Mark Stein, a lifelong City fan, writes about his team’s improbable win last weekend.
So many people have asked me what it was like to watch it happen this way. The unglamorous truth: I spent the bulk of that frustrating half-hour after the sending-off of City castoff Joey Barton and before the goals of salvation sneaking looks at my kids’ reactions to the unfolding disaster. I like to believe that my path to City fandom was destiny, but I couldn’t stifle the feelings of guilt over Connecticut-born Alex (8) and Texas-born Aaron (5) adopting my club as theirs. Because they didn’t need or deserve misery like this.
“Typical City” is what they’ve called it in Manchester since the ’80s. And this was the ultimate exhibit: Fall a seemingly fatal eight points behind United with an Easter loss at Arsenal, miraculously erase the eight-point deficit with five near-perfect performances — including a win over United in the biggest Manchester derby ever — and then throw it all away at the finish line to hand the league back to the hated Reds and set up United for the most insufferable round of bragging rights imaginable.
This was so not what I was expecting on what they were calling Survival Sunday. I went into the QPR game convinced that we’d absolutely roll, borderline cocky in the belief that our time had finally arrived, having watched City play that virtually flawless football for a month after the Arsenal defeat when there was zero margin for error. If City could do that — if we had the steel to beat United on April 30 in the most hyped game in Premiership history and follow that up by going to high-flying Newcastle and winning there without a scare — how much resistance could Mark Hughes’s lowly QPR really muster?
So when Sergio Aguero’s goal went in with 94 minutes on the clock, after Edin Dzeko’s header launched the resurrection when all had looked lost, I didn’t even have the strength to celebrate. My kids were shouting and bouncing all over the room, but I just sat there in shock, completely overwhelmed, trying to hold back the tears. And failing.
My kids loved that just as much. They scampered away as I took it all in, screaming for Mom downstairs. They couldn’t wait to inform her: “Daddy’s crying!”
While the imperious Ian Darke and my old pal Steve McManaman were expertly capturing all the madness for ESPN’s American audience, I later learned that Martin Tyler had summed it up neatly for Sky’s viewers in the U.K., too: “From chokers to champions in five crazy minutes.”