Monday's emphatic 8-1 victory Vietnam brought City’s pre-season tour to a thrilling, goal-laden climax.
It’s been an incredible 19 days for the squad, staff and international fanbase alike but what is life if not for the learning? Here are ten talking points from #cityontour.
Sterling’s perfect start…
Scoring two minutes into your debut in one way to silence the boo-boys.
Raheem has taken a lot of flak for his decision to swap Liverpool for Manchester but he delivered the perfect riposte on the field against AS Roma.
His coolly taken finish set the tone for the youngster on this tour, as he caught the eye in training on every occasion before turning in another fine performance against Real Madrid.
Against Vietnam, Sterling’s link-up play with David Silva was mouthwatering at times, boding well for the imminent campaign.
Feeling the love…
As someone who can remember the days when “Manchester” seemed to solely refer to another team from our city around the world, these last 19 days have been a pleasing eye-opener.
The biggest thrill of the tour has been meeting the passionate supporters we have in Australia and Vietnam who’ve been so generous with their time and their affection.
As touched on in the #cityontour diary, it’s such a grounding experience to witness what it means for fans to be given a rare opportunity to see their heroes in the flesh.
Seeing sky blue shirts ten and a half thousand miles away never lost its novelty for our entire stay in the southern hemisphere.
We’ll never complain about a freezing cold night at the Etihad again, we promise.
One of the most encouraging aspects of these past three weeks has been the desire on show from some of the established members of the squad.
The likes of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Yaya Toure have already assured their places in the fabric of the club’s history but they look ready to go again judging by their attitude and aptitude in training and in the friendly matches.
Best moment of #cityontour…
Sterling’s debut goal? 16-year old Humphreys lining up against Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo? Pozo’s brilliant finish against Vietnam?
All brilliant moments but when it comes to the best, there can only be one.
Joe Hart’s role in the penalty shootout win over Roma was pure sporting drama – the kind of moment where you forget that you’re watching a friendly and the hairs on the back of your neck are unexpectedly and immediately called to attention.
The save from Seydou Doumbia’s attempted panenka was good enough but when he stepped forward to smash a penalty of his own into the top corner, there was no doubt we’d just witnessed something very special indeed.
Returning loan rangers…
Jason Denayer, Marcos Lopes and Bruno Zuculini were all missed while they’ve been on loan spells away from the club last season.
The trio all look to have benefitted from valuable first-team experience gained at Celtic, Lille and Valencia/Cordoba respectively – each of them featuring against Roma, Real Madrid and Vietnam.
Denayer partnered Vincent Kompany, Cameron Humphreys and Eliaquim Mangala in those three games and was an authoritative presence in the back four, while Lopes scored against Vietnam and linked up like with those around him like he’d never been away.
Zuculini struggled for game time at Valencia in his first loan spell of 2014/15 but the all-action midfielder looks as though he’s improved significantly in the last 12 months, popping up all over the field in all of his matches to put out fires and drive the team forward.
A bumper summer for City’s Academy
Pre-season is always fascinating when it comes to youngsters being given opportunities to play alongside the senior professionals at any club.
However, this was a bumper summer on that front for City as, with five first-teamers missing the trip, more of the Academy’s promising talents were given the chance to stake their claims than usual.
Playing alongside quality, experienced pros certainly seemed to bring the best out of a handful of the squad, with Manu Garcia, Cameron Humphreys and Kelechi Iheanacho earning their manager’s praise.
They weren’t alone in shining, though: the tireless James Horsfield seemed to force his way up the food chain, Angus Gunn didn’t take to the field but was consistently excellent on the training pitch alongside Joe Hart, while George Evans once again slotted into the City midfield seamlessly, demonstrating unfussy class against Vietnam.
Fearlessness of youth…
The characteristic that has been highlighted time and again from those watching the above clutch of youngsters is the fearlessness they possess.
An evident freedom of expression is underpinned by profound understandings of “the City way” to play which allows our young players to slot straight into the first-team, knowing their roles and responsibilities inside out, allowing for a smoother transition from u18 or u21 football.
The squad which flew out to Australia 19 days ago is not quite the same one that arrived back at City Football Academy this morning – there have been some subtle alterations and there are likely to be more still over the next couple of weeks.
Stevan Jovetic is in Italy for a medical, while Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling have joined the squad while we’ve been away. Questions persist over the future of Edin Dzeko, as well as links with a move for Kevin de Bruyne.
Whatever happens, it promises to be an intriguing end to the transfer window for City as the rumour mill spins into overdrive.
Best 45 of pre-season…
Arguably the best 45 minutes City turned in this summer was the first-half against AS Roma.
Silva, Sterling and Iheanacho were outstanding in this spell, leading Roma’s defence on a merry dance with rapid fire one-touch balls, reverse passes and inspired flicks around corners.
Although the Blues were pegged back by wonder goals and taken to a penalty shootout, that half gave a tantalising glimpse at a future which may not be too far away.
How deep is your squad?
It’s not all reasons to be cheerful, however…
Manuel Pellegrini admitted that it was a real blow to lose new singing Fabian Delph to the hamstring injury sustained against Real Madrid and there are a number of other players who are in races to be available for the start of the season.
The South American contingent will only be starting their pre-seasons this week, while Wilfried Bony has trained alone after illness robbed him of the chance to travel away with the rest of the squad.
With less than two weeks to go until the return of the Premier League, there are still many questions to be answered ahead of our trip to the Hawthorns to face West Brom on August 10.
City on Tour, supported by visitabudhabi.ae.