No Silva, no magic! Predictable Man City can't dislodge Mourinho's bus

City fans fully appreciate the Spaniard's unique talents but maybe it will take a game in which he did not play for the neutrals to catch up


It's true that you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Manchester City fans certainly cherish David Silva, to the point that many hail him as the club's greatest ever player.

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But there will have been thousands, maybe millions, of neutrals watching Thursday's Manchester derby bemoaning a lack of quality on show. They may not have known it, but it was Silva they were crying out for.

Jose Mourinho said less than an hour before kick-off that a point would be a good result for his side and that was clearly the game plan, with 10 United players usually between City's forwards and the away team's goal. 

And, while City rained down more shots on that goal than any other Premier League side have managed this season, they lacked the craft to pick their way through the massed ranks.

Silva's absence was keenly felt. It has become customary at this time of year for City fans to hit out at the Professional Footballers' Association and the Premier League, as for the last five years Silva has been left out of the official teams of the year. The last time he made the cut was 2012, the last time he won player of the month was 2011.

David Silva Sergio Aguero Manchester City

HD Sergio Aguero Manchester City

Pep Guardiola says the playmaker does not need awards but a bit of appreciation is certainly overdue. Seeing as he so rarely gets it when he does have a fine game, perhaps he'll be noticed more when he's not involved at all.

City certainly missed him on Sunday when he was kicked out of the FA Cup semi-final by an unusually streetwise Arsenal side. The knock he took to his knee, which forced him off after just 23 minutes, was enough to keep him out of the derby altogether. The good news for City fans is that sources close to the player insist it is nothing serious and that he has a decent chance of returning at Middlesbrough on Sunday.

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They'd rather have had him here at the Etihad Stadium, even if a point against United is by no means the end of the world as far as their Champions League qualification hopes go.

The talk around Guardiola's coaching staff leading up to the game is that the team were "caliente" - hot, angry - following what they saw as a robbery at the hands of the referee against Arsenal. 

The players were said to be up for the fight, ready to take all their frustrations out on United. And, while they certainly had the better of the game and were full of endeavour, what they could have done with was another Spanish term, a bit of "pausa" - the kind of footballing intelligence, streetsmarts, cherished by Guardiola and that only Silva - and to a lesser extent Ilkay Gundogan - can provide this team. 

Marouane Fellaini headbutt red card Manchester United Manchester City

With United dropping increasingly deeper as the game went on, City had more of the ball but did not look any likelier to score. Even when Marouane Fellaini was sent off for a brainless and reckless spree of fouls, and Mourinho ordered every single one of his remaining players behind the ball, they could not find a way through.

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Gabriel Jesus, roared vociferously when brought on immediately after United went down to 10 men, nearly brought the house down with a header in stoppage time, but his and the fans' celebrations were cut short by an offside flag. 

The Brazilian also had a goal ruled out for offside on his debut against Tottenham but he soon went on the scoring run that has made him an instant fan favourite. His knack of making things happen in the box will be a major plus for City in these final weeks of the season, and it will be interesting to see how Guardiola handles the situation given Sergio Aguero's recent improvement.

But it is Silva who Guardiola will want back in his team as soon as possible. The City fans appreciate his talent, it's not too late for the neutrals to follow suit.