I’ve had to give this some thought, City in the last six years been to two FA Cup finals and could’ve had a third if they’d overcome Arsenal a few weeks ago. Winning the FA Cup in 2011 and ending a 34 year trophy drought was one of the happiest occasions I’ve had as a City fan, because of what it meant for the club and supporters. Of course it’s eclipsed entirely by what happened the year after! #93:20! However, despite its symbolism, that FA Cup victory isn’t my favourite FA Cup moment, although it perhaps should be.
My favourite moment with City in the FA Cup is actually the Semi-Final that preceded the victory over Stoke. Here’s where United fans start banging their drum about City being a small club etc! But if you read it and take in the point I’m making, you’ll understand why I’ve chosen this moment…
In the seasons prior to winning the FA Cup, there’d been some pretty turgid and almost non-existent runs in the competition; we go knocked out 3-0 at home to Notts Forest during the half time of which Wayne Bridge was wheeled out as the latest signing and supposed saviour at Left-Back. City were awful that night. Awful. There was also the fourth round knock-out against Sheffield United, and the 3-1 defeat to Stoke after extra time in a fifth round replay.
So the FA Cup hadn’t really been a thing for us in the years leading up to winning it – apart from the greatest FA Cup comeback ever, against Spurs at White Hart Lane (you know the one, where we were 3-0 down and Barton got sent off at half-time for, well being Joey Barton back in 2004). However, after facing United in the League Cup Semi-Finals in 2010, and losing 4-3 on aggregate, being drawn against United at Wembley in an FA Cup semi was a big deal for us, it was a chance to take the next step in the development of the modern Manchester City. The win that day changed everything.
Travelling down to Wembley on a coach ran by the local branch of the supporters club being on the beer from 6am and still feeling sober enough to get in the ground – thanks to the adrenaline and excitement. I don’t know why, but before kick-off, aside from the nerves, I remember feeling quietly confident that this was gonna be our day. Everything about it seemed to be on our side; there was just something in the air. Seeing the team line-up and thinking “that’s the best 11 we’ve got”, minus the injured Tevez.
From the get-go there was a buzz around the City end. The Poznan and boos as the United team was read out. The general wondering also being “just exactly which Mario Balotelli is gonna turn up today!?” Super Mario was man of the match, if you don’t believe me, watch the game again. The guy did everything you’d expect from a decent centre-forward and everything you would NOT expect from Balotelli himself.
Michael Carrick giving the ball away to Yaya Toure and the colossus of a man striding into the United box and passing the ball between the legs of the oncoming Van der Sar, might seem like City were gifted the win, but they weren’t. The Blues were by far the better team on the day, all over the pitch, and you could see that it irked United.
Paul Scholes got sent off for putting the boot in on Zabaleta signified United’s frustration. Balotelli winking at Rio Ferdinand after the game, also deserves a mention.
The sheer sense of elation when the full time whistle went is indescribable. It felt like the club had turned a corner. It didn’t matter who we got in the final, Bolton or Stoke, there was still plenty of opportunity for City to cock up the first real chance of silverware in a generation, in typical City fashion, but that could wait for another day. Beating them lot from the swamp was the start of City being able to believe that they could beat the teams they hadn’t in the past.
Without beating United and without going on to lift the FA Cup, I don’t personally think that City would’ve won the league the following season, nor do I believe that they would’ve gone to the swamp and won 6-1.
The 2011 FA Cup Semi-Final was a huge turning point for the club and it felt bloody brilliant. It’s my favourite moment in my time of watching City in the FA Cup, because of what it meant and because it gave us belief that we could begin to push on to bigger and better things.