City grin and bear it after losing first round

Stoke City 1 Manchester City 1: Platt claims to be 'enjoying' Ferguson's mind games as Mancini stays silent over Stoke draw

The Britannia Stadium

Manchester City are trying hard – a little too hard, you feel – to demonstrate that they are enjoying all this. Roberto Mancini used the word last week and David Platt returned to it late on Saturday, after the man he assists had left the arena with a face like thunder.

"Well yeah – why not?" he said. "I mean, you have to enjoy it. Of course you can enjoy it. I think any team would like a 10-point cushion, wouldn't they? But that's what you're in the game for. You get highs, you get lows. Deep down, it's enjoyable."

This conversation was tense at times, though. "No, no, no, no. That's you saying that. I haven't said that. I've tried to answer the questions in a truthful manner and if that's the way you choose to write it..." he said when it was put to him that we were observing a pressure situation playing out.

In truth, Platt's task – facing the music over the fallout from Patrick Vieira's questionable decision to accuse United of "weakness" in bringing back Paul Scholes – was a deeply thankless one. Platt is a very important part of Mancini's team, a bridge to those players who find the manager's distant air difficult and his spokesman for awkward occasions; most recently when Mario Balotelli had half-volleyed Tottenham Hotspur's Scott Parker in the stomach, answers were required and Mancini, we were told, had "lost his voice". Yet this was not a moment for the manager to find his voice. His absence, save for a pre-match claim that he could deal with Sir Alex Ferguson's barbs because he was in possession of "a big helmet", ceded the stage to the Manchester United manager on a weekend when his side did not even take to a football field.

 

Platt brushed away the barb made by Ferguson on Friday, that the redeployment of Carlos Tevez, not Scholes, was an act of desperation. "When you look at the quotes, Sir Alex hasn't necessarily said that. It seems it was a bit tongue in cheek and there was a bit of fun there," he said. "Robbie just laughed. It's not a problem to him. It's not about him and it's not about Sir Alex. It's about the two teams alone and apart." And, to a point, Platt is right, of course.

The absence of pace in the City side is the deficit which has most limited them to just two league victories – at Wigan and Aston Villa – on the road since November. So, too, the quality which Kevin Keegan used the German word ideen to define on Saturday: ideas.

A misplaced header by Edin Dzeko – yet to become the player City had hoped, despite a 19-goal season – was the only hint of a chance before Yaya Touré's deflected shot cancelled out the effort which earned Stoke's goalscorer the Twitter title 'Peter LeCrouchier'.

The bandage David Silva wore on Saturday was a metaphor for a player limping to the end of the season with his troubled left ankle, and the one player who seemed capable of providing the width Mancini's side lacked throughout, substitute Adam Johnson, found himself involved in a loud verbal exchange with his manager by the end. Johnson, who could be a superstar, frustrates his club hugely.

That very public spat raised the question of whether Mancini's intensity will actually aid the pursuit of the title. "He's fine. He's beyond fine – seriously!" Platt said of his boss, also insisting that what he told The Independent about Mancini 12 months ago – "he sees the game peripherally, to him what a player has just unsuccessfully tried is alien" – no longer applied. "It's not odd [that he hasn't shown up before the media] because he is intense," Platt added, "and he is likely to get drawn on something".

Ferguson never gets drawn into any newspaper territory which doesn't suit him. He does not show at post-match Premier League press conferences – ever – because it suits him not to.

But he does not generally impugn Stoke's physicality either, accepting the challenge as part of this football competition. Mancini's unwillingness to shake Tony Pulis's hand after a match in which his side's typically physical performance was not generally illegal, did not look like grace under pressure and it handed the Stoke manager – who clearly doesn't care for City's accelerated growth – some moral high ground.

"Everybody gets invited in [for a drink after the game]," he said of Mancini. "I can't force him. He's obviously very, very disappointed. The money they've spent, the players that they've got at their disposal, I think they are expecting to win [the title.] I can see why he's a little bit down... because now it's pressure time. If people want to shake my hand, fine; if they don't, that's up to them."

The task until the Manchester derby of 30 April is to put United out of mind. "We try not to speak too much about them," Gareth Barry said. "The aim is to keep it to no more than three points [between us] before we play them at the Etihad. If we manage to do that, then we fancy ourselves in that game."

A caveat, though, to the suggestion that Ferguson has clinched round one of the mental battle, is that City can be sure they – and Tevez in particular – will be nagging away in the Glaswegian's mind, because he only goes in for psychological warfare against those sides who do.

One of the games Ferguson has discussed perhaps more than many others in recent years was the late win at Stoke, secured within days of his side returning from the rigours of the World Club Cup in Japan in 2009, which he always considered pivotal to United clinching the title that year. The matchwinner was a player who provided further fleeting hints on Saturday that his restored powers could do United some serious damage. Carlos Tevez.

Match details

Stoke: BEGOVIC 5/10, WILKINSON 6, SHAWCROSS 6, HUTH 7, WILSON 6, JEROME 7, WHELAN 6, WHITEHEAD 6, ETHERINGTON 7, WALTERS 6, CROUCH 8

Man City: HART 6, CLICHY 6, K TOURE 6, RICHARDS 6, ZABALETA 6, NASRI 7, BARRY 7, Y TOURE 7, SILVA 5, DZEKO 5, BALOTELLI 5

Scorers: Stoke City Crouch 59. Man City Y Touré 76.

Substitutes: Stoke Pennant 8 (Jerome, 50), Palacios (Etherington, 80), Jones (Crouch, 90). Man City A Johnson 5 (Silva, 61), Tevez (Barry, 73), Milner (Zabaleta, 83).

Booked: Stoke Wilson. Man City Barry, Y Touré.

Man of the match Crouch. Match rating 7/10.

Possession: Stoke 44% Man City 56%.

Attempts on target: Stoke 3 Man City 11.

Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire). Attendance 27,535.

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
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

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering