Roberto Mancini's men made hard work of a straightforward task but the ability to solve self-made problems is a hallmark of so many great Manchester United sides of the pastBy Greg Stobart
This is simply how Manchester City do it, part of the fabric at a club that has always chosen the difficult way over the easy way.
A home fixture against newly promoted cannon fodder looked on paper like the simplest of starts as Roberto Mancini’s side began their title defence on Sunday.
City came up against a Southampton side with absolutely nothing to lose, determined to make the most of the occasion after returning to the top flight from the depths of League One.
The Saints did absolutely everything they could, combining their defensive work-rate with menace on the counterattack and scoring two goals to stun the Etihad Stadium.
|Read our match report as Manchester City came from behind to beat Southampton at the Etihad|
But City were able to overcome the scare of falling behind to the Premier League new boys, to demonstrate the winning mentality and competitive edge that comes with being successful.
The comeback was completed 10 minutes earlier than the glorious final day of last season, but it was a breathless, brilliant game to mark the return of Premier League football.
“That’s why we’re champions” roared the City fans after Samir Nasri’s late winner, the Frenchman capping a fine individual display to show that there are match-winners throughout the squad.
It had looked plain sailing when Carlos Tevez gave City the lead five minutes before the break, the hosts eventually finding a way to the Southampton goal after David Silva had missed with a woeful penalty.
Mancini was furious with his side’s casual defending at the start of the second half as Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis struck to put Southampton ahead.
City, however, stayed patient. They built attacks, dominated possession and committed men forward.
At one stage - just like last season’s final day against QPR - it looked like they might not find a way through and were on course for an embarrassing start to their title defence.
But Edin Dzeko turned in an equaliser from close range in the 72nd minute and eight minutes later Nasri slammed the winner into the top corner after the Saints failed to deal with a cross.
It should not have to be this hard for City, but they got the job done, and in thrilling style.
It is a trait for which rivals Manchester United have been praised throughout the Sir Alex Ferguson era, so why not say the same for City?
Of course, performances will have to improve and the defence needs to sharpen up. Joleon Lescott looked off the pace as did Vincent Kompany, who has not had a full pre-season due to a calf injury.
New signing Jack Rodwell sat in midfield but gave away a sloppy pass to Southampton before they swept up the pitch to score their second goal.
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City, though, have so much attacking quality. Silva may have been quiet, Aguero may have been forced off through injury early on, but Tevez, Nasri and Yaya Toure constantly caused the visitors problems.
Aguero’s injury will be an obvious cause of concern for Mancini, and the Italian did suggest after the match that he will in any case be looking to add reinforcements in the transfer market before the end of the month.
A big-name signing like Daniele De Rossi of Roma might just freshen up the City squad and give them a boost ahead of a nine-month campaign.
And if Aguero’s knee injury turns out to be more serious than he thinks - the Argentine striker tweeted on Sunday night that there is no significant problem - then Mancini will almost certainly look to bring in a top class striker.
It is Manchester United’s turn to respond when they kick off with a very tricky match away at Everton on Monday night as we prepare for another two-horse, all-Manchester title race this season.
City’s first performance suggests we could be in for another dramatic, topsy turvy season, but they have the character to defend their crown.
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