Oh Manchester City, what a Christmas it could have been for your supporters. Those supporters who have stood by you through thick and thin, as you’ve imploded time and again over the years.
They were there some 11 years ago when you were playing in what is now called League One. They can still recall that monumental play-off final against Gillingham, when Paul Dickov’s 94th minute equaliser took the game into extra-time, with Nicky Weaver’s penalty shoot-out heroics eventually securing promotion.
Since then, Maine Road has gone, the City of Manchester Stadium is now home, the club the richest in the world thanks to Sheikh Mansour’s billions and a squad that has been assembled to the tune of over £300 million.
However, old wounds always run deep, and once more City are displaying the inferiority complex that has come to be somewhat second nature at a club that has lived in the shadow of neighbours United for the past 25 years.
At home to an Everton side who had only three wins to their name this season, knowing that victory would put them top at Christmas and buoyed by the news earlier in the day that talismanic forward Carlos Tevez would be staying at the club, City were laboured and abject as they succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat against David Moyes men.
Goals inside the first 20 minutes by Tim Cahill and Leighton Baines meant City, who had started in extremely sluggish fashion, had an uphill battle against a dogged and determined Toffees side, for whom Phil Jagielka (despite his unfortunate own goal) and Sylvain Distin were outstanding.
The four snood-wearing forwards for City, Tevez, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli, all lacked spark (Balotelli, the mercurially gifted, yet frustratingly lazy forward in particular) and were short of ideas, unable to break down a solid, well-organised Everton back-line.
And therein may well be the problem for manager Roberto Mancini.
Despite the talented signings, the problem for this current City side is that they, and their style of play, lack an identity.
At home, City simply can’t dominate a game and take it to their opponents, the way Arsenal, United and Chelsea have over the years.
They lack the swagger of Arsenal when they pull teams apart. They don’t have the sheer power in their line-up that Chelsea have had since Mourinho took the Premier League title to West London for the first time. And they certainly don’t have that sheer will-to-win that their bitter rivals possess.
Instead they can be frustrated. Frustrated far too easily by teams who sit along the 18 yard-line and don’t leave space for either the clever through balls that are the fortay of schemer Silva, nor the powerful surging runs of Yaya Toure (playing with much more attacking license than we ever saw from the Ivorian at Barcelona) and who make them cross the ball into the box from wide areas – City are still yet to score a headed goal in the Premier League this campaign.
Far too often the likes of Gareth Barry, the full-backs Zabaleta and Kolarov, both Toure brothers and James Milner, slow down play, looking for the safe sideways pass that allows a side to regroup, rather than a more incisive ball that may create an opportunity.
Where in the side is the driving force, the like of a Steven Gerrard or a Roy Keane in his prime, someone that drives on their team-mates and demands only the best.
At this moment, they lack such a figure and they play like a group of individuals, rather than a team that is in control and who knows what it is capable of.
Had they have taken the game by the scruff of the neck from the beginning, something a Gerrard or Keane would have demanded yet, something that City were incapable of, then they may not have been two goals down before they started to get a foothold in the game.
The chance to go top of the table was there for this City side to take.
However, as has been their way down the years, they played like a side fearful of what they could lose, rather than one embracing what they could achieve.