Preamble When you've had a chastening experience, there's nothing as comforting as comfort. It could be the zesty ingestion of 47 Big Macs, spunking money you don't have on clothes you don't want or even a home Premier League fixture. Nothing is as likely to make Manchester City feel good about themselves. Since the start of 2011, their Premier League record at the Etihad puts the 'form' in 'formidable': P32 W29 D3 L0.
City are still the best team in the Premier League. This is worth reiterating given their status as the crisis club of English football, on a notorious losing streak of one game. They have made a slightly absent-minded start to their title defence, in part because of Roberto Mancini's think problem, but their imminent departure from the Champions League will focus those minds. All should be well with their world by 7.30pm.
It's an important game for Swansea too, the start of a very tricky run of fixtures. In the next 10 games they play City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Newcastle, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs. There have been some scandalously premature judgements of Michael Laudrup's tenure. By Christmas we should have a much better idea how successful he is likely to be.
Swansea's last win at Manchester City came in 1951. That's a deceptive statistic, though; they've only played six games in the 61 years since. No, I'm not really sure what the point of this entry is.
Shameless plug department I wrote a chapter on Roy Keane (there's an extract here) for this book. If everyone in the entire known universe buys a copy, I'll be so rich that I never have to MBM another game, so we all win. What are you waiting for?
Michael Laudrup: the definitive player's player Just look at these tributes, and then spend 10 minutes savouring what all the fuss was about.
Team news Manchester City have recalled Carlos Tevez, Alexsandar Kolarov and Matija Nastasic. They could play a couple of formations with that XI: it might an up-yours 3-5-2 from Roberto Mancini, with Gael Clichy as the left centre-back, but it's more likely to be a 4-2-3-1 with Samir Nasri on the right of midfield. Swansea are unchanged.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1) Hart; Richards, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy; Y Toure, Barry; Nasri, Tevez, Kolarov; Aguero.
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Toure, Evans, Sinclair, Dzeko, Balotelli.
Swansea City (4-2-3-1-0) Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Chico, Davies; Britton, Ki; Hernandez, De Guzman, Routledge; Michu.
Subs: Tremmel, Dyer, Graham, Monk, Shechter, Tiendalli, Agustien.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
5.20pm "Right, I've been disappointed by Villa and Norwich, I've been disappointed by my Quorn burgers for lunch, and I've been very disappointed by my 10-month-old son going for a nap rather than watching Star Wars Episode IV with me," says Matt Dony. "This better be a helluva good MBM, Smyth!"
I'll bring my banter A-game.
Here's a question If you have big headphones, proper headphones, and a woolly hat, how can you wear the two at the same time? You can't wear the hat on top and if you wear the headphones on top it looks like you're auditioning for the winter season of Nathan Barley. You could just go without the music, of course, but a gentleman needs his Roxette fix on a cold winter's day.
1 min City (Manchester) kick off from right to left. They are in blue; Swansea are in white.
2 min City (Manchester) are indeed playing a 4-2-3-1 formation.
3 min "Back when I used to spend my money on things like nice headphones, I would have two pairs, proper headphones, and then smaller headphones that would hook behind the ear which I could wear under a winter hat or on an oppressively warm day," says Kari Tulinius. "Big headphones and woolly hats don't play well together." This head ain't big enough for the both of 'em, and all that.
4 min It's been a pretty quiet start to the game, with more than a whiff of prawn sandwiches about the atmosphere.
5 min Britton plays a crisp 10-yard pass straight into touch. Swansea have been good without the ball but poor with it in the first few minutes.
8 min Aguero feels Williams at his back and swerves majestically around him. When he's tackled the ball breaks to Tevez in the area, and Chico makes a superb sliding tackle before Tevez can get a shot in.
10 min This is all very sluggish thus far. Whatever happened to the fast start? In 2002 Arsenal seemed to be 2-0 up after 10 minutes every second week. Now teams would rather feel their way into the game.
11 min "It is for such occasions that the humble boombox was invented," says Ben Stanley. "This has the additional advantage of allowing you to drown out the tinny grime emanating from some spotty teenager's iPhone speaker with a blast of Physical Graffiti."
13 min Kompany fouls De Guzman down the left, which gives Swansea their first attacking set piece. It's swung deep by De Guzman and, although Williams was flagged offside, Hart didn't know that when he came for the ball and made a total hash of his attempted punch.
15 min "I know I'm pushing on an open door here Rob, but watching that selection of Laudrupisms just underlines how blessed are those blessed with outrageous balance," says Gary Naylor. "Yet his contemporary, Preben Elkjaer, was a magnificently balanced footballer too – though in a completely different way. Elkjaer seemed always to be on the edge of falling over, always flat out to try to keep up with the ball and his footballing brain, always baffling us with how he actually did the things he did. Though Laudrup is at the extreme end of 'his' balance spectrum with the likes of Zidane, Beckenbauer and Muller, is Elkjaer on a spectrum all of his own? I can't think of many who played like him with quite that level of ability, like an ultra deluxe Ade Akinbiyi. Someone should write a book about those mid-80s Danes."
Quite. This is a great example of his balance. Elkjaer was one of those players, like Jan Ceulemans, who never gave defenders even a second's peace. One Spanish paper described him as "the human locomotive", which is lovely.
16 min This game is a mess. Both sides have been unusually loose in possession.
17 min Gareth Barry, the Englishman, palpably obstructs Angel Rangel, the foreign man, sending him flying as a result. The foreign man is booked for diving.
20 min Aside from that Chico tackle on Tevez, Manchester have not even had a sniff of a chance. They aren't being helped by a seriously subdued atmosphere.
21 min "We are still in the bar, Rob," hics my colleague Ian McCourt, who was in the bar during the first MBM five hours ago.
22 min Hernandez, on the right, swings a superb cross towards Michu, who is about to head for goal when Micah Richards comes round from the side to head away. In doing so he clashes heads with Michu, who drops straight to the ground and may well have been knocked out for a few seconds. He receives treatment before being helped to his feet by Joe Hart, and I think he'll be okay to continue. That was a great piece of defending from Richards, because Michu was only ten yards out and would surely have scored.
25 min "I can't have been the only one to see that Elkjaer clip and thought, 'What would Benjamin Massing do?'" says Richard Dorman.
You know you've left a decent football legacy when your surname becomes a verb.
26 min City, as Chris Waddle says on ESPN, have been far too slow in possession. I'm not quite sure why. They look like a team who are so used to going behind (and then coming back to win) that they need it to happen again before they wake up. In a daft way the worst thing Swansea could do here is score a goal.
28 min This is even worse than Aston Villa v Norwich City.
29 min Apart from this game, and the one earlier, what would be your nominations for The Joy of Six: Stinkers.
30 min Kolarov and Nasri have switched wings. This is the extent of the excitement just now.
31 min Does anyone else remember Leeds 0-0 Blackburn in 1996-97, live on a Monday night? That was the stinker's stinker, and more exciting than this.
32 min If this game was a song ...
33 min Gareth Barry overhits a 10-yard through pass to Carlos Tevez by at least five yards. A 50 per cent ineptitude ratio, which is pretty special.
34 min "How many Stoke games are you willing to list in the JOS: Stinkers?" says Mike. "Switzerland v Ukraine World Cup 2006 haunts me still."
I think there's a support group for people who watched the entirety of that game.
35 min Clichy bombs into space down the left – and sidefoots a cross straight out of play. Is this a deliberate parody of an awful football match? If so it's note perfect.
36 min Vorm, obviously bored of having bugger all to do, passes the ball straight to Aguero, 25 yards from goal. He moves it forward to Tevez in the area, where Rangel comes round to make an excellent interception.
37 min Michu has a goal rightly disallowed for offside. It was a classy finish, though, clipped high beyond the advancing Hart.
38 min "Birmingham v Wolves in the Carling Cup last season," says Phil Booth. "Has to be."
39 min An actual shot on goal. No word of a lie. Tevez had a little space on the right side of the box and drilled a sharp but straight shot that was comfortably saved by Vorm. Moments later, Swansea had their first half-chance. Richards cleaned out De Guzman on the edge of the area, but Martin Atkinson played a good advantage, allowing Hernandez to swerve into the box and hit a low cross that was hoofed clear from under the bar by Kompany. When the ball went dead, Atkinson booked Richards for his earlier attempt at a tackle.
41 min Hart makes a fine save to deny Michu. The chance came when he broke beyond a static defence onto a superb angled through pass from Ki. Michu's first touch was a fraction too heavy, and it allowed Hart to charge from his line. Michu tried to dink it over the top with his second touch but Hart had got to within a couple of yards of him and was able to block the shot. Great goalkeeping.
43 min "The 1994 World Cup final nearly killed off my nascent interest in football when I was 8," says Matt Roberts. "Abysmal match."
But it had Viola's 14 minutes of fame. And it was Barry Davies's only World Cup final, so it gets a pass.
45 min City get a corner, their first I think, on the left wing. It's taken by Aguero, and it doesn't clear the front man's feet, never mind his head. There will be two minutes of added ambience.
45+1 min "The girls behind the bar are giving us free shots," says Ian McCourt. How did you swing that? Did you tell them you know Tom Lutz?
45+2 min The half in miniature. City win a free kick on the right, maybe 35 yards from goal. All the big men come forward. Tevez hoofs it miles over everyone, and the crossbar.
Half time: Manchester City 0-0 Swansea City We must never talk of that half of football again. Ever.
Obvious half-time thought David Silva is having a good game.
"The worst match I can remember is definitely Ireland v Norway in the 1994 World Cup group stage. It's hard to forget the sight of John Sheridan hoofing it 40 yards upfield every time the ball came to him, followed by John Aldridge thinking about running after it but deciding instead to trot back infield with a shake of his head" – James Roscow.
"Virtually all of Alex McLeish's games in the Premier League are tripping over each other in the boredom stakes" – Conor Seery.
"Micah Richards was the last man on the tackle he was booked for and should have been sent off. No one has seemed to notice though" – Rasmus. (He was last man but I don't think it was a clear goalscoring opportunity.)
"Evening Rob. Pop Quiz. Who is the only man to have scored in a World Cup semi-final and the Dundee derby? That's right, Claudio Caniggia. I once met him in the Overgate shopping centre in Dundee, one of the more surreal experiences of my life" – Simon McMahon.
"How tall need a player be to receive praise for his balance? With the likes of Romario, Messi, Aguero etc, I've always taken it for granted. Yet Seedorf's ability to drop his center of gravity from one leg to the other has always amazed me. Surely some kind of mometer is due..." – Phil Podolsky.
46 min Swansea kick off from right to left. City have replaced Aleksandar Kolarov with Mario Balotelli.
47 min City have had a half-time hairdryer – possibly literally – and have already shown more urgency in the first two minutes of the half than they did in the 47 minutes of the first.
48 min "I'm in California visiting some college buddies," says Eric Calhoun. "I convinced everyone to get up for the 9:30am kick-off and watch the game over breakfast, and now I'm not allowed to make suggestions the rest of the trip."
49 min I wonder if a team who are unbeaten in the league at the end of October have ever been under such scrutiny as City right now.
51 min Balotelli has just missed a very good chance. He was put through on goal by a lovely pass by Nasri and decided to go round Vorm instead of shooting. His touch was too heavy, however, and took him almost to the touchline on the left side of the box. By the time he passed the ball back into the middle, a group of Swansea defenders had got back and one of them was able to clear. In Balotelli's defence, Vorm was out extremely quickly to him.
53 min It's all City now. Tevez splits the defence with a stunning pass to find Richards in the box on the right. He eschews the shot and instead drags it across the face of goal towards Balotelli, who just can't reach the ball to put it into the open net. Balotelli claimed he was dragged down by Chico and went head to head with Williams; replays suggest he made the most of very little contact. No way was that a penalty. It was a wonderful pass from Tevez, Laudrupesque in fact. It was pretty much in a straight line, over a distance of about 30 yards, and took four players out of the game.
56 min "In 2006 I was living in the US and didn't have TV," says Kari Tulinius. "However, my landlady let me go to her apartment to watch World Cup games on a Spanish-language channel. I was the only tenant who was allowed that, but then I was the only tenant who had any desire to go into her apartment, on account of her cat. That kitty was just about the most malignant, crazed feline I have ever heard of. It would jump on whomever entered the apartment and just straight-up maul them with claws extended. It would even attack its owner, but she, being ex-military police, was a tough lady and didn't mind. However, for some reason, that cat took a shine to me, which garnered me some privileges in return for taking care of the cat whenever the landlady was away. When I'd go downstairs to watch games, the cat would inevitably curl up next to me on the sofa and purr. Usually it would sleep, no matter how excited I'd get, and wouldn't pay any attention to the screen. However, during the Switzerland – Ukraine game, as it was becoming increasingly clear that extra time was upon us, the cat woke up, looked at the TV for a minute or so, and then stepped up on me and put its front paws on my chest and started kneading me. As I looked down at it, the cat put one paw on my throat. I could feel its claws on my skin. It looked up at me, as if saying: 'I can end it for you now, if that makes your pain go away.' After a second's consideration of its offer, I shook my head, and the cat took its paw away from my throat and curled up in my lap, where it stayed all the way to the end of the match. That is almost entirely a true story."
57 min Swansea can't put three passes together. The atmosphere is still pretty subdued but you do feel a City goal is on the way.
59 min Michu produces another important save from Hart. Swansea's first decent attack of the second half almost led to a goal. After a long series of short passes, Hernandez broke away on the right and clipped over a cross towards Michu near the penalty spot. He sent a diving header towards goal but it was a bit too close to Hart, who dived smartly to his right to save. Michu will probably feel he should have scored; had it been in the corner, Hart would have had no chance. He didn't get enough of a flick on the header.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-0 Swansea City (Tevez 61) This is an excellent goal from Carlos Tevez. Nasri played a square ball to him, 25 yards from goal, slightly to the right of centre. He didn't have much space but had enough time to take a touch and then crunch a fine shot that dipped nastily and arrowed into the far corner. The way Tevez stunned the ball meant it wobbled a bit like a plastic ball, but ultimately it was the accuracy of the shot that was decisive. Vorm had no chance really, although he injured his groin in his attempt to save and is going to be stretchered off.
65 min Play still hasn't restarted. Vorm is being helped very carefully onto a stretcher by five or six physios.
66 min Vorm is finally replaced by Gerhard Tremmel, and Swansea kick off five minutes after conceding.
68 min "Like in most things, Premier League era ennui is nothing to real football era ennui," says Jon Millard. "Arsenal and Coventry seemed to be both perpetually televised in the 80s, and also, like Spinal Tap's Fire and Ice, perpetually produce lukewarm water. In 86/87 they gave us a shocking 0-0, and that so impressed ITV that they let them reproduce the exact scoreline and level of tedium next year. Being the 80s, you couldn't even watch it in the pub. Great.
71 min Michu's header from De Guzman's cross hits the outstretched hand of Kompany. There was a slight penalty appeal from Michu but nothing really. Kompany was only a couple of yards away from Michu, although he did have his arms raised. It would have been a pretty harsh penalty.
72 min Swansea replace a midfielder, Leon Britton, with a striker, Danny Graham. Michu will drop back into the hole.
74 min City still look unconvincing in defence. Nasri's pathetic clearance goes straight to De Guzman, 25 yards out. He shapes to go to the left of Hart and then sweeps a curler the other way, just past the far post. That was a fine effort.
75 min Apparently the Swansea chef, who is not a svelte gentleman, has broken his seat in the dugout. Yes, this is the bit where we link to Vito Spatafore (warning: clip has adult language).
77 min City have started sleepwalking through the game again, which has allowed Swansea to get back into the game. Pablo Hernandez clearly has his shirt pulled in the area by Nastasic, but it's not seen by the referee Martin Atkinson. That should have been a penalty, although only Mike Dean tends to give them.
78 min Swansea make their final change, with Nathan Dyer replacing Pablo Hernandez.
80 min Micah Richards is running towards his own goal when suddenly he collapses to the floor. He's beating the turf in pain, and it seems to be a knee problem. That looks pretty nasty. He had treatment for cramp a few minutes earlier but I don't think it's that. He looked in agony when it happened and now, as a stretcher is prepared, he is receiving oxygen. He may have ruptured something.
84 min Richards, still receiving oxygen, is helped slowly onto a stretcher and off the field. What a strange game of football this has been; two players have been stretchered off with apparently serious injuries, both after no contact with any other players.
85 min Richards is replaced by Kolo Toure. There will probably be at least 10 minutes of added time in this match.
86 min Nathan Dyer is booked for a sliding foul on Gael Clichy. That seemed a little harsh.
87 min He broke his seat!
88 min "Did you see Michael Vaughan's jive on Strictly the other week, Rob?" says Simon McMahon. "Didn't see that coming back in 2005." You wanna talk some jive? I'll talk some jive. I'll talk some jive like you never heard!
89 min An excellent inswinging cross from the right by, er, a Swansea player just evades the leaping Graham before drifting wide of the far post. Manchester City have been really poor in the last 15 minutes and a Swansea goal wouldn't be at all surprising.
90 min There will be 12 minutes of Fergie Time. That's about right in view of the injuries and substitutions.
90+2 min He broke his seat!
90+3 min This has been such a strange game, with an atmosphere so muted as to be almost unsettling. Dyer plays a smart one-two with Rangel and then blitzes a stunningly inept cross well wide of the near post.
90+4 min When the ball goes out for a Swansea throw-in, Michael Laudrup scoops the ball up to Ben Davies. Which is as good an excuse as any to post this link.
90+6 min City make their final substitution, with Joleon Lescott replacing Sergio Aguero. It's not a switch to three in defence; Lescott has gone to centre back, Nastasic left back and Clichy left midfield.
90+7 min A loose ball breaks to Ki, 25 yards out, and he blooters a half-volley miles wide.
90+9 min Balotelli wins a corner with an excellent run down the right. Nothing comes from it.
90+10 min Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
90+11 min After a dodgy spell either side of the Richards injury, Manchester City have been comfortable enough in added time. Not remotely convincing, but not in any real danger of conceding.
90+13 min This is now the longest Premier League game in history.
Full time: Manchester City 1-0 Swansea Balotelli almost scores with the last kick of the game, thrashing a shot that is either tipped over or hits the bar. Who cares? Thank goodness that game is over. At first it was terrible; then it was unnerving with freak injuries to Michel Vorm and Micah Richards; and by the end of 13 minutes of added time it was just plain weird. Thanks for your emails; night.