevez can actually cross the ball
    tevez can make a FORWARD pass. note the word FORWARD.

    fat rafa if you are reading this. please stay at liverpool as you are a doing a sterling job from keeping liverpool winning anything

    and before all you liverpool fans start getting excited about my post


    change the record now. its getting olddddddddd

    ahh i love moaning about krappy liverpool

    on a more positive note. glad to see torres back. he can go nicely in my premier league fantasy team.

  • Comment number 33.

    17.Crazyteknohed wrote:

    ....but, come on, possibly the most dour match so far this season is hardly one that warrants having a blog written about it.
    Ahh but then Phil covers the match he's watched, perhaps he should have realised that this match was going to be so poor and watched a different one? is that what you're trying to say?

  • Comment number 34.

    Those teams trying to get into the Top 4 this season will be absolutely kicking themselves if they fail to do so. For all of the controversies and fluxuations in Liverpool's form, the other teams have simply failed far too often to take full advantage.

    Teams like Man City or Villa or Tottenham, for example, could've had a healthy lead in fourth or third place by now. Instead they have stumbled when they needed to run, fallen when they needed to walk.

    Still plenty of games left to go but someone really needs to grab the bull by the horns and go for it. This terrible game is what happens when you have two teams terrified of losing but terrified of trying to win either.

  • Comment number 35.

    You would expect a kind of conservtive attitude from Mancini but at home is outrageous. Man City want respect from building a team worthy of that elusive 4th spot, and as for Liverpool. Well if they get CL qualification then woe betide Wednesday nights in front the TV!

  • Comment number 36.

    Don't any of you recal the previous two results between these teams?

  • Comment number 37.

    Appaling game. It was like a Serie 'A' game from the 1980s - cautious and defensive, completely risk averse. Square pass to square pass to square pass. This is not what the EPL is about. Dreadful stuff. If I had paid for a ticket I would demand a refund on the basis that the game was in breach of the trade descriptions act!

  • Comment number 38.

    A simple fix to the problem - three points for a win, one point for a score draw, no points for a nil-nil.

  • Comment number 39.

    So what if Rafa sends arguably the most boring Liverpool teams ever to play the kind of mind-numbing, eye-hurting, stultifyingly rubbish football us fans have ever seen. So what if we struggled to get past a pub team in the Mickey Mouse Cup on Thursday? That we lost to Pompey and Reading, that after employing more than 60 new players and spending millions and millions he has sent the team back to worse than we were under Houllier's last season 5 whole years ago matters not a jot. Well, not to a lot of Liverpool fans. In Rafa We Trust, they shout. Let's give this guy a P45 pronto, I cant wait to see the back of him.

  • Comment number 40.

    8. At 07:58am on 22 Feb 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    And if think my blog is "caustic", I would suggest it is mild compared to the view of some of my colleagues in the media this morning - and I support pretty much their every word.

    I refer you to my comment "The Sun & Daily Mail would give your blog five stars, I'm sure."

    You've vaunted Man Utd pretty much all season while taking fairly cheap shots (in my opinion) at Liverpool and particularly Benitez. A nice piece on what victory over Man Utd means to Everton. But then where was the blog when a 10 man Liverpool outfought and out played an in form Everton side in the recent Merseyside derby? Did you conveniently have that week end off?

    So I challenge you. Lets see if you can write something entirely positive about Liverpool without the need to have a pop at Benitez. Can you do it? I wait with baited breath.......

  • Comment number 41.

    Seems like the 4th place is viewed as a poison challace as everyone is falling over themselves to try and avoid it. It has been mentioned Arsenal have the easier run in but I doubt it. There will be more points dropped before the end of this season. Stoke won't fall over like some other teams do. I can see Owen Coyle being responsible for 2 teams being relegated this season. Wonder if any manager has ever done that?
    I understand you report on the matches Phil but we are crying out for more insight into the overall league. Perhaps you could do a "state of the league" blog every so often.

  • Comment number 42.

    First, a couple of points in defence of the blogger, who is right on the nail in terms of his assessment of this game:

    1 - #17, I think that Phil generally writes about the game that he attended at this time in the week. Surely that's the sensible option? And, on paper, this game did merit a blog.

    2 - #27, Journalists didn't create the 'big 4 mythology' and on top of that, it isn't a mythology. The term is there because of the number of times the same teams have finished in the top 4 places in the EPL. The teams created it. Actually, most journos I've read have seemed pretty excited about the fact that the 'big 4' are now being threatened by a few other sides and that is the main reason that people were anticipating this game so much.

    Oh, and Phil has actually gone relatively easy on the sides and managers involved compared to some of the papers this morning.

    I certainly don't agree with everything Phil says (pre-season predictions spring to mind) but he makes more sense than the vast majority of people who come on here slating him. If people disagree, why not comment on the reasons why and your alternaive viewpoint. Just reading all of the 'rubbish blog' comments becomes dull. Even more dull, dare I say it, than yesterday's game!

  • Comment number 43.

    To Ryushinku...agree totally. Whoever misses out on fourth must regard it as a huge opportunity missed. It is there for any one of Liverpool, Man City, Spurs, Aston Villa - and even Everton might just be having a little look after their recent results.

    As for the game itself, two things really struck me. The lack of urgency and, most concerning of all, the basic lack of quality.

    It was appalling to see the number of misplaced passes from Premier League players. Simple basics not performed.

    I am not sure it was the result either manager wanted because on closer inspection they may actually feel their opponents were there for the taking yesterday - and that applies to both Mancini and Benitez.

    And without there being any sort of revolt, there were genuine sounds of unrest towards Mancini yesterday. The impression still lurks that he will be a short-term appointment if fourth place is not achieved.

  • Comment number 44.

    Manchester City and Liverpool would like to apologise for the poor entertainment served up to Mr Mcnulty yesterday at eastlands.I am sure you must be livid that your all expenses paid for by the taxpayer jaunt turned out to be such a damp squib.However This being football we cannot guarantee you will be entertained on your freebies every time.If this is what you expect i suggest you become a tv critic.Personally i am happy with a point boring or not.

  • Comment number 45.

    Yesterday morning City were rumoured to be readying a bid of £140m for Torres and Gerrard. Is Torres really worth £139m?

  • Comment number 46.

    So to clarify, we are 11 games from the end of the season and Mr McNulty expects two sides battling for 4th to provide an exhibition in flowing football (despite one of those teams having provided sod all flair this season)?

  • Comment number 47.

    40. At 09:25am on 22 Feb 2010, Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake) wrote: "So I challenge you. Lets see if you can write something entirely positive about Liverpool without the need to have a pop at Benitez. Can you do it? I wait with baited breath......."

    Nope it's not possible, you need to wake up and smell the coffee mate. I understand it's hard to have your team on the end of criticism all the time, but frankly it's merited. By the way, your are criticising the only guy who actually tipped your team for the title.

  • Comment number 48.

    And without there being any sort of revolt, there were genuine sounds of unrest towards Mancini yesterday. The impression still lurks that he will be a short-term appointment if fourth place is not achieved.


    That is just pure comedy. "Oh well actually he was just a stop gap, until someone truly MASSIVE is available in the summer". They made a huge mistake getting him in the first place, at least Hughes sent sides out that played good football.

    What were they expecting with Mancini? Anyone who had watched his time with Inter Milan will know they were hardy a dynamic attacking force.

    After spending years and years putting all success down to money and money alone, they have made a great statement this season that not even an unlimited pot of gold can spare City from ridicule.

  • Comment number 49.

    I thought not...

    ... this is now the THIRD draw betwen these teams in a row. City have taken a point on each of their last two visits to Anfield... and both Chelsea and Arsenal will tell you about how difficult it is to come away from Eastlands with anything.

    Yes, it was a goaless draw. Yes, both managers decided against taking any risks. Mancini to preserve his sides unbeaten home record against a side that came back from 2-0 down to win 2-3 in the reverse fixture last year, Benitez attempting something neither Wenger nor Ancelloti acomplished this season by coming away with a precious point.

    And you complain about it?

    Every week, and you most of all Mr McNulty, complain that this is a results driven business. Why are any of you suprised this one ended goaless? Both managers got an acceptable result out of what could have been a tricky match, and now I will guarantee you neither of them will give it a second thought.

    Move on, nothing to see here...

  • Comment number 50.

    #43 Phil. The same could be said for the top three. This season more then ever, the league is the way it is because of the inconsistency of teams. Who would have expected Chelsea to lose as many as they have - and to the teams they have!

  • Comment number 51.

    Usually enjoy reading your blogs Phil, but I find this one completely OTT. No mention of the appalling performance of Mr Walton and his equally atrocious linesmen yesterday, that most certainly did not help the game. The game was spoilt by one of the mosy cynical Liverpool sides I've seen. There sole intention seemed to be to do damage to as many City players as possible. How Mascherano stayed on for that challenge on Barry I'll never know......wonder if the FA will review the video for that a-la, thought not.
    I suggest had Liverpool turned up with an intent to play football the game might have been much "better".....given that we seem to have to have 6 goals in a game these days to warrant calling it a decent game.

  • Comment number 52.

    ....also, the sounds of unrest you heard were the crowd booing the referee and linesmen.......I'd have thought that was starkly obvious to anyone AT the game. No-one was booing the City side!

  • Comment number 53.

    One question from someone fortunate not to have watched this.Was this worse than Switzerland v Ukraine from the last World Cup?

  • Comment number 54.

    30. At 09:00am on 22 Feb 2010, Tony wrote:

    Since the winner of the FA cup is ivariably one of the top four, don't see any real point in changing the systme

    The only one of the big four left in the cup this year is Chelsea. Since they look to be finishing in the top two the spot should go to the FA Cup runners up rather than rewarding the mediocrity that is fourth in the league. Over the past decade Southampton, Millwall, West Ham, Portsmouth and Everton would have benefitted and would have been far more deserving than a team finishing fourth. When teams can produce a game that awful simply because of a desire to finish fourth - FOURTH - something is drastically wrong.

  • Comment number 55.

    The MOTD pundits had it spot on last night especially Slaven Bilic. Man City players have no ambition despite the fact that all the money mercenaries that signed for them gave the clubs ambition as a reason for going there. They just turn up and collect their overinflated pay cheques, they don't really care if they make it to the Champions League next season. As for Liverpool it's time to just accept that they are an extremely poor side who despite going on some kind of good run recently, barely impressed during it. Torres won't save them.

    Both teams should look across Merseyside to Everton for a great example of how to play as a team. Working hard for each other and their fans and giving the impression that they actually want to be playing on the pitch rather than out spending their wages.

    As for Kíllìnghölmê_Clá¥, jealous of Man Utd at all? I'm never one to defend Phil McNulty but he's been very pro-Liverpool in recent seasons and this one too up until about Christmas. Get the chip off your shoulder and concentrate on supporting your fading team.

  • Comment number 56.

    Awful game between two defensive minded sides: reminded me of an Erikkson England match with no adventure or risk taken. Having said that the match between the top two Chelsea v Man Utd was a pretty dire game (as most of the games between the top defences tend to be) so I guess 1 game is no indication of overall quality.

    I do agree that the number of Premiership players who misplace passes though seems to have gone through the roof this season and the general quality of matches seems to have gone down alarmingly (even though the drop in defensive quality has seen more goals). Even your flavour of the month Wayne Rooney consistently displayed dreadful technique this weekend so not sure what has happened to basic ball control skills of the top players.

  • Comment number 57.

    Ohhh i see, so now the team that deserves 4th place is the one who plays the prettiest football. Well in that case why don't we just play 11 forwards and try to outscore the other team, and if we happen to loose well never mind as long as Phil's entertained!

  • Comment number 58.

    #42, there IS a mythology of the Big 4/5. It's a mythology based on an assumption that all that really matters is the Champions League. Of course it's simply true that those four sides have dominated the Champions League qualifying places for ages - but is that really all that matters? Football can and should be about far more than that - every team has something to play for, every player his own story, and all the plots and subplots can be fascinating - but the media focusses only on the top four, MOTD relegates every game which doesn't have one of them in it to a miserable minute or two at the end....

    ....and it's a rare blog that doesn't do the same.

  • Comment number 59.

    Well Phil

    Nothing changes with you the prize at the end of the season is a place in the CL. Football always produces games as bad as this. one but the prize was created by the poor as LFC have been this season there still in there what that says about the PL is there to see.As to your season by season attack on Rafa which i see refrains this year from guessing removal from the post it is getting a bit boring. Keep talking up Everton and you will fail keep quiet and i will worry.Bitter man

  • Comment number 60.

    Some parts of this article are true while others aren't, Phil.

    Rarely do top-of-the-table billings deliver entertainment (Man U Vs Chelsea earlier in the season), and rarely do they not get as cagey as yesterday's affair when the stakes are so high.

    The game began with both teams: 1) Not possessing much confidence going by previous matches, 2) Missing some key players, and, 3) Not wanting to lose.

    This must have informed the respective tactics employed by Mancini (as host) and Rafa. The one team I expected to attack more was the home team but this didn't happen. I feel that such aspects should be incorporated into articles as this.

    The Reds, having suffered defensive frailties this season and lacking pace (bar Babel), was set up to negate the wing play of Man City (SWP and Johnson), middle attacking prowess of Ireland and Barry, and the lethal front potency of Adebayor. In fact to me it was more of recognition of the attacking threat MCFC possessed that made LFC set up as they did.

    The battle for fourth place is hotting up all the time, with any of Spurs, Villa, Man City, LFC and even Everton, potential occupants come May. Modern soccer is about tactics and points and a draw was fair enough to me.

    This game is not the season changer it's made out to be with teams inconsistent from one week to the next. The true implications of this result will only be known come May.

    I will also give credit to Benayoun for not tumbling to win a penalty even though I thought one should have been awarded. I wish more players would embrace such a spirit.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    Yes it was dire, but the booing from the City fans was actually directed at the referee who didn't give City a snif all game. Liverpool got 6 yellow cards but should have had a lot more with at least 3 sendings off for multiple cards. How he failed to give Mascherano a red card for the crunching 'tackle' on Bary is beyond me. Then he didn't spot the blatant shove on Adebayor I don't know (a more blatant penalty I have not seen all season). I just tank goodness Benyoon didn't go down because the ref gave Liverpool any free kick they fell down for. Just like last season in fact. The clown should never referee a City game again because he is clearly biast.

  • Comment number 63.

    I honestly did not think the game was that bad - a midfield battle with few chances at either end , i thought liverpool out - clogged city & mascherano was lucky to stay on the field . far too much moaning at present by city fans - mancinis tactics are often not pretty on the eye but he is still getting results ? defence looked a lot better yesterday without toure - i would far rather city bore their way to the top 4 and/ or wembley this season , than play lovely pretty football and finish eighth !

  • Comment number 64.

    I was very impressed to see how everybody said the game was boring. Man City fans, Liverpool fans, the BBC website and even the pundits on Match Of The Day... yet it still got a full 10 minutes of runtime and plonked second on the agenda. MOTD2 should have just aired the Dinsdale Brothers Sketch.

  • Comment number 65.

    Phil, Phil, Phil surely we were watching different games.....for me it wasn't a boring draw by any means, there's more to football than flair and goals, sounds like you're going all American on us. The only thing that was boring was the associated journalism.....standards need to improve all round but if this is what we can expect from the BBC's chief football writer - how can you call the two sides unadventurous when week in, week out we get these dull diatribes. A very dour display...

  • Comment number 66.

    Is it conceivable that Everton could make a late surge and gatecrash the top four? Look at their fixtures from now until end of the season. Every one is winnable.

  • Comment number 67.

    Kingholme aka charlie cheescake (please, instead of supporting Liverpool, just change yr name!)
    What planet are you on? Im a Liverpool fan but believe me i havent seen such a negative, boring Pool side in years. Asking someone to write a positive on us at the moment is like asking someone to crawl down Everest blindfold.

    We're just not there this season for whatever reason (lack of investment, Xabi's departure, injuries, poor player form, selections)-i for one cant watch us anymore -id rather have teeth pulled. See Ch 5 arent covering 2nd leg on Thurs -must have been alarmed at the low viewing figures last Thurs. Everton are playing much better football than us at the mo -and you cant say its because they have more money.

  • Comment number 68.

    This game reminded me so much of the recent Arsenal v Liverpool fixture at the Emirates, - up until half time. Albeit the second was a little livelier. In that game Arsenal were low on confidence after recent poor results, as were Liverpool after a series of mediocre results and performances, with both teams seemingly scared to lose, the City v Liverpool was exactly the same.

    Call this coincidence but for me, the common factor in both the games, - which as a consequnce contributed to such a dire affair on both occasions, is simply Liverpool's lack of ambition.

    Liverpool won't deem a point at Eastlands a poor result, - but the way they and City played in fairness, surely can't impress anyone. For me Liverpool at the moment are going into games with the mind set let's not lose anymore ground on our top 4 rival candidates, while we are without Torres, - consildating if you like. When Torres does return it will undoubtedly give Liverpool a huge lift whether it's enough it remains to be seen.

    A point behind having played one game more is by no means a disater for Liverpool, however losing would have meant four points behind, having played a game more, which would have made it difficult for them albeit not impossible giving the natuure of the league this year.

    What a contrast however between the Everton United game, and this one!

  • Comment number 69.

    Could you blame the City players for lacking motivation?

    IF city qualify for the Champions league, then they will be able to attract some truly WORLD CLASS players (maybe even make a serious approach for the likes of Kaka this time).

    So could the current crop of players really be blamed for yesterdays performance. Surely the majority must be thinking that IF they qualify for the Champions League, their own future at the club would be in jeopardy?

    A lot of people, myself included, regard certain city players as mercenaries for leaving their former (bigger, better) club purely for money - so it's ironic that should they achieve their objective of Champions League qualification, then those same players might be shown the door when the inevitable new set of (better) players arrive.

  • Comment number 70.

    "The climate of fear hung over Eastlands like a bad smell".

    And who's responsible for these scary farts?? Oh yeah, the media!! So basically Phil you and your esteemed colleagues should take full responsibility for this rubbish game of football.

  • Comment number 71.

    If I of gone that game id be asking for a refund. They should introduce a rule where each side must have at least 2 shots on target each before the game can finish

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    I only saw the MOTD highlights, and from that I can honestly say I had more fun the last time I sat and watched some paint dry....

    From yesterday's games I've got to go for Aston Villa to get the Champions League spot. With the players they have, especially if Stewart Downing starts coming into his own, and a manager as good as Martin O'Neill, they would be my choice. Don't fancy Spurs with their run in and City seem to be unable to get points on the road. I'd love to see a change to the boring 'everyone else battles for 5th' of the previous few seasons and as far as I see it now, I'd start talking about a 'top 3'.

  • Comment number 74.

    To Clarkeonenil...just to clarify. I didn't expect some sort of guarantee of free-flowing football, but what I did expect was some ambition, technique and not the error-riddled game we got yesterday.

    Supporters often accuse the media of seeing great games when in reality they are poor. In this case the media, including myself, have called it as they have seen it, called it correctly, and still get criticised.

    It was an awful, boring game. I cannot see how anyone who saw it could say anything different.

    As for the suggestion that the "Big Four" is a myth created by the media, a look at the Premier League table in the last few years might tell you otherwise. I personally hate the phrase, but there is no doubt a group of four clubs have dominated the table pretty much every year, apart from 2005 when Everton finished fourth.

    So let's throw out a challenge to those who feel there has been too much criticism of this game. Let's use a managerial catch-phrase and tell me what you would choose if you wanted to "take the positives" from the match.

    If I was Mancini or Benitez, I would be sitting at my desk today thinking if we had shown a little more tactical bravery and ambition we could have got a vital three points on Sunday.

  • Comment number 75.

    58. At 10:09am on 22 Feb 2010, spiritualwolf wrote:
    #42, there IS a mythology of the Big 4/5. It's a mythology based on an assumption that all that really matters is the Champions League. Of course it's simply true that those four sides have dominated the Champions League qualifying places for ages - but is that really all that matters? Football can and should be about far more than that - every team has something to play for, every player his own story, and all the plots and subplots can be fascinating - but the media focusses only on the top four, MOTD relegates every game which doesn't have one of them in it to a miserable minute or two at the end....

    ....and it's a rare blog that doesn't do the same.

    Spiritualwolf, I think mythology is the wrong term here, but don't want to get bogged down in semantics to be honest. The point is that it is hard to look at the EPL tables for the past few years and not argue that there is a big 4 - its no crime to label these sides as such.

    The other bottom line is that there are arguably now 3 teams who could realistically win the league and are virtually assured CL qualification. For the chasing pack, this season IS all about CL qualification and that 4th spot.

    That said, I do agree with your point that every team should have something more to play for and I hate those 'dead games' at the end of the season where there isn't a relgation/title/CL place at stake and the effort shown is conspicuously less than earlier in the season. Players shoudl be giving 100% regardless of the game. They should be playing for the club that pays them, the fans that pay the club and for their own personal pride. Sadly, this is something that seems to be diminishing as the years go by and as footballers become more and more dislocated from the towns and cities they represent and the fans that they should be playing for. This is why players like Rooney, Gerrard and even Terry capture the imagination of the fans so much.

    Personal highlight of the EPL for me this weekend (and I don't support any EPL side and have nothing against Man U) was seeing Everton defeat Man U with two goals from homegrown players who have come up through the ranks. The fact they both sought each other out at the final whistle to share their achievement was great to watch.

  • Comment number 76.

    It was a dire game I'll give you that, but people like Tom Tyke saying neither of the sides deserve Europe after it are just being silly and obviously don't watch a lot of football. There are bad games all the time, remember all the "bore-draw" games between Mourinhos Chelsea and Liverpool? Remember Man-Utd losing to Fulham or Burnley earlier this year? Abject performances but does that mean if they won the title it would be undeserved? Or maybe we should look at when Chelsea showed a lack of steel when losing to Wigan, probably don't deserve to win the title then. Nonsense. It was one bad game where both teams were set out not to lose because for some ridiculous reason they don't want to lose their job, silly I know, what with the huge levels of job security involved with being a football manager.
    Anyway, yes we played awful but we got a point which most teams going to the City stadium would be happy with. If there had been some marginally better finishing in a couple of moments and it was 1-1 nobody would even make news out of it, it would just have been a slightly boring match. Don't know what people expect with the amount of defensive mids and lack of playmakers on the pitch.

  • Comment number 77.

    Phil, I wasn't suggesting at all that the idea of a Big Four is something created by the media - perhaps you should read my comments more carefully! I'm suggesting that what the media has built (or perhaps bought into) is an obsession only with results - and particularly with the Champions League - over the other issues in football, like entertainment, like teams who have different chances and different measures of success, like individual players' stories and so forth.

    Do you see the point now? Yes, the big four dominate the table, but should the table be all that matters? If so, we'd all become plastic glory-hunting fans jumping to the next moneyed club that comes around. There ARE fans like that (too many of them!) but the majority of football fans aren't really like that at all. They follow their clubs with a passion that's born of much more than that, and that lives for much more than that.

  • Comment number 78.

    As for Liverpool, what on earth went wrong?

    They were a breath of fresh air at the end of last season, scoring plenty of goals, beating the likes of United, Real Madrid and thumping Villa - and at one point looked favourites for the title.

    Benitez likes to blame injuries and bad luck but that surely papers over the cracks? Chelsea, United and Arsenal have as many (or more) injuries and plenty of bad luck too, yet they are fighting for the title, as well as the Champions League. But most alarming is Liverpool's style of football. Conservative, scrappy, dull, 'lets see if we can scrape a one nil' - I'm guessing that even the most ardent Liverpool fan isn't happy with that approach?

    The truth is, Benitez's transfer record is appalling. Yes they might have been missing a few key players but if anything that's where a good manager comes in to his own. I'm sorry to say but Aquilani looks a flop to me, Rodriguez is lightweight and there is a complete lack of invention or finesse. Benitez continues to show faith in the likes Ngog and Lucas (useful players but hardly world class) and meanwhile the full-back who Benitez blew most of his summer budget on, sits injured on the sidelines.

    'In Rafa we trust' says the flag on the Kop. While I think it is commendable that scousers stick by their manager so much, I just don't understand it. It seems like blind loyalty to me.

  • Comment number 79.

    @48 - City are currently 5th, level on points with Spurs with a game in hand. We remain currently the best placed team to achieve 4th, so it's hardly been an unmitigated disaster has it? What have our owners done that suggests to you that their short-time at the club hasn't provided anything other than a huge leap forward for the club? So I ask you, why exactly should we be deserving of ridicule?

    As for the game - yes it was pretty dire. But for some to use one game (where one hell of a lot was at stake for both teams) as some kind of indicator as to how good or bad a team actually is is nothing but pure folly. If one wants to single out one game as some kind of proof that a team isn't good enough, then what's to stop me pointing to a different game that shows that we ARE deserving of a CL place? Indeed, whats to stop me from saying United are nowhere near being title-challengers based on their game against Everton at the weekend. Oh, but wait, they are title challengers aren't they? Just as Liverpool and City are challengers for 4th. Maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't judge any team on one single game, but instead over the entire season? Surely that's a better indicator as to whether a team is good enough for a top four place. Indeed, wait until the end of the season, have a look at the table then, and you'll get your answer as to which team is good enough for 4th.

  • Comment number 80.

    I wonder if Mr McNulty and the others who criticised the Man City-Liverpool game actually attended the match. I and most of the supporters I spoke to at the game thought that, for a 0-0 draw, it was a tense and exciting game between two evenly matched sides. Sure we would have liked some goals, but this is what football at the highest level is sometimes about.

  • Comment number 81.

    Yet another media over-reaction towards both City and Liverpool. Like many people (including Gareth Barry) have stated that neither team wanted to lose, which as a City fan playing at home is pretty bad news, but Mancini has been like this all the time - anyone who watched us play Pompey and Bolton knows we do everything the Italian way - go 1-0 and sit on it for the rest of the game, the old "If we don't concede we can't lose" mentality.

    The fact it was a game for the top four ambitions has blown everything out of proportion. I watched a bit of the Sunderland vs Stoke game the other week and I'd say that was even worse than this, it's only because this game had been hyped up all weekend that it's a disappointment to neutrals.

    Also we missed Tevez as much as Liverpool miss Torres, and with a half-fit Bellamy and an out-of-sorts Gerrard it was never going to be a classic, looking at the past 5 seasons in this fixture the results have been 2-3, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1 and 1-0. So that should have told you what to expect!

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    Well, I watched the game and thought it was pretty good.
    I think you'll find that City fans were a damn-sight happier after yesterday's match than they were after the previous Stoke encounter.
    City defended pretty well and remained focused for the whole 90. And that's certainly to be welcomed. Pablo Zabaletta played the best game I've ever seen him play.
    If what you call "dour" means not playing recklessly and throwing away 3 points for 1, City would be challenging for the title, never mind 4th.
    City are missing Carlos Tevez and a fully fit Bellamy. Adam Johnson looks very promising indeed.
    So, basically, all you neutrals can fall asleep all you like ;-)

  • Comment number 84.

    Not a good blog post, this. As usual you oversimplify by concentrating on two characters in the story - this time Mancini and Benitez. No suggestion of what they could have done instead - both managers have inept forwards, what other options did they have? And what happened to Ireland - the guys seem to have lost his quality three months into the season.

    Also, I can't help thinking that if Mancini was British you'd be more lenient. They guy's new to the Premiership, is working with a team he didn't pick and who are still learning his way of playing. City is very much a work in progress, at this stage they are concentrating on not leaking too many goals - which they are doing. It seems you enjoy piling the pressure on him just as a revenge for having dislodged your beloved Hughes.

  • Comment number 85.

    Deep heat, on reflection you're probably right - mythology is the wrong word. 'Cult' might be a better way to put it.... A cult based on a certain level of fact, but demanding almost total belief, obsession and obsequiousness...

  • Comment number 86.

    54.TheTomTyke wrote:

    The only one of the big four left in the cup this year is Chelsea.
    That's true, but this year is not really indicative of the norm is it?

    I don't think there have been many winners outside of the top four for the last ten or fifteen years and indeed many times both finalists have been in the top four.

    Would you then reward the team coming 3rd or 4th in the FA cup?

    Personally I think being the runner up in the FA Cup is less deserving than fourth in the league.

  • Comment number 87.

    It was like watching Andorra vs San Marino in the end of world cup qualification where both team predictably not going to be qualified to next round :p

  • Comment number 88.

    To be brutally honest, compared to Ancelotti or Moyes or even O'Neill what is there to like about Benitez? An extremely difficult person to like Benitez is arrogant, pompous is victory and nasty in defeat. I've never seen him put his and up and admit the error of his ways in anything (particularly a very questionable transfer policy - the very reason Liverpool are now a two-man team).

    Even Roy Keane took responsibility for Ipswich's woes last week, refreshing coming from a man who previously believed he was invincible. In a country where everyone his either right or too full of tehmselves to admit their errors (John Terry anyone?), Benites probably fits snugly in.

    I bet if Liverpool missed out on the 4th spot, he would have a prepared list of 'facts' to fall back on. He complains about funding all the time, yet the question I always ask is 'how much has Arsene Wenger had to spend in the same period'. Yet look at the improvement in their side and how many fine players they have produced. Yes they have not won any cup since 2005 but neither has Liverpool and any neutral would tell you Arsenal play proper football while Liverpool is just a team of hard-working donkeys

  • Comment number 89.

    Sadly this sort of fear factor football is becoming all too common in the Premier League. Anybody who had the misfortune to sit through Aston Villa's recent display at White Hart Lane could bear witness to the damage that is done to the game when a team playing away from home arrives with the severely limited ambition of simply trying to ensure that they do not lose. And they of course are not alone. Apart from perhaps the top three, the rest of the teams in the Premiership would, it appears, rather bore their opponents to death than provide any entertainment for the fans.

    Fear rules folks and it does not make for pretty football.

  • Comment number 90.

    Seem to remember an equally misguiding and ill-informed article last time the two sides met earlier in the season:

    Neither City or Liverpool are anywhere near the levels of football would like to be playing at and the game yesterday was hardly a spectacle.

    But inevitably a huge media over-reaction and inevitably from this particular blog another example of jumping on the bandwagon.

    I wonder who'll get the criticism next week??

    Won't be anyone else but Benitez or City


  • Comment number 91.

    Phil, have none of your mates ever told you how boring it is quoting Monty Python sketches?

    So, you and your media cohorts built this game up to be the Make-or-Break, Season-Defining, This-is-the-Big-One, Super-Sunday Exam for the Champions' League and now you're annoyed because neither team felt they could afford to lose? When an irresistible force - City unbeaten at home - meets the immovable object - Liverpool recovering from defensive nervous breakdown with several clean sheets - inertia should not be that big a surprise. Nor should you whine like a scrappy 0-0 draw has never happened before.

    If you really want to talk about Champions' League qualification then managing a boring 0-0 would seem to be one of the prerequisites. (Sources: Utd's semi with Barca, or Chelsea's cowardly attempt to bore Barca out of last year's semi under the supposed Total Football genius and tactical nous of one G. Hiddink, World Cup failure and popular Benitez replacement candidate among residents of Sesame St.)

    If fortune does favour the brave, you missed out when you predicted Liverpool would win the league after last season's display. It took no resources of courage, no stepping out on ledges or leaps of faith to make that prediction. But you did courageously remind us of this forecasting error earlier this season when you predicted (lesson not learned, then) that Liverpool and Benitez were now dead men walking. It was tantamount to admitting you don't really know what you're talking about and your predictions aren't worth the pixels they're written on.

    Still, you took a risk in predicting anything, huh? If you were a manager your team would be walking off to major applause from the neutrals for a sterling display, despite just having lost 1-0 and being out of the reckoning for 4th, when you were well aware of the importance of the match against a team unbeaten at home. Bravo. Now go explain what on earth you thought you were doing being so irresponsibly gung ho to the baying media and fans.

    So forgive me if I don't take your current predictions as anything more than the ramblings of a man poking about in the dark to appear like he knows where the light switch is.

    On behalf of both clubs allow me to apologise for wasting your admission fee. Shall I do a Silly Walk to cheer you up?

  • Comment number 92.

    In all honesty I defy any team to play attractive football against Liverpool. They are masters at turning games into the most mind-numblingly, eye-wateringly dull bore-athons.

    As a neutral it makes me angry to see the club of Bob Paisley, Shankley Kenny Dalglish and Keegan resorting to what can only be described as anti-football.

    I think it was Jorge Valdano who once equated a Liverpool v Chelsea game to watching excrement on a stick. I couldn't agree more and whilst as an Arsenal fan I would like to see Rafa stay for a long time, I hope for Liverpool's sake that he goes to Juve and allows Liverpool to move on.

  • Comment number 93.

    If I may offer a slight defence of why both managers may have chosen the tactics they did- had Liverpool lost this game, City would be four points ahead with a game in hand, making Liverpool up to seven points behind City in the hunt for fourth. Clearly, that is a situation that Benitez sought to avoid at all costs. By coming away with a draw, they are at worst four points behind if City win their match in hand. Therefore, not losing the match was more important then winning it.

    Much the same applies to City. Had they lost here they would have to win their game in hand in order to avoid being two points behind Liverpool. As it stands, even if they lose that game they are still one point ahead of them. Therefore, again, winning was less important then not losing. We can moan about it being an uninteresting game, but entertainment should not come under a manager's job description. They are judged solely on the results at the end of the day, and I don't think they should be pillored for adopting an approach that may serve both well at the end of the day.

  • Comment number 94.

    Dear Phil, I must say at the outset that I find your analysis of the beautiful game is invariably interesting and often brilliantly perceptive - you are one of only a handful of commentators who think for themselves. However, I fear there are signs that you are being inexorably pulled into the slowly swirling whirlpool of hostility against Manchester City. There is a constant flood of comments from media pundits, fans of other clubs, players and managers that seeps out on a daily basis, undermining the reputation of this great old club, whose supporters used to be lauded as the most loyal and darkly humorous in the country. It was once universally acknowledged that their devotion always increases as the plight of the club worsens in form and status! Just imagine what a kid who supported City had to deal with in the playground during the last thirty years! A typical example of ill-informed remarks were those by Mascherano yesterday that he wouldn't play for City since 'history' can't be bought - a breathtakingly ignorant comment about a club that is deeply rooted in time and place and which knows more about the vicissitudes of success and failure than nearly any other! History does not equate with winning trophies - do clubs like Portsmouth, Notts County and Bristol Ropvers not have wonderful and fascinating histories? And yet, his comments were reported widely by 'serious' newspapers as if they had some credibility. (Incidentally, if he really thinks City are interested in buying him, he is deluded). Of course, it is the new found wealth that attracts envy and suddenly, everybody conveniently forgets that the so-called top four have bought any player they desired at whatever cost for the past two decades. To illustrate my point: Ferguson, who had the nerve to denounce recently transfer sums as "obscene", paid 30 million for Berbatov in 2008, the same fee for Ferdinand in 2001 and sold Ronaldo for 80 million!! The City v Liverpool game was unutterably drab yesterday because both sides were terrified of losing, as Barry has admitted today. The bias of the media, however, is typified by the obsession with Benayoun's failure to fall which would have given Liverpool a phoney penalty (e.g.shown five times on MOTD) rather than Adebayor being hauled to the ground which was a clear penalty (shown once). I seem to remember that you, Phil, got it absolutely right in your analysis of the Anfield fixture when you denounced Hughes' lack of ambition in attack. City should have won that game and could have won yesterday - Liverpool's desperation was shown by the fact that six yellow cards were given and Mascherano was lucky not to receive a second (let's not comment on some of the refereeing decisions). There certainly is a lack of ambition in City and Stephen Ireland, whose splitting passes and audacious goals are so important, is suffering a dreadful lapse of form. That's all, Phil - City have lost four games in the Premier league this season and failed to kill off teams in at least six games which resulted in draws - the winning mentality is crucial at this level and City don't yet possess it. Time will tell but a blue moon will always console; I find it amusing that United fans call City ( or Citeh as they call it, mocking the Mancunian accent) fans 'Bitters'. Nothing could be further from the truth: following City has always been a vocation and a great education in the cruelty and joy of life. Keep your perspective, Phil, or you will become one of those who already talk of the Big Three (isn't that what talk of the play-offs for the fourth spot is all about?) then the Big Two, then the Big.......? The challenge of City, Villa and Spurs has made this the most refreshing season for many, many years and is ruffling feathers among the established elite. Don't fall for it, Phil - you are too good to lose!

  • Comment number 95.

    Mancini is no better then Hughes, I'd say he's worse. That was one of the most boring matches I have seen in years. Drivel from 2 frightened teams. At times this match made Sam Allardyce look adventurous.

  • Comment number 96.

    Time for Benitez to go I think. I can't find anything positive to say about him. Liverpool have managed to become a very average team in 6 months - remarkable achievement. Man City are a bit of a joke at the moment. Too many mercenaries playing for them, strange choice of manager and an oddball chief exec.

  • Comment number 97.

    Oh well, at least the other Merseyside-Manchester game at the weekend was a good 'un.
    And it's lovely to see how the redsh(oops no just remembered can't complete that or the reds at the beeb bar the comment) fans jump all over any perceived slight against the worlds best fans and club (HA!) on any blog.

  • Comment number 98.

    You love to have a pop at Arsenal, but look at the matches between their rivals below; Man City v Liverpool and the Spurs Villa affair were, as you say, dire because full of fear of mistakes. Arsenal clearly do not play with this mindset and yet people such as yourself like to ridicule them for their bravery when things go wrong. You should be applauding matches like Man City v Liverpool. It's what Arsenal haters seem to want and what you all deserve.

  • Comment number 99.

    haha, City fans do not like this do they? Your team is a team full of ambitionless mercenaries. A REAL TEAM would have been going all out for the win, at home, to give themselves an advantage.

    You lot are so eager to criticise United, it was hilarious some of the rubbish you wrote about the Milan game (McNulty included) - well yesterday was an a example of what "clueless, spineless, dour" football actually is

  • Comment number 100.

    Have to say that City have gone backwards under Mancini as far as I can see. At least they had attacking ambition before and Hughes certainly made his intentions clear with the purchases he made in the summer.

    I thing Garry "foot in mouth" Cook made a big mistake - and many of the City fans I know who were not happy with Hughes are now even more unhappy with Mancini. Results are certainly no better, and the minimum 2, sometimes 3, holding midfield players mean that the football is worse.

    I reckon City would be in the same position or better if they'd stuck with Hughes - but then Sparky did learn a lot from the master :).
    As it is now, they'll change manager again in the summer, they'll have to start rebuilding.

    I was looking forward to some decent local competition - but can't see it happening until the owner/chaiman/ceo actually get to understand what is required to produce a successful football club and team - continuity.


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