Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 2: Manuel Pellegrini says FA Cup defeat was 'the worst performance of my time here'
City were shocked at the Etihad Stadium in a repeat of last year's final
Monday 10 March 2014
After seeing his faint hopes of a unique quadruple extinguished, Manuel Pellegrini condemned his players for the worst performance of his time at the Etihad Stadium.
The Manchester City manager said his players underestimated the club that beat them in last year’s FA Cup final and only reacted when it was too late. “I think it is the worst of my time here because we did not have the pace to play against a team who find themselves in a very good moment,” he said. “Maybe my players did not think it would be too difficult. When we reacted it was too late.
“This match was two games in one. The first was from minute one to 46 and only then did we react,” said Pellegrini, who added that he was not surprised when Wigan lined up with three centre-backs. “ We knew precisely how Wigan would play. It is perhaps difficult to say we were unlucky but I think we could have drawn the game. I do know that we could have defended better.”
This was not the first cup shock of Pellegrini’s career, while at Real Madrid he endured being knocked out of the Copa del Rey, beaten 4-0 by second-tier Alcorcon. However, as he tries to recover his squad before their unlikely attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit at Barcelona, who lost to Valladolid at the weekend, his powers of motivation will be fully stretched. He had rested the cream of his defence – Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart and Aleksandar Kolarov – against Wigan and seen their understudies perform like second-raters. “It was a special week after the Capital One Cup,” he said. “We have won one trophy and we still have a lot to fight for, starting against Barcelona, and we will be trying to reach the top of the table with our three games in hand.”
Manchester City’s cup runs and the storm that caused the postponement of their league fixture against Sunderland has left them nine points adrift of Chelsea, and Jose Mourinho’s statement that City are still favourites for the Premier League cannot be taken seriously. Aside from Arsenal in 1998, there have been very few clubs who have capitalised on games in hand to win the title at this stage of the season.
For his counterpart, this was a joyous, if bittersweet moment against the club he had followed to Wembley twice as a fan after leaving Maine Road 16 years ago. Uwe Rösler had studied not only last year’s FA Cup final but the league game at the Etihad Stadium that preceded it. Then, Roberto Martinez’s side had narrowly lost 1-0 after stifling City’s attacking threat.
“I studied Roberto’s tactics,” said Rösler. “He put out a very brave game plan and played the league game almost to perfection. I tried to replicate parts of it with a willingness to attack through our wing-backs.
“A lot of teams show Manchester City a lot of respect – and with good reason. But I felt that, if we sat back, defended and tried for the odd counter-attack, we would have no chance. Our only chance to win was to keep the ball in attacking areas.
“I am drained and happy and already focusing on Wednesday night’s league game because, if we want promotion, that is a massive game for us. I wanted us to do well for Ben Watson [who scored Wigan’s cup final winner last May but badly broke his leg in February]. I wanted us to do well for our supporters.
“Winning the FA Cup last season was an unbelievable achievement but to defend it and go back to Wembley again is an equally strong achievement. We have played 52 games already – the most of any English club. The squad has been stretched to its maximum but we did not come here and park the bus. The players deserve all the credit in the world. I have been to Wembley for a play-off final with Brentford but, yes, this is my greatest achievement as a manager.”
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