City find the ingredients for success

There’s an episode in hit US comedy series Friends (we know it’s your guilty pleasure!) when Monica screws up while she and Phoebe are catering for her mum’s party. They had cooked a whole batch of lasagnes but just as they were preparing to serve, Monica realises one of her fingernails had dropped into the food.

It was at this stage that her mum admitted she was now $10 richer following a bet with Monica’s dad that their daughter would ‘pull a Monica’ – the term the couple had coined for occasions when Monica messed up. The unforgiving mother then went to the freezer to reach for a batch of frozen lasagnes she had prepared for just such a scenario. It was at this stage that Phoebe, being the good friend that she is (the clue is in the title), persuaded Monica to find a solution to the problem instead of wallowing in her mother’s lack of faith.

Suitably cajoled, Monica turned the situation into a positive by preparing a casserole that went down a storm with the party guests and had her mother scuttling into the kitchen full of remorse and lavishing praise. Phoebe intervened once more, suggesting that the phrase ‘pulling a Monica’ should be turned on its head and henceforth should be used only in reference to success rather than failure.

It may have been because I came close to losing one or two of my own fingernails amid the tension, but it was to this episode of Friends  – and the reversal in meaning of the ‘pulling a Monica’ term – that my mind turned in the aftermath of the unprecedented drama at the climax of the English Premier League season on Sunday. By now you will surely be aware of how the almost unimaginable series of events unfolded. A goal down going into injury time of the final match of the league campaign, Manchester City were on the verge of suffering one of the biggest collapses in sporting history and handing the league title back to local neighbours Manchester United.

Two goals and five crazy minutes later, however, City had rescued themselves and the blue half of Manchester had erupted in scenes of unbridled joy. Until that dramatic turnaround, football fans the world over will have been thinking ‘same old Man City, they’ve gone and screwed it up again’. They are ‘pulling a City’.

Because that is how City were viewed for the majority of the 44 years between their last top flight league title triumph and their crowning Premier League glory on Sunday – as the team that almost always found a way making a mess of things, the perennial footballing clowns. It is why their fans had grown such a thick skin and why they could hardly contain themselves at the final whistle.

The challenge for Roberto Mancini now is to ensure the ‘pulling a City’ term remains turned on its head and is a reference to success instead of repeated failure. Given the financial resources being ploughed into the club from Abu Dhabi, it was only a matter of time before City won the Premier League. While it may not have seemed like it on Sunday, to some extent winning the first title was the easy part – defending it successfully will be even more difficult.

It’s perhaps important at this juncture to explain that the ‘pulling a Monica’ term in Friends was coined largely due to her having to play second fiddle all her life to her older brother, Ross, the blue-eyed boy of the family whose academic success continually left her in the shadows. For Ross, of course, read City’s much decorated rivals United.

Sunday was City’s casserole moment when they finally found the winning recipe. Their next goal is to make success their signature dish.