Thanks to a 94th minute goal all those who had tipped Manchester City to fall flat on their faces and fail this season can now rest easy. The first couple of rounds, a draw at Tottenham Hotspur and a convincing home win against Liverpool, had made those doubters a little apprehensive. Perhaps, all the doubters thought, we might be wrong. Maybe Manchester City will prove they do have the ability to sustain a credible title challenge. Now now. Not after Darren Bent’s 94th minute penalty. It changed everything. Manchester City will likely find themselves in contention for honours again at some point during the season, however this initial setback will repeatedly come back to haunt them and probably prove to be their undoing.
Psychologically it will have already made it’s impact. In terms of the league standings, it won’t make much difference in the immediate term. How it will motivate other teams in the league, now aware that Manchester City are very much beatable, and develop doubts in the minds of the Manchester City players themselves is something that is ultimately unquantifiable, although very much real. This type of occurrence, conceding an injury time penalty and losing a game is the exact type of thing that doesn’t tend to happen to league champions. Teams which end up English Premier League champions usually score 94th minute match deciding penalty winners, not conceding them.
Manchester City now not only have to fight against the reputation of the club – one of talk and no action, ideas and no substance – but they also have to fight against fortune. It is not going to all go their way, as many began to suspect after the Tottenham match when Joe Hart made a number of exquisite saves. History, as we all already know, is already against Manchester City. It suggests, or records, that teams rarely pop out of nowhere to win a league. It tends to be a gradual process, involving team building, on and off the pitch. On the green grass the team needs to develop a style and an understanding, off of it the team needs to develop a bond.
Manchester City are getting there, we know this because they were closer last season than the one before, and we expect them to be even closer at the end of this season, however when big sums of money are involved, as is the case at the Eastlands, clubs are rarely willing to be patient. Before certain players have the chance to truly adapt and begin performing they will notice that replacements for their position are already being mentioned. Manchester City need to fight their own urges to spend, consequences of their vast wealth, along with history, fortune and reputation. This was just one defeat but it reminded everybody just how much further Manchester City still have to go.