Comment by Oliver Rhodes
The FA Cup is one of the most prestigious trophies in club football, but to hold the silverware aloft signifies much more for Manchester City.
With their Premier League season finishing without flourish, City are focusing their attention on the FA Cup final against relegation-battling Wigan Athletic.
The odds are overwhelmingly in their favour, which increases the pressure on the Blues and their campaign resurrection bid.
Roberto Mancini and his platoon of star-studded talent have endured a rather lacklustre season – especially compared to the heart-stopping climax of last year.
The 2012 Premier League champions have surrendered their crown to arch-rivals Manchester United, who gained their 20th league title after crushing Aston Villa.
Speculation is rife with regards to the Italian tactician’s future – Txiki Begiristain reportedly travelled to Spain to talk to Manuel Pellegrini’s agent.
There are also rumours of detachment between the manager and his players with the 48-year-old refusing to sugar-coat underperformers and those slipping in standards.
Mr ‘50-percent’ Samir Nasri appeared to receive the majority of the flak, but goalkeeper Joe Hart and captain Vincent Kompany have irritated the boss too.
And despite David Silva’s attempt to quash the thought of a rift, there is widespread belief of the ridiculed players being disenchanted.
History shows footballers using their influence following breakdowns in player-manager communication – Andre Villas-Boas’ experience with Chelsea stars is one example.
Only Argentine right-back Pablo Zabaleta – who earned his place in the PFA Team of the Year – appears to be in the good books.
The scrutinising eye shall look towards the reaction and relationship between Mancini and his cup-final squad after the full-time whistle – whether win or lose.
Are the players to fight for their manager’s future or strive to achieve personal glory with the view of a new dawn?
The possibility of a fresh start applies to the players as well as the man in charge, so winning the FA Cup may appear as their City career swansong.
Gareth Barry, Edin Dzeko and Joleon Lescott – who is contemplating his future –appear to be closest to the exit door.
Mancini also states City require quick spending in order to avoid another spout of poor business, which included the likes of Scott Sinclair and Richard Wright.
Players may be battling to secure their starting berth after links to Napoli striker Edinson Cavani – scorer of 23 league goals – and Ajax’s Christian Eriksen.
However, concentration is required on earning silverware and Wigan are travelling to Wembley for more reasons than to represent the ultimate obstacle.
City defeated the Latics after conquering Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final, but the score reflected the game – tight and closely fought.
Roberto Martinez and his players hope to offer more of a challenge than Stoke City presented in the 2011 FA Cup final.
That year ended City’s 35-year trophy drought and started to turn the wheels for countrywide domination, as Mancini wrote his name into club folklore.
But the term ‘folklore’ may appear more appropriate if City fail to beat Wigan with the Mancini chapter possibly ending in the club storybook.