Going, Going De Jong
I'm sure that of all the players that have seen the exit signs along Rowsley Street, a tear will possibly be shed in bidding Nigel de Jong farewell.
I recall speaking to Martin Jol ahead of City's ill-fated UEFA Cup quarter final with Hamburg and he told me that he was enjoying his work in Northern Germany but that the two best footballers he had at the Club when he joined now play for Manchester City. These were clearly Vincent Kompany and de Jong. Martin clearly thought they were better than Olic who before his injury was a superb player.
Nigel had some great games for City, providing the platform for the more creative players to ply their trade knowing that the door behind them was well closed.
His performance in the FA Cup Final against Stoke City was simply excellent. The formation that day was one of Mancini's dream-ups, where he pushed the full backs up, rather like rooks on a chessboard, to keep Stoke's wide players away from their favoured supply lines. De Jong swept up behind them with some of the best cover tackling I have ever seen in my fifty years of watching football.
He does have his limitations on offence, but considers a ball-winning tackle every bit as essential as scoring a goal. As he said himself - 'we have other players paid to score goals, my job is to win the ball and keep the door shut.'
At the start of last season his injury forced a rethink on Mancini and the dynamic duo of Barry and Yaya was born with the stick and twist philosophy where one held and one went. Then as we know, in the second half Barry often held whilst Yaya wreaked devastation all over the field. Nigel's absence was also the catalyst that changed 4-2-3-1 from a perceived defensive formation into a sensational attacking ploy that the Premier League simply couldn't fathom.
I think that was the signal for Mancini that the type of player that is de Jong was now surplus to requirements at the Etihad. That in addition to his alleged involvement with an agent who at the time was generating problems elsewhere for City. You know who I mean.
His bit parts at the end of the season when City had to win six matches to secure the title were first class and I think his attitude generally has been similar. But a seasoned international footballer at the peak time of his career is not going to enjoy bench splinters and as City's needs are now different, he needed to move on to satisfy his own ambitions.
So, Nigel, thank you for what you did at City and what you helped City achieve. You were a valued part of the new-found success at The Etihad and the only success we don't wish you in Milan is if you play against City in the Champions League at some point. One thing can be certain though, you will get a great reception from our fans should that ever arise.
The Transfer Window closes at 23h00 BST tonight after Brian Marwood puts the cat out. We'll bring you confirmation of all the signings and departures on VMC as the club confirm what the stories are.
City have drawn Aston Villa at home in the third round of The Capital One League Cup. The tie will be played week commencing 24 September.
Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott and James Milner have been called up to the England squad for the World Cup Qualifying matches against Moldova and Ukraine.
UPDATED UPCOMING FIXTURES:
all times East Manchester
TOMORROW 17h30 QPR, The Etihad, PL
Sa 15 Sep 15h00 Stoke, The Britannia Stadium, PL
Tu 18 Sep 19h45 Real Madrid, The Bernabeu, CL
Su 23 Sep 16h00 Arsenal, The Etihad, PL
TBC Aston Villa, The Etihad, LC3
Sa 29 Sep 15h00 Fulham, Craven Cottage, PL
We 03 Oct 19h45 Borussia Dortmund, The Etihad, PL
Sa 06 Oct 12h45 Sunderland, The Etihad, PL
Sa 20 Oct 15h00 West Brom, The Hawthorns, PL
We 24 Oct 19h45 Ajax, Amsterdam Arena, CL
Sa 27 Oct 17h30 Swansea City, The Etihad, PL
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