Man City Win FA Cup 2011

Controversial Italian swears when describing his season to reporters but joined Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards & Nigel De Jong in praising fans after cup triumph.

Thirty-Five years, two months and 17 days ago Manchester City won the League Cup. A generation has passed in which this famous football club had been reduced to being the punchline of everybody's favourite football joke, their capacity for calamity unrivalled throughout the leagues.

It may be the most expensive makeover in history, coming in at around £300million on players alone, but yesterday Manchester City finally shed their status as the comedy club of England, possibly forever.

For on Sunday, they won the FA Cup and the fact that their most bitter rivals from across the city had clinched a record-breaking 19th league title shortly beforehand mattered not a jot to those long-suffering supporters who celebrated at Wembley.

Trophy hunter: Yaya Toure smashes the ball past Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen

Trophy hunter: Yaya Toure smashes the ball past Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen

When Yaya Toure struck from inside the penalty area on 74 minutes, after some superb work from David Silva and Mario Balotelli, he broke what sometimes had seemed to be the longest curse in football history.

Even as the net bulged, the infamous banner at Old Trafford which celebrates the length of City's trophy drought was being dismantled.

For by that stage, there was no doubt that City would complete the task. So utterly had they dominated possession, so poorly had Stoke played, that it seemed inconceivable that City, even with their reputation for catastrophe, could concede the game.

Hounded out: City's David Silva (2nd right) is challenged by Stoke trio Ryan Shawcross (left), Robert Huth (2nd left) and Andy Wilkinson (right)

Hounded out: City's David Silva (2nd right) is challenged by Stoke trio Ryan Shawcross (left), Robert Huth (2nd left) and Andy Wilkinson (right)

So it proved. Though there was a brief flurry of activity from Stoke in the three minutes of injury time, with a Jermaine Pennant cross almost meeting the head of Ryan Shawcross, there was little for City to worry about.

It was not one of the great finals; Stoke will be desperately disappointed with their performance, even allowing for the huge disparity in resources between the clubs.

Their best player by far was goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, which tells its own story. But for the Dane's excellence, Stoke would have suffered a humiliation, yet the significance lay in the result rather than the performance.

Up for the Cup: Manchester City's Gareth Barry (left) challenges Stoke City's Jermaine Pennant

Up for the Cup: Manchester City's Gareth Barry (left) challenges Stoke City's Jermaine Pennant

Roberto Mancini, a man who has been doubted by his own employers at key points in this campaign, has delivered Champions League football next season and a major trophy in an extraordinary week for the club. And that represents a seismic change in City's fortunes however stratospheric the ambitions of owner Sheik Mansour may be.

Mancini's infuriating commitment to caution is unparalleled in the Premier League. But by starting with Carlos Tevez - a captain whose last significant act at the club could well be lifting the FA Cup - Silva and Balotelli, an altogether different side to the man was revealed.

Balotelli was the principal gamble and how he repaid his manager, his backheel that indirectly led to the only goal being the game's delight.

City fan Liam Gallagher (top right) at Wembley
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

City slickers: Rock star and City fan Liam Gallagher (left) and manager Roberto Mancini

When he had received an elbow to the throat on 15 minutes from Robert Huth that went unpunished, you feared the worst for the volatile Italian. Mancini winced when reminded of the incident.

'This was difficult for him,' said the manager with a wry smile. 'But I said to him before the game ''If I see that you are nervous and don't think about the game, then you will come off''. I think it is now important he realises he has a big talent and he can't lose his big talent.'

His talent rather than his temperament dominated. His stunning firsthalf strike from 25 yards that forced Sorensen to dive left and tip it over with his right hand - Stoke boss Tony Pulis called it 'save of the season' - was the best of several first-half contributions from wide left. Tevez and Silva played admirable supporting roles, yet the Spaniard's embarrassment was acute on 36 minutes.

Smash hits: Manchester City's Yaya Toure (right) celebrates scoring against Stoke

Smash hits: Manchester City's Yaya Toure (right) celebrates scoring against Stoke

Tevez played in Balotelli and though Sorensen pushed the ball away from the City striker, it fell invitingly for Silva. Eight yards out with the goalkeeper stranded, Silva drove the ball into the ground and saw it bounce high over the bar.

The accumulation of chances continued. To the first-half strikes of Tevez, turned away by Sorensen on five minutes, Toure, a swerver from 45 yards which flew just wide, and Vincent Kompany, parried by the Stoke keeper, were second-half efforts from Aleksandar Kolarov, into the side-netting, and Tevez, just wide.

Yet, with an hour gone and City utterly dominant, Kenwyne Jones got the wrong side of Joleon Lescott on to a long ball from Matthew Etherington and was through. Joe Hart blocked, but it was a tense moment.

Super save: Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen somehow pushed away Mario Balotelli's strike

Super save: Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen somehow pushed away Mario Balotelli's strike

'This is a problem we've had all season,' said Mancini. 'Many times we've dominated games and deserved to score three or four in the first half. We should be happy for our supporters for this trophy after many years but I think we need to improve.'

The best you could say of Stoke was that Sorensen's excellence apart, Huth and Shawcross defended manfully in the face of serial trickery from City's front three. But overwhelmed in midfield, it took 21 minutes to register a shot, from Jones, which was easily blocked.

More consistent with the flow of the game was Balotelli's impish backheel, which released Silva for a return pass. Though Balotelli's shot was blocked, it fell to Toure and his left-footed strike was clean and finally defeated Sorensen.

We had been waiting an age for it to come. Then again, half of Wembley had been waiting a generation.

'My season was s***' - Mario Balotelli swears in TV interview after winning FA Cup with Manchester City

Manchester City’s FA Cup-winning front-man Mario Balotelli rejoiced in Wembley with a host of team-mates after the 1-0 victory over Stoke City, but told reporters in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t happy with his season up until the triumph.

The striker completed the full course of the fixture and had a major hand in breaking the deadlock when his effort rebounded kindly for Yaya Toure to smash home.

But when quizzed on the day and the occasion by reporters on the Wembley pitch, the Italian described his season in a sensational manner.

“My season was s***, can I say that? My season was not very good, so today maybe I played more for the team," Balotelli told ITV.

"[Eric] Cantona was really a big player, but I am different, I am Mario.

“I’m happy, I said to the guys before the game that we are better than them but we have to respect them because they are a team unit. I said you have to give everything and if we give everything we will win. “

City’s players went about their business professionally on the day, controlling large parts of the clash and remaining solid and controlled after eventually taking the lead, a factor which pleased anchor man Nigel De Jong.

The Dutchman told ESPN: “We deserved it, from the first minute we dominated. Of course you know they’re going to come back with long balls and set pieces but I think we did a terrific job, dominated them and deserved the win today.

“The feeling is unreal. We worked so hard this year to win a trophy and to win the FA Cup, that’s just the end of a beautiful year and not only for the team but also for all the fans, they’ve been waiting for 35 years but to come out like this, I think the city will be blue for a very long time.”

The ending of a 35-year wait for a trophy seemed at the forefront of City minds as both Vincent Kompany and substitute Adam Johnson celebrated the victory.

Kompany said: “Look at our fans, 35 years, I don’t think people realise, it’s unbelievable and everybody is happy and in my personal opinion this is the first hopefully of many to come in the future. This is the target - we’ve laid won the first brick and now we can build the house on it.”

“It’s the biggest cup competition in the world, we’ve won it today and look what it means to the fans. Thirty-five years wait for it and we did it,” added Adam Johnson.

Despite wrapping up a week in which the club secured both their first domestic trophy in 35 years and Champions League qualification for the first-time, England men Micah Richards and Joe Hart were keen to look to the future.

Hart was adamant the day belonged to the blue half of Manchester, despite rivals Manchester United wrapping up Premier League glory earlier in the day.

“I couldn’t care less what they do at Old Trafford, it’s nothing to do with Man United today, it’s all about Man City and these fans, players and staff,” said Hart.

“We deserved to win the cup, we beat the best, we beat a very good Stoke City side. I know we’re brilliant, a bit more consistency next season and you never know.”

His compatriot Micah Richards added: “It’s unbelievable, I can’t describe it, we’ve worked hard all season and we’ve won it, I can’t believe it, look at the fans, they’ve been there from day one, it’s unbelievable.

"This is the start, this is the first one and this is most important one, it’s about building from this, it’s exciting times and we’ll get bigger each year.”

LIVE: Manchester City end 35-year wait for silverware with FA Cup triumph over Stoke - as it happened


Man City 1 Stoke 0 FT

FULL TIME: Manchester City 1 Stoke 0

Man City end their 35-year wait for silverware courtesy of a Yaya Toure strike deep into the second half.

Stoke were never really in it, it was more a matter of Man City working out a way to break them down.

A thoroughly deserved win, but you fancy this is just the start of a very exciting journey for Roberto Mancini's side. Oh, and that means a City v United clash back at Wembley in early August for the Community Shield... should be a cracker!

Winner! Toure wheels away after scoring the goal which secured City's first silverware in 35 years

Winner! Toure wheels away after scoring the goal which secured City's first silverware in 35 years

90+2min: Change for Man City: David Silva is replaced by Patrick Vieira. Stoke win three corners but they fail to threaten the goal.

90min: We'll have three minutes added on. To be fair we could play for another three hours and Stoke wouldn't score.

88min: Huge ovation for Carlos Tevez who is replaced for the last couple of minutes by Pablo Zabaleta.

86min: Midfield change for Stoke: Glenn Whelan is replaced by Danny Pugh.

85min: Great save Sorensen! Silva thumps a low drive from the angle across the keeper who does well to get down and palm the ball away from goal.

83min: Nowt doing for Stoke, Man City are retaining the lion's share of possession and win a corner which they decide to hold down in the corner for as long as they can to run down the clock a few agonising seconds.

81min: Substitution for Stoke: Rory Delap is replaced by John Carew.

79min: What have Stoke got? Can they fashion just one chance to get themselves back into this final? Their record over the previous 80-odd minutes suggests they probably won't.

Goal! Toure slams home from 12 yards out to hand Man City the lead

Goal! Toure slams home from 12 yards out to hand Man City the lead

76min: Yep, there's that now famous celebration from the Man City fans: backs to the pitch, arms link over the shoulders of those stood next to them. Bouncy, bouncy!

74min: GOAL! Manchester City 1 Stoke City 0 (Yaya Toure)

Who'd a thunk it, Toure finds the back of the net at the same end he scored the winner against United in the semi-final. Balotelli's neat backheel on the edge of the box finds Silva who loses control of the ball, but the Italian lashes a shot goalwards. The effort is blocked and falls kindly to Toure who fair thrashes home from 12 yards out.

73min: First change for City: Adam Johnson replaces Gareth Barry. Very attacking move from Mancini.

69min: Man City deal very well with another Delap throw in. In fact, they've dealt with everything Stoke have thrown at them, but the longer this game progresses, the greater the chance that just one goal will seal the trophy. Just saying, like.

65min: A Rory Delap throw booms into the box, City clear. By the sound of it, Arsene Wenger's comments that Stoke play 'rugby football' is sticking. The Potters fans belt out Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Amusing.

Hart of the defence: The City 'keeper makes a confident claim as Stoke press

Hart of the defence: The City 'keeper makes a confident claim as Stoke press

63min: First change of the afternoon - Matthew Etherington is hooked and Dean Whitehead comes on in his place.

61min: Kenwyne Jones, one-on-one with Joe Hart... but the keeper spreads himself and block. Fine, fine save. Credit to Matthew Etherington whose through ball was inch-perfect. Big moment.

56min: Balotelli slams his shoulder into Pennant's back and Stoke win a free kick down by the corner flag. They work a short routine and the ball flashes around the box but Man City clear their lines.

City scream upfield and Tevez finds Silva in acres of space but he dallies an aaaage on the ball and Stoke clear. The Argentina striker then angles a shot on goal which flies a yard or so wide. This game is very much alive and well!

54min: Ouch. Toure arrives late on Wilson and rakes his boots down the back of the Stoke defender's calf. Ref misses it.

53min: Worrying signs for Stoke. Looks like Pennant has had as recurrence of the ankle knock he suffered in the first half. he's stepping around the pitch gingerly.

Safety in numbers: Stoke throw defenders around Silva to halt his progress

Safety in numbers: Stoke throw defenders around Silva to halt his progress

50min: Better from Stoke. Pennant fluffs his lines when well placed on the edge of the box, skewing his shot into bodies rather than at goal. And Etherington escapes his marker momentarily, but his cross is blocked.

47min: Much consternation over the tardy return of hundreds of fans in the posh seats. I'm inclined to agree, there are thousands of Stoke And Man City fans who would have loved to take those seats.

46min: Early chance for Man City: Kolarov escapes the offside trap down the left and with players lining up to take the cut back, he decides to slam the ball into the side netting.

SECOND HALF: No changes to either side which means Jermaine Pennant has shrugged off his ankle knock and Matthew Etherington has convinced Tony Pulis he is fit despite all the evidence to the contrary. City get the game back underway.

HALF TIME: Manchester City 0 Stoke City 0

An entertaining game, enough goalmouth action to keep you interested, but I fancy both sides have a couple more gears they can move up to make this game worthy of its billing. I'll have the second half for you in a bit.

Net result: Sorensen's flying save denies Balotelli

Net result: Sorensen's flying save denies Balotelli

45+1min: Forget that, think we'll have a bit longer at the end of this game - Jermaine Pennant has gone over on his ankle and looks in quite some discomfort. Worrying times for Stoke, Pennant has been their best attacking outlet so far.

45min: We'll have one minute added on...

43min: De Jong side-foots a timid drive wide from 25 yards out. Ho, hum.

40min: Yellow card. Robert Huth - who is lucky to still be on the pitch following his earlier clash with Mario Balotelli - is cautioned for a double-footed lunge on Micah Richards.

39min: Another decent chance for City: Tevez through the inside right channel cuts the ball back to Balotelli who aims to shoot just six yards out but Stoke get bodies in the way.

No way through: Balotelli's route to goal is blocked by Sorensen

No way through: Balotelli's route to goal is blocked by Sorensen

38min: Pennant - who has been Stoke's best player today - picks the ball up wide right and heads goalwards. With options left and right, he opts to roll the ball in to Jones who fluffs his lines and skews an ambitious drive from just outside the box well wide.

35min: Silva five yards out with the Stoke goal gaping... but he sends it over! An absolute sitter. An exquisite clip over the defence from Tevez finds Balotelli who really should shoot first time, but he takes a touch. The ball bounces away from him but only to Silva who slams his shot down into the ground, his effort sails high over the bar when he really should have scored.

30min: Handball shout as the ball bounces up on to Vincent Kompany's arm, ref says nothing doing. Correct decision. Man City break up the other end and guess who's to receive the pass form De Jong? Yep, Kompany arrives on cue but sends a rather tame shot in Sorensen's arms.

29min: More trickery in the box from Tevez, the striker very nearly fashions a yard for the shot but Stoke swarm defenders around the ball and clear.

24min: Fine shot, great save. Brilliant piece of football all round as Toure finds Balotelli on the edge of the box, the Italian skips inside his marker and bends an exquisite right-foot curler towards the corner of the goal but Sorensen's fingertip save sends the ball around the post. Super stuff.

Jermain men: Tevez and Pennant have been the most threatening players for their teams so far

Jermain men: Tevez and Pennant have been the most threatening players for their teams so far

21min: Great link-up play from Walters who find Jones in the box, the noise levels rise at the Stoke end but his shot is blocked by Kompany.

18min: Man City continue to impress on the break. Toure's 50-yard crossfield pass finds Tevez who screams into the box, Sorensen hesitates and the Argentinian skips past the keeper, but the angle is too tight for a shot. He rolls the ball back to Balotelli who is blocked out.

15min: Now then, real controversy here. Whistles rain down from the Man City fans as Mario Balotelli writhes on the floor after a 'coming together' with Robert Huth. And the replays aren't kind to the German who clearly sticks an elbow into the Italian's jaw. Neither the ref or his assistant saw the incident so we move on.

13min: Stoke didn't need him in the semi-final for any of their five goals, but Delap has an early chance to send a long throw in to test the Man City defence. But nowt comes of it, ironic jeers from the fans in blue as it is easily nodded clear.

11min: Boom! Yaya Toure thumps a venomous drive from a good 25 yards out which zips past junction of post and bar.

Early chance: Stoke's John Walters has a shy at goal

Early chance: Stoke's John Walters has a shy at goal

9min: It's all Man City so far: They're first to the loose balls and are finding passes with ease. De Jong earns jeers from the Stoke end after booming a speculative rive from the edge of the box high over the bar.

4min: First chance of the match falls to Man City. Tevez profits from a slip in the Stoke defence, cuts across the back line and fires in a venomous right-foot drive which Sorensen does well to parry away.

KICK OFF: Stoke get us underway (a couple of minutes late) in their famous red and white stripe kits, Man City facing them in their light blue kit....

2.58pm: City fans doing their Poznan/backward/jumping celebration. They tend to save that for after goals... they will hope they haven't jinxed it.

2.56pm: Stacey Solomon singing God Save the Queen in an faux-American accent... 'Gaaaaad say-ay-ay-ay-ve aaaaar graaaaycious Queeeeeen'. Oh dear.

2.55pm: Ahhhh, the nervous wait in the tunnel, players, officials and respective managers look tense. What's the only thing that can make that wait any worse? The news that you have to walk out on to the pitch to face 90,000 screaming fans!

Here they come, the players are on their way out.

Wembley way: Manchester City fans (above) and Stoke fans (below) soak up the pre-match atmosphere

Wembley way: Manchester City fans (above) and Stoke fans (below) soak up the pre-match atmosphere

Wembley way: Manchester City fans (above) and Stoke fans (below) soak up the pre-match atmosphere

2.50pm: Your attention please, turn to the back of your matchday programmes where you will find the word to Abide With Me.

2.41pm: Time for the team news then... quite a few surprises in there, let me tell you: Carlos Tevez has been handed a place in the starting line-up in the FA Cup final against Stoke at Wembley.

The Argentina striker proved his fitness in midweek after a hamstring injury by stepping off the bench in the win over Tottenham. Tevez partners Mario Balotelli up front with City aiming to win their first major trophy in 35 years.

Man City v Stoke - teams

Man City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, De Jong, Barry, Toure Yaya, Silva, Tevez, Balotelli. Subs: Given,
Zabaleta, Milner, Dzeko, Adam Johnson, Vieira, Boyata.
Stoke: Sorensen, Wilson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Pennant,
Whelan, Delap, Etherington, Walters, Jones. Subs: Nash, Collins, Pugh, Diao, Whitehead, Carew, Faye.
Referee: Martin Atkinson

There is also good news for Stoke, who are appearing in the final for the first time, with both Matthew Etherington and Robert Huth in the team after hamstring and knee injuries respectively.

2.40pm: Erm, I'll mention this quietly for all you Manchester City fans... United are Champions. That's it, I won't mention it again. I promise.

2.36pm: So, will today’s match rate up there as one of the all-time classics? Lord knows, this famous old trophy has served up a mixed bag in recent memory. But what has been your favourite final of all time?

2.30pm: Whatever happens today, we are guaranteed an historic afternoon. Remarkably, these two sides have been waiting a combined 74 years, four months and 28 days for some silverware.

That wait ends today, for one of them, at least.

Afternoon everyone and welcome to Sportsmail's coverage of the FA Cup final between Manchester City and Stoke City from Wembley Stadium.

The bookies make Roberto Mancini's side clear favourites to take today's final but, in truth, both of these teams arrive at the showpiece event in very good form.

Tony Pulis's side have lost just once in the last nine and put Arsenal to the sword by way of an entree to this clash in the capital.

And if anyone is uncertain as to just how bad the underdog's bite is, may I direct you to this season's Carling Cup final between Birmingham and Arsenal. Form goes out of the window on days like these.

But Mancini has been quick to fend off any thoughts of complacency from his team this afternoon.

‘Arsenal against Birmingham is a perfect example,’ he said. ‘I will remind the players of that but they know that against Stoke it will be very hard. I’ve played against Stoke three or four times in one year and we’ve had a problem in every game. Every game! They’re not easy to play against.’

Tuesday's victory over Tottenham means the fans at Eastlands will be watching Champions League football next season, but winning an actual trophy today would round off a very rewarding season for the Italian.

It's the big one and its sure to be a cracker. I'll bring you all the team news as we get it and you can direct your thoughts on the day's action in this direction:

Wembley way: City won the battle with United last month, now can they seal the trophy?

Wembley way: City won the battle with United last month, now can they seal the trophy?

Exclusive: He was a nine-year-old rebel but now Vincent is the ideal Kompany man

Bad news for Manchester City ahead of the FA Cup final. They have another rebel in their midsts. The better news is that Vincent Kompany has the rage under control these days.

‘As you get older you learn how to lead,’ Kompany told Sportsmail. ‘When I was younger it was not like that. I would storm in to see the manager and say, “You have got your team wrong. You have got to do this instead”. And when I mean younger, I mean really young. I was eight or nine when I was doing this!

‘Then I would walk out of training when I had the feeling that the team wasn’t doing things right. I was just too angry that people couldn’t be bothered and stuff. I was always bothered. I always had to win. So I would just walk off midway through. Go home.

Happy days: Vincent Kompany celebrates after Manchester City beat Manchester United to reach the final

Happy days: Vincent Kompany celebrates after Manchester City beat Manchester United to reach the final

‘When you get older — I am 25 now — you learn that you can’t just walk out of training if you are angry or start shouting at everyone. You have to try and contain it and think of something you are going to say that’s going to make a difference.’

It's the dressing room at Wembley 10 minutes before City’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United last month. Vincent Kompany is preparing to make a difference.

‘I wanted to say something, so I kept it simple,’ recalled Kompany, who has recently been captain in place of the injured Carlos Tevez. ‘I said to the lads that when we won we would go and do the “Poznan” celebration with the fans. I said not “if” but “when” because that’s what I believe before every game. It’s a distinction. It’s important. I wanted the others to think that too.’

City’s victory over United that day remains fresh in Kompany’s mind. It’s cherished, and with good reason. Two months earlier, Kompany had the best view of all of one of the goals of the season as Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick won a tight Barclays Premier League derby at Old Trafford.

‘It was an unbelievable goal,’ he recalled. ‘But a couple of weeks after the defeat we learned that we would play United again in the Cup semi-finals. I thought that was the best thing. We just needed to get that image of Rooney’s goal out of our heads.

Stunned: Kompany (left) watches Wayne Rooney score against City

Stunned: Kompany (left) watches Wayne Rooney score against City

‘It was a defeat and whether people want to play them down or not, derbies are really big for the people in Manchester. The derby at Wembley was more than just football, so to beat them meant everything to us. Symbolically it was unbelievable. There is no point saying it didn’t mean the world to us, because it did.’

Kompany is an intelligent man. He speaks four languages, follows politics and is an obsessive reader, while his three years in Manchester have seen him grow to understand the city’s sporting culture. How interesting, then, that he could feasibly have been playing for the other side.

A prodigious teenage talent at Anderlecht six or seven years ago — he was once known as the ‘Belgian Desailly’ — Kompany was contacted by several large European clubs about a possible move. United were one of them.

Kompany was tempted but said ‘no’, choosing instead to stay in Belgium to complete his studies at a Flemish-speaking school.

‘Just because I had played one first-team game it didn’t mean I was going to be safe in football all my life,’ he said. ‘I had to have something to fall back on.

‘At City, I feel I have done a lot so far and I feel I am pretty much part of what is happening. At another club I could have three or four titles but I wouldn’t have been there from the start. So what would that have meant? Not much.’

Vincent Kompany’s story began in Brussels in 1986. Born to Pierre, an immigrant from the Congo, and Jocelyne, he grew up in the red light district behind the main railway station.

His father was a taxi driver who studied to become an engineer. He lost his mother three years ago to cancer. His attitude is simple.

‘My father didn’t come all the way he did to give me chances and for me to fail,’ Kompany said. ‘I owe it to him and to myself to do well.

‘These are the things that define personalities. These are the things that have defined mine.

‘Where I come from, not a lot of people have been successful. It’s always been pretty difficult to get out. I know that hard work and a strong mentality have helped me.

Rising star: Kompany attracted plenty of attention while at Anderlecht in Belgium

Rising star: Kompany attracted plenty of attention while at Anderlecht in Belgium

‘But, as I talk to you now, I am still quite far from where my goals are. We are able to say we are in a good club and doing good things. But I am nowhere near to where I want to be.

‘You only have so long in football, so probably what I want will be unachievable but I always think: “Let’s try it”.

‘Why not win a Champions League? Why not win a Premier League? I am not saying that these things sound realistic right now. But why not set it at as a goal? From there we can work towards it and see how we go.’

Kompany’s decision to stay at Anderlecht as a young player was soon followed by a two-year lay-off with injury. As a result his eventual move from Belgium saw him end up at Hamburg in Germany.

A more modest destination than those put before him earlier, he eventually got his move to England in the summer of 2008.

Stepping stone: Kompany starred for Hamburg before joining City

Stepping stone: Kompany starred for Hamburg before joining City

‘Some people said Hamburg was wrong,’ he said. ‘I disagreed and eventually I got to where I wanted to be. England.’

The last signing made by City prior to the club’s purchase by Sheik Mansour, Kompany cost a club that has subsequently spent £350m on players a modest £6m. Having grown up as a defender, Kompany actually arrived at Eastlands as a central midfielder.

But the subsequent signings of Nigel de Jong, Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry, coupled with some defensive problems at the club, saw Kompany gravitate once more towards the centre of defence.

Literally and metaphorically, he rarely looks back now.

‘When I was a centre back in some teams it was a problem,’ he said. ‘If you are playing in that position for a team that isn’t strong enough, all you are doing is running for others. I don’t enjoy that.

‘But when you play in a good team like ours, it’s actually very enjoyable to play at the back.

‘Sometimes what I didn’t like at centre back was that as soon as something went wrong, everybody blamed the defence. In midfield you are protected from the blame. But ever since I have played in this position at City I have completely enjoyed it.

‘I also think that, as a player, one of the biggest compliments and marks of respect is when you are playing and there are big players — talented players — on the bench. You have to appreciate that and I do.’

Recently described by some pundits as the Premier League’s best central defender, Kompany’s rise to prominence at Eastlands has been steady. It hasn’t always been easy, losing his mother and also his place in the team when a foot injury required surgery last season.

City is a club where players don’t always take setbacks very well. Some have taken their ball home rather than stay and try to impress coach Roberto Mancini.

Kompany, who has previously described Mancini as a ‘genius’, had a different attitude.

‘Yeah, I have had a period when things went wrong in my life,’ he said. ‘I have had injuries and I lost my mum. But I must say also that sometimes if you want to be strong it’s best not to think of anything at all.

‘Coming from me, that sounds weird I know, because I tend to think about a lot of stuff. But sometimes you just don’t have to think.

On the up: Kompany (centre) helped secure City's place in the Champions League next season

On the up: Kompany (centre) helped secure City's place in the Champions League next season

‘I knew when I was injured, for example, that a team only has two centre halves and two central midfielders and if those positions are taken by players who are doing fantastically well, then you are struggling.

‘Like anybody, I can count and I knew my name didn’t fit in that equation at that time. But I wouldn’t let myself dwell on that.

‘I could have spent the whole of my rehabilitation and preparation thinking of another club, but that was never an option for me.

‘My approach is that if anyone is better than you, then you must look at what they have got and then try eventually to match it and then become better than them.

‘In my situaton now, I have made a lot of progress. So that’s good. But ultimately we will all be judged by what we achieve for this club. Those fans will be our judge.’

Having been at City during perhaps the most remarkable three years of the club’s history, Kompany has witnessed great change. Not all of what he has seen has been good. City’s training ground has been a lively place.

Community spirit: Kompany attended the opening of new football pitches

Community spirit: Kompany attended the opening of new football pitches

He does benefit from perspective, though. Not only does he believe Mancini’s squad is tighter than it was when the likes of Robinho and Craig Bellamy were in it, he even has a little sympathy for the current media villain, Mario Balotelli.

‘Sometimes (laughs) he’s a bit unlucky,’ he said. ‘Sometimes we are all a bit unlucky if the stupid things we do are caught on camera.

‘I was thinking recently about the problems he had and that I have had. I was in a situation like Mario once in Belgium. I arrived late for something. It got into the wrong people’s ears and it became a silly story.

‘I was actually late because I had been to my grandmother’s funeral. But it blew up.

‘At the time it fitted the picture that people wanted to have of me. But I thought to myself that whatever happened it wouldn’t really change the world. That’s what I thought. Mario must think like this.

‘Things have happened [with other players] here in my time but it’s more of a problem if you feel a situation isn’t going to eventually evolve in a positive way.

‘You very much know what to tell people to try and win a game and if they take it on board then they do and if they don’t the manager or other people will take care of it. I let them take care of it and they did.

‘I really believe that when you have a situation where someone is not right for the group then the manager or director has to take care of it. It’s not up to the players. We have a strong group now, though.

‘Myself, Nigel, Carlos, [Joleon] Lescott, Shay [Given] ... and I could go on. Patrick [Vieira], obviously. It makes it easier for a manager when they have strong personalities in the squad. Having said that, everything is in some way related to how you perform.

‘If you have a team of supposed winners and you are not winning then it can be tricky sometimes. You have a problem.’

At a Manchester City community event on the day we meet, Kompany is relaxed.

City’s community scheme has teamed up with the Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust to transform the under-used Regional Tennis Centre next to Eastlands into a facility also suitable for football.

In the spring sunshine, Kompany poses with children who will be able to use the new pitches.

Our conversation is about a serious business, though. The FA Cup Final will, after all, be perhaps the biggest day of Kompany’s burgeoning career so far.

Over to you: Kompany (centre right) will let Carlos Tevez (centre left) lift the trophy if City beat Stoke

Over to you: Kompany (centre right) will let Carlos Tevez (centre left) lift the trophy if City beat Stoke

City will start as favourites against Tony Pulis’s Stoke side. Lose and the victory over United will mean nothing.

‘The one thing we can say for sure is we will not underestimate them and we will take this game just as seriously as the United game,’ he said. ‘There is no one in our team thinking that we are favourites and that we just have to go there and wrap it up and lift the Cup.

‘I remember when I went to a supporters’ meeting in Stockport before the semi-final they were saying that if we beat United that is all that matters. They said they didn’t care what happened after that.

‘Now, though, we realise the final is much more important. People maybe don’t realise how much this means to us. We want that cup and we’ll do everything we can to get it.’

And if City do win, then who collects the trophy? Tevez and Kompany with one hand each?

‘No way,’ he smiled. ‘Carlos lifts the cup. He is the club captain. I will be following with the champagne and I will be celebrating. Don’t worry.’

Man City Win FA Cup 2011 Reviewed by admin Ucop on 2:45 PM Rating: 5

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