As his players had acted as if they did not know which team they were playing for, Harry Redknapp was probably only mildly surprised by his introduction to the media on Saturday night. "Ladies and gentlemen, the manager of West Ham United," a Manchester City official announced.
If Redknapp thought wistfully of having Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard at his disposal again - or anyone else, for that matter, able to halt Southampton's alarming charge towards relegation - he hid it well.
The Southampton manager, who will today bring free agents Abel Xavier and Alex Nyarko for a trial with a view to staying at St Mary's until the season's end, has a frantic four weeks' work to find more new blood during the transfer window.
Even if James Beattie joins Everton today, a large chunk of the £6.5m fee will go to his former club, Blackburn Rovers, leaving Redknapp with just over £4m at his disposal. "You are looking at getting players in at around £700,000 each," he said. "We're in a desperate situation. If you want decent players on frees you have got to pay reasonable wages, otherwise they're not going to come. There's no point bringing in four or five players who are no better than the ones we've got."
Pace is the ingredient that Redknapp craves and it is a lack of it that restricted Southampton to just seven Premiership wins in 2004. Ironically, City were among that paltry list of victims, but there was little chance of there being a repeat once Shaun Wright-Phillips - a player with speed to spare - effectively wrapped up this match with City's second goal after Paul Bosvelt had met Richard Dunne's knock-back from a corner to head them in front after 19 minutes.
On a pitch turned treacherous by teeming rain, Wright-Phillips' low centre of gravity made him difficult to contain and after scorching down the right wing a few times, he went through the middle to score an outstanding goal. Shaking off David Prutton with a sharp turn, he evaded another challenge with a neat sidestep and then thumped in a low drive from 30 yards. Kevin Phillips' late penalty after Peter Crouch was brought down was scant consolation for Southampton.
How Redknapp would love to boast the £25m-plus that the growing army of suitors would need to prise Wright-Phillips from City. "How can you convince people you are trying to build something here if you sell him?" Kevin Keegan, the City manager, asked. "How are you going to attract players when they see him going? It would send out the wrong message."
Goals: Bosvelt (19) 1-0; S Wright-Phillips (39) 2-0; Phillips pen (90) 2-1.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher (Onuoha, 78); S Wright-Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Sibierski; Anelka (Macken, 69), Fowler (McManaman, 86). Substitutes not used: Waterreus (gk), Flood.
Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Telfer, Jakobsson, Higginbotham, Cranie; Prutton, Oakley (Fernandes, h-t), Delap, McCann; Ormerod (Crouch, h-t), Phillips. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Dodd, A Svensson.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Man of the match: Wright-Phillips.
Attendance: 42,895.Reuse content