Revenge served as the main course

Posted by Simon Curtis

And the gods of football did bring down a terrible and heavy revenge on the men of Yorkshire. A coruscating, unflinching revenge at last for so many dastardly acts of the past: It came down first in a shower of poisonous toads on Neil Warnock, for his devilish deeds with his Notts County side of 1991 that beat City in an incredible FA Cup game, when City would not have scored if someone with a crane and wrecking ball had flattened every member of the opposition, widened the County goal and issued Alan Harper with a flame thrower. Revenge came down in a black pall of smoke on Leeds themselves for all those crunching defeats in the 70s from wee Billy and Big Jack. Revenge arrived swiftly too for the 5-2 thumping last time these teams met in the FA Cup, when Leeds' young cubs swiped City out of the cup in an afternoon of bristling attacking play.

Report: Manchester City 4-0 Leeds United
Jolly: Mancini rewarded for trusting big names

Looking up into the stands before the match, there were the bent and greying shapes of Tony Book, captain in many a gruesome battle with these men of Yorkshire; of Big Joe Corrigan, who made possibly his greatest-ever save in the FA Cup against this very opposition in 1977, flinging his giant frame into an impossible horizontal swoop to keep the ball out of the City net; of Peter Lorimer, whose high-octane shots used to fly past the City defence before there had even been time to shout "duck."

Somewhere in the Etihad corridors, Norman Hunter was presumed to be chasing Franny Lee down the aisles, too. Those were, for some folks at least, the best of times and as it turned out in Manchester on Sunday, City turned back the clocks and made it the very best of times here, too.

What a difference a good talking-to makes. Roberto Mancini, talking of "brodino", an appetizer presumably for the bread and butter of the Premier League, must have turned the players' blood to pure minestrone after the debacle at Southampton. Instead of brodino, we were served the whole sumptuous banquet. City were quick into the tackle, incisive of pass and all over Leeds like a painful, all-encompassing rash.

The FA Cup, bless its heart, brings out the sights and the sounds. Leeds, embedded in the lower leagues for quite some time now, still produce those noises of old that some had presumed lost to big time football. They had their shoes off, they asked where we had been, they told us not to get excited, as they lost pretty much every week. They even made that 80s noise at the goalkeeper as he launched a goal kick upfield. Clearly, for the sake of their fans, Leeds must achieve promotion soon before they all become eligible for places in convalescence homes with padded walls.

City fans know the feeling. I even now wake up in a lather from time to time, wondering whether Michael Brown is still the Blues' midfield linchpin and whether I have time to hop on the train to Northampton.

Brown is still going and, curiously, here he was in the white of Leeds. Little has changed. He is still a touch off the pace, still with his foot out for that late "tackle," still a little bit angry about quite a lot of things. He is a Warnock player, with heart, guts and a sublime ability to arrive late in the tackle. His willing teammates were late into almost everything here, arriving time and time again just after the ball had been moved on by Yaya Toure, James Milner or David Silva. Indeed, until Mancini introduced Maicon, showing the acceleration and accuracy of Jackie Charlton at his very best, Leeds had been second to pretty much everything.

In 1974, dressed in pristine white from head to toe, Leeds had begun matches with little sock tags fluttering above the two-feet-deep mud. Quite the stylists in their day. Sunday, dressed in a curiously cut kit that looked like it might fall completely apart if given a good tug by Yaya, they could not match their hosts on any part of the pitch. Instead, they got exactly what they had given City on so many occasions in the past: An old-fashioned run-around. Not a sniff of the goal came their way. In fact, to progress this far City are yet to concede a single goal. A 3-0 win over Watford has been swiftly followed by a 1-0 win at Stoke and a 4-0 whitewash against Leeds. Barnsley come to the Etihad next and the last time they visited in the FA Cup, a similarly blank score sheet met Yorkshire eyes. The men of Oakwell will come seeking revenge for 1993's defeat and City know very well how that can work as a motivational tool.

ESPN Conversations