Experience gives City edge in Cup final
A season without silverware would not reflect well on Manchester City. Having meekly conceded their Premier League title to Manchester United and made no progress in the Champions League, exiting the competition at the group stage for a second successive year, Roberto Mancini is under pressure to deliver the FA Cup.
A changed side all but ensured second place in the league and automatic qualification for the Champions League next season with a narrow win against West Brom on Tuesday night, but the success that City crave is measured by trophy wins, not runners-up medals. An FA Cup victory against Wigan on Saturday would go some way to ensuring the season is not looked upon with total regret.
Steve McManaman understands City's objective, having spent two seasons at the club between 2003 and 2005, and he believes all the pressure will be on his former side because of the way they become associated with success.
"Roberto Martinez and Dave Whelan will put no pressure on the players, they are expected to lose," ESPN football analyst McManaman said, speaking ahead of its broadcast of this weekend's FA Cup Final. "Manchester City are the team that have spent all the money and they need to win to have some sort of success.
"This type of club is built on success. They won the FA Cup a couple of years ago, they followed it up by winning the Premier League, and this year the FA Cup will be success of sorts but it won't be an improvement on last year which will be a big disappointment for everybody at the club.
"This season has been really disappointing for them. The signings that the club has brought in have not sparked like they should do. Players like Maicon and Javi Garcia haven't improved the starting XI as much as Robin van Persie could have, for instance. But there are only four trophies you can win every season and if Man City can win one of them then everyone will be happy."
Because of City's struggles to build on the Premier League title win and progress in Europe, the club has been dogged by speculation about Mancini's future. However, McManaman argues that axing the Italian is not the right decision and believes City's owners may be deploying a more patient approach than what they are given credit for.
"I don't know what the reaction of the owners will be [to this season]," he said. "They seem to be very level-headed gentlemen, very good businessmen. They have great attributes when it comes to football, they seem to have a lot of long-term plans that they have set out with the expansion across Europe, Asia and America.
"Mancini is one year into a six-year deal and if they were to terminate his contract it would cost them a lot of money and they don't seem to waste money like that so I'd be very surprised [if they were to sack him]. I don't think he deserves to lose his job."
McManaman believes that City's ability to call on players with big game experience could turn the final, their fifth Wembley visit in three seasons, in their favour on Saturday with David Silva and Yaya Toure particularly crucial to deciding the outcome. The pair have been present throughout that run, with Toure scoring the winning goal in both the semi-final and final when City lifted the Cup in 2011.
"The experience of playing at Wembley does help," McManaman said. "The experience of playing in big games like World Cups and European Championships will certainly help City with the likes of David Silva and Yaya Toure because they have played there many times before. I fully expect Manchester City to win because of their big game experience."
In comparison, Wigan's success has been structured around developing young talent and unearthing players missed by other clubs. Arouna Kone, signed from Levante, Shaun Maloney, who failed to make an impact with Aston Villa, and former Everton academy player Callum McManaman, signed upon his release by the Merseyside club at the age of 16, all fit that bill and have flourished.
Although they are a team of Premier League performers, it is a different prospect to play in the pressurised atmosphere of a one-off Cup final, something McManaman says could count against the Latics.
"You do get some people who will freeze in those games," he said. "The big Wembley pitch and the occasion does get to players so the experience [Man City have] definitely helps. Some of the younger Wigan players might freeze but they have beaten Everton in the quarter-final and won at Wembley in the semi-final which will give them hope."
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is sure his side will not be distracted by their ongoing fight against relegation from the Premier League as they attempt to win the first major trophy in the club's history. But McManaman says letting the lead slip twice to lose against Swansea on Tuesday is something that will have knocked their confidence and their preparation for the final.
He said: "The defeat against Swansea will be a really big body blow going into the game with City. If they had won they would go into the final in such an elated spirit that win, lose or draw it won't matter because they have three teams below them in the relegation battle.
"Other than that Wigan have been playing really well, their form has been good and they should have beaten Tottenham recently and probably should have got something against City at the Etihad a couple of weeks ago.
"The way Wigan play, they like to go forward and score goals. They have problems defensively so they will probably concede. I would expect Manchester City to score and I hope it will be a real attacking game. It won't be like a United versus City type game where they cancel each other out. It will be a nice, free-flowing game and hopefully a great final in that respect."
ESPN will broadcast the FA Cup Final on Saturday ad-free, as part of a full day of live programming from Wembley from 8am that revives the tradition of broadcasting all day around the final. Visit tv.espn.co.uk for schedule info.