James Lawton: Klopp's touchline serenity shows up City's shortcomings in Europe

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Banished from Europe, even its least glamorous corners, Manchester City face days of brutal self-examination.

It is not as if they haven't come up to standard yet again at the highest level of the club game. They just haven't come up. They haven't shown their faces. They have been taught so many lessons, without benefit, that you have wonder if they are less a work in progress than one in ruins.

With Borussia Dortmund home free as serious players in the knock-out phase of the Champions League and key players like Robert Lewandowski at the start and Mario Götze looking on, most instructive of all was the body language of their highly prized coach Jürgen Klopp.

This could only be heightened by City's Roberto Mancini wearing more than ever the expression of a tragic hero in the dug-out and Rafa Benitez facing another ordeal of hostility on the Stamford Bridge touchline tonight. Here, certainly, was a coach perfectly at peace with himself and, even more crucially, his young and brilliant team.

There was no call for brilliance last night, but if Dortmund were both under-strength and under-motivated this didn't prevent moments when Klopp's superb run of two German titles and a superb impact on the world's most important club competition was beautifully expressed.

If the 45-year-old Klopp, who is said to be somewhere in the thoughts of Roman Abramovich if Pep Guardiola finally delivers an unequivocal no, had irritation to express, if he would have liked to have seen a little more purpose from his men in the first half, the expression of it was relatively muted. This was especially so when you considered some of the recent public exasperation of both Mancini and Benitez.

Part of Klopp's secret may indeed be an ability to choose carefully those occasions to criticise and educate — and those to celebrate the work that has been achieved in four remarkable years of inexorable progress.

One of the latter was certainly met with huge exuberance when his majestic 23-year-old Marco Reus – surely the steal of the year at £15m – swept in on the City defence and brought a fine save from Joe Hart. Klopp raised his arms in the cold Ruhr night, warmed to his marrow, you could plainly enough, by the grace and the power of what he had just seen, When his team scored the goal which threatened City's ambivalent ambition to return to the lost reaches of the Europa Cup, he might have been rejoicing over a masterpiece as he pumped his arms and again looked to the heavens. Substitute Jakub Blaszczykowski had blazed down the right before sending in a lacerating cross that precisely dissected the City cover. Lewandowski's replacement Julian Schieber will never be presented with a more comfortable strike.

Mancini must have had another vision of a crumbling empire, one which in the circumstances might have been even more devastating that the discouragement met in the pitched battles against Dortmund, Ajax and Real Madrid back at the Etihad Stadium.

City return England to renew their domestic war with Manchester United weighed down by the unprecedented failure of an English club to win in Champions League group action. They may rescue their Premier League title, they may draw some value from the weight of their individual talent, but it will surely take time before they image they are equipped to take their place amoung the elite of Europe. They were not so beaten last night as confirmed to be officially downgraded.