|Close to the giant fluorescent rubber dinghy|
Michel Platini and his squadron of auditor-chieftains are genuine in their pursuit of revamping the Champions League seeding operation, then one small detail needs to be adjusted immediately: keep Bayern Munich as far away from Manchester City as it is physically possible to do. We want nothing more to do with Karlheinz Rummenigge’s stiffly manicured smirks, nor those giant glasses of frothing Paulaner. Enough, most absolutely, is enough.
Four seasons City have now gained entry to this Parthenon of Champions, Runners-up and 3rd and 4th placed teams. Three times the quixotic little draw balls have insisted on Manchester’s finest packing their knapsacks for the great wooded south, the Bavarian hinterland, the land of chesty barmaids and luminescent BMWs.
City’s very debut in the competition came here. On a fine sunny day in September 2011, standing around in any of Munich’s pristine central squares and squinting up at the light blue bunting, the ornate clock fronts and the dreaming spires and steeples, made one wonder whether we would ever really fit in to this glorious symmetry. Manchester City, the most assymmetrical bunch of Rusholme ragamuffins to set forth along the Konigsallee, going toe to toe with the Kaiser’s best boys? Imagine that.
Would scuffed trainers and our bedraggled northern soul boy raincoats look ok alongside the flying dirndls and brown-suede elbow patches, the devastating Teutonic beards and the glass fronted pretzel houses? Well, -- as we have been finding out ever since -- not really, not completely.
|"Does this look ok here?"|
As we peered down from the top deck of the giant illuminated rubber dinghy that is the Allianz Arena (head straight out of town, keep going until there is absolutely no Munich left and it’s over there by the two motorway intersections), a row was brewing down amongst the City substitutes.
Micah Richard’s two good shouts for penalties were immediately forgotten in a heavy mist of expletives about Carlos Tevez and his refusal to warm up. With a mahogany skinned Roberto Mancini fizzing and popping on the sidelines, the little Argentinian from Fuerte Apache wore the look of the man, who has just found a Lorenzo Cana cravate lying submerged in his evening Carbonada.
Two years later City were back, looking for an improbable victory to seal top place in the group and therefore the likelihood of avoiding, for example, Barcelona, in the draw for the knockouts. Victory we got, 3-2 in a rip-roaring comeback from an early two goal Bayern lead. Amongst the dizzy patrons from Moston and Davyhulme, one could see inebriated men busying themselves pinching each other. Again disaster struck as nobody had told the ashen faced Manuel Pellegrini that one more goal might squeeze the Blues through on goal difference to the top of the group, ahead of Bayern.
We settled for 3 and drew Barcelona in the next round.
The 2014-15 edition again paired City with their leather-shorted blood brothers. This time a different strategy came to our attention, one featuring patience, resilience and a masterclass of acrobatic goalkeeping from Joe Hart. It was a little like watching the Liverpool of Bob Paisley, who would grind out their away results on dubious European soil and then haul them back to Anfield to be dismembered in front of the braying Kop. They even did this with Bruce Grobelaar in goals, so fair do's to them.
City prodded and puffed, created a chance or two themselves and kept out a tepid and timid looking Bayern side, until the very last seconds, when ex-City loafer Jerome Boateng slapped one past Hart in the most unlikely fashion. City fans who knew only the slow moving, stumble-and-fall-merchant of season 2010-11vintage, woke up to a bright pastiche of new attributes, one of which seemed to be the shooting power of Karim Benzema.
|Carlitos ups the ante in Munich Part One|
After Tevez and Pellegrini, the slathering masses needed another scapegoat and their gaze fell on the lumbering form of Yaya Touré, having a joke and a mutual patting session with Bayern chief Guardiola at the game’s end. Possibly City’s best player over the last three years, Touré has enjoyed a slow start to a season that needed a quick start, to run off all those carbohydrate-heavy patisserie jokes. But three years of sterling service count for nothing after Cakegate and – now that he had completed an average-to-ok performance out on the Allianz pitch, he appeared to be enjoying bumping into old buddy Pep. Yaya it was then. A bedazzled audience had its third consecutive Munich scapegoat.
Not crying? Not crumpled on the pitch hiding his face? Not even lumbering slope-shouldered to the away fans to try to throw his sweat-stained (sweat-stained?) shirt 80 feet up in the air? Yaya would do. Our third pantomime villain in three outings to the banks of the great Titisee.
There can be only one thing left to cover in this miserable tale of bad tidings, negative omens and dread angst. If City are drawn against Bayern again next year, which is practically certain to happen, we can presume in some degree of comfort that the storyline will throw up a bad-un for us all to boo at.
Bacary Sagna, you have been warned.