Mancini seeks to turn the clock back and launch new era for City

Club desperate to end wait for a major honour but Stoke have own trophy quest

A new line of T-shirts has been prepared for this evening. They carry an image of the huge Old Trafford banner, which has ticked up their 35 years without a trophy, set to a big, fat zero.



That is just a minor insight into the emotional capital the club carry into this afternoon's FA Cup final against Stoke City, stalked to what might be the end of their barren era by a swaggering Manchester United, who fancy they will be celebrating a record 19th championship on the Ewood Park pitch even as Roberto Mancini walks his team out.

History is not the only burden City bear against a club who have not lost in four Wembley appearances. Carlos Tevez – the one commodity they have managed to wrestle from Old Trafford – remains a haunting presence and it is starting to weigh the club down. Tevez was in Mancini's provisional starting XI last night, subject to a final decision this morning, but the manager prepared for the final with an icy declaration that he does not want players whose hearts lie elsewhere. "When you start your job you should be happy, because the season is long and there could be a thousand problems," the Italian said. "I always say that, in my opinion, a player should stay here because he believes in the project and he's happy to stay at the club. If I'm not happy to stay at Manchester City I will leave this club. It's the same for the players."

By ominous coincidence, the Stoke manager Tony Pulis was discussing the way that his own recalcitrant playmaker had been coaxed into the fold: "Initially he couldn't buy into it here. He found it difficult. But the last three months he's recognised and realised what we're all about." Pulis was talking about Jermaine Pennant, whose footballing renaissance in the Potteries reached its zenith in a semi-final performance against Bolton Wanderers which revealed that Stoke really can play the ball on the ground.

But though the parallels between the sides seem so minimal as Potters prepare to face petrodollar men – the £50m City will demand for Tevez's services is roughly the entire sum Peter Coates has invested since he reassumed control of Stoke in 2006 – a yearning for a trophy binds together two sides whose histories have been curiously interdependent over the years.

Stoke and City were relegated to the third tier together on the last day of 1997-98, when City won 5-2 at the Britannia Stadium, and though City's top-four place assures Pulis's team of Europa League football next season, an indignation burns that they are the only surviving founder member of the Football League not to have won the FA Cup. You also sense that claiming it with the spine of the side which took Stoke back up into the top flight three years ago would enable Pulis – who is likely to favour Dean Whitehead on the left, despite Matthew Etherington facing a late fitness test – to demonstrate beyond all doubt that the supporters who so vehemently opposed Coates's decision to bring him back to the club, were wrong. "I think you will always have that small percentage that will be on my back and always be niggling away," he said. "They'll be quiet at the moment 'till you lose a couple of games and then they'll come out again, have a moan and a groan."

Mancini has exuded mildly less hunger this week, with his assertions that a top-four place in the Premier League was the most important goal. But City will take generations of their former players to Wembley. Mike Summerbee, a member of their last great side (although not the 1976 League Cup winners) and Tony Book, of course, but also Nora Mercer, the legendary former manager Joe's widow and Carmen Young, the widow of Neil, who scored the winner in the 1969 FA Cup final. All members of the 1956 Cup winning side have been invited too, through the club's former players' association. Full-back Bill Leivers has accepted, though not goalkeeper Bert Trautman, who to the club's bemusement expected a more formal invitation and declined.

The road ahead, fighting campaigns on domestic and European fronts, will be tough for Mancini, which is why a trophy would also buy him professional credit, though he feels the occasion is bigger for his opponents. "For Stoke it's a massive game, one of the biggest for the last 10 or 20 years and I'm sure they will play at 200 per cent," said the City manager, who has alluded more than once to Arsenal's Carling Cup final defeat against Birmingham City. "It's impossible to go into a final saying 'It's okay, because we're Manchester City,' because Arsenal against Birmingham is a perfect example of what can happen," he added. "And we've had a problem in every game against them. Every game. They're not easy to play against."

Mancini's record against the side who put City out of the competition last season is one win in five. Stoke, he agreed, are the last team he would want to face. "Because they're different from any other team. In my opinion football should be played with the foot. I think we can win, but I know it will be difficult."

Yesterday's preparations at Carrington included lengthy discussions with the full-backs, with Aleksandar Kolarov and Micah Richards favourites to start, but Pablo Zabaleta pressing for the right-back berth. Whoever plays will be asked not to concede throw-ins and Mancini promised he would remind his players, not least Mario Balotelli, to resist any Stoke attempts to rattle them. That is the theory. Mancini received a four-game ban after his protestations to the referee in his last Wembley appearance – Sampdoria's 1992 European Cup final defeat to Barcelona – and struggled with the pressure. "Plainly speaking and in all honesty, he was of no use to Sampdoria," La Repubblica reported the next day. That was in a Genoese side rich from winning four cups in the three preceding years. City are a side rich but with no cups in the lifetime of many fans. The petrodollars will fade to inconsequence come 3pm. Mancini will just have a set of players more desperate to wear shirts which read "zero" than any who have gone before them.

Road to Wembley: How rivals reached the Cup Final

Manchester City

Third round: Leicester City (a) drew 2-2; won replay 4-2

City are held by former manager Sven Goran Eriksson at the Walkers Stadium before winning a six-goal replay.

Fourth round: Notts County (a) drew 1-1; won replay 5-0

Edin Dzeko's first for the club ensured another replay, where two from Patrick Vieria set up an unconvincing victory.

Fifth round: Aston Villa (h) won 3-1

Goals from Yaya Touré, Mario Balotelli and David Silva helped City ease past a controversially weakened Villa side.

Sixth round: Reading (h) won 1-0

Frustrated by visiting goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before a late Micah Richards header sent City through to the semis.

Semi-final: Manchester United (n) won 1-0

Touré's goal ensured victory over neighbours United and put City through to their first final since 1981. Balotelli clashed with Rio Ferdinand as tempers flared after the final whistle.

Stoke City

Third round: Cardiff City (h) drew 1-1; won replay 2-0 (after extra-time)

Tuncay's strike saved Stoke after Michael Chopra put Cardiff ahead. Jon Walters' two late goals won the replay.

Fourth round: Wolves (a) won 1-0

Thomas Sorensen saved an injury-time penalty after Robert Huth had scored the only goal of the game on 81 minutes.

Fifth round: Brighton & Hove Albion (h) won 3-0

First-half goals from John Carew, Walters and Ryan Shawcross helped City ease past the League One side.

Sixth round: West Ham (h) won 2-1

Danny Higginbotham's free-kick was decisive in a controversial encounter after Frédéric Piquionne had equalised Huth's opener.

Semi-final: Bolton (n) won 5-0

Another flying start saw Bolton blown away. Matt Etherington, Huth and Kenwyne Jones had Stoke three up at the break before Walters added two near the end to complete the rout.

Barren Years

Manchester City's trophy drought has been well documented on Old Trafford banners in recent years – the League Cup of1976 remaining their last significant trophy – but today's opponents, Stoke, have also endured a long wait for success. Today's Wembley visit is their first appearance in an FA Cup final, while they have won a single major trophy – the 1972 League Cup.

Each side have struggled for consistency since, with both falling into the third tier of English football in 1997-98. Manchester City came straight back up, whereas Stoke had to wait until 2002 to return to the second tier.

City's Crowd Record

84,569: The attendance at Maine Road when Manchester City played Stoke City in the 1934 FA Cup sixth round. It remains the biggest crowd for an English football match outside London, and the highest on a club ground. City won 1-0.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices