By Chris Wright
Manchester City were beaten by Real Madrid last night in deflating circumstances, having led twice – unlikely as it would seem given their largely erratic performance – in the cavernous confines of the Bernabeu, only to see two late goals give Real a frantic last-gasp victory.
Speaking in a post-match interview literally minutes after conceding Cristano Ronaldo’s 90th minute winner, a visibly upset Joe Hart was asked by an ITV reporter whether he thought City themselves were to blame for their capitulation, to which the ‘keeper answered honestly and forthrightly:
“You can’t go 2-1 up with five minutes to go and lose the game. Who else can we blame? We can only blame ourselves. We dug deep, got a lead twice and we lost it, so we can only blame ourselves.
“It’s hard to come off the field after losing 3-2 and be positive. I’m really sorry. We’re not a team that should come here and pat ourselves on the back for doing well. We’re a team that gets results.”
Roberto Mancini was then asked about Hart’s frank assesment and, obviously partially irked by the result and partially by Hart’s willingness to lay City’s failings out in the open so readily, replied curtly:
“Joe Hart should stay as goalie and do his job. If anyone should criticise the team, I should criticise the team, not Joe Hart. Joe Hart should stay as goalie. I am the judge, not Joe Hart.”
Fair enough. Mancini’s words weren’t nearly as harsh as they seem in black and white and what’s more: he’s probably right.
There’s a reason why today’s footballers are media-trained to the hilt and guarded to the point of labotomy. It’s a protective measure to ensure that the baying press hordes aren’t unwittingly thrown any stray carrion to frenzy their bloodlust.
Hart broke the sterile interview kayfabe in a moment of weakness and Mancini was temporarily flustered at being ever-so-slightly undermined. Just look at what was actually said; none of it is anywhere near being inflammatory or controversial.
As trifling as it may be, the ‘spat’ has still managed to commandeer the back pages this morning, though we imagine that not a single angry word had been said between the two in the cold light of day. Hart will go back to being the goalie, Mancini back to being the immaculately turned-out judge.
Much ado about absolutely nothing.