Capital One Cup win key for Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini
Manchester City's Capital One Cup final win over Sunderland obeyed one of football simplest laws - but one which is not always obeyed.
It is the rule that states the team with the best players, those able to produce the moments of quality that matter, wins the important games and the biggest honours.
And for manager Manuel Pellegrini, the fact he possessed those figures in the shape of Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri enabled Manchester City to overcome Sunderland's vibrant, passionate challenge and claim an honour that assumes a wider significance for the Chilean beyond the 3-1 win at Wembley.
Pellegrini in Spain and England
- Villarreal (2004-2009): Games: 259; Won: 123; Drew: 72; Lost: 64
- Real Madrid (2009-2010): Games: 48; Won: 36; Drew 5; Lost: 7
- Malaga (2010-2013): Games: 130; Won: 53; Drew: 30; Lost: 47
- Man City (2013-present): Games: 43; Won: 32; Drew: 4; Lost: 7
*statistics correct on 3 March 2014
It was the decisive difference between Gus Poyet's team, dominant for 55 minutes, and eventual winners City, who survived apparent stage fright and the potential to sleepwalk to defeat by finally delivering the quality that counted.
The Capital One Cup was not top of Pellegrini's list of priorities when he succeeded Roberto Mancini in the summer, the key component in City's more "holistic" approach after the Italian's fractious final days.
But the fact he won it to secure his first trophy since arriving at Etihad Stadium, and the first major domestic trophy this season, enables him to make a statement.
The sort of statement Jose Mourinho made when he deliberately made this competition a prime target, and succeeded in winning it, during his first season at Chelsea in 2004-2005.
If this success was important as another addition to City's recent roll of honour, it was arguably even more important to Pellegrini as it demonstrated the 60-year-old can be a winner.
City's cup-winning coach
- A defender, Manuel Pellegrini spent his entire playing career at Universidad Chile, making more than 450 appearances
- Retired in 1986 and took his first managerial role the following year at Palestino
- Has taken charge of 10 teams in total including Villarreal (2004-09), Real Madrid (2009-10) and Malaga
- Won league titles in Ecuador and Argentina and the Intertoto Cup with Villarreal in 2004
The first trophy for any new manager is vital, especially someone like Pellegrini who has acquired a somewhat unfair reputation as a manager who produces teams high on artistic merit but low on the tangible reward of silverware.
This does a disservice to his work against the odds at Villarreal and Malaga - but there is no doubt, despite the usual impassive mask, he will feel better about himself now he has a trophy on his City CV.
On this occasion the manager unfairly thought by some to be "the nearly man" saw his team get over the line, not at their best but in possession of the talent that makes the difference.
And anyone tempted to reduce the importance of the Capital One Cup, even though it is the lesser of the domestic trophies behind the title and the FA Cup, should have seen the elation on the faces of City's players and fans at the final whistle.
Further evidence of what it still means to win a trophy at Wembley could be seen in the magnificent noisy backing of Sunderland's supporters.
They were given a superb run for their money by Poyet's players before City delivered a touch of class that was simply beyond the Black Cats.
For 55 minutes Sunderland were the better, more motivated, team. They deserved the reward of Fabio Borini's goal - then that law kicked in.
Man City's list of major honours
- First Division/Premier League (3): 1936-37, 1967-68, 2011-12
- FA Cup (5): 1904, 1934, 1956, 1969, 2011
- League Cup (3): 1970, 1976, 2014
- Community Shield (4): 1937, 1968, 1972, 2012
- European Cup Winners' Cup: 1970
The previously anonymous Toure nonchalantly flipped a staggering 25-yard finish over startled keeper Vito Mannone into the roof of the net.
And before Sunderland could clear their scrambled heads, Nasri demonstrated technique and confidence to slice in another superb finish with the outside of his foot.
In the space of one minute 45 seconds, the Capital One Cup was won. And from the anxiety of those first 55 minutes, Pellegrini could even think of history.
No team has ever completed the domestic Treble but the opportunity is there for City, with Pellegrini well aware that to end the season with this Cup alone will not wholly satisfy his fiercely ambitious Abu Dhabi paymasters.
Pellegrini acknowledged City may have taken some time to banish the demons of last May's FA Cup final, when predecessor Mancini was outsmarted by then Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez, but they got there in the end.
And now, having cleared his first hurdle, Pellegrini plotted the route forward with an FA Cup quarter-final at home to Wigan next weekend and a promising Premier League position, six points behind leaders Chelsea, but with two games in hand.
"You have got to give Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini credit for his half-time team talk at Wembley. Their second-half display was in stark contrast to their performance in the first 45 minutes."
Pellegrini is fortunate to have those game-changing players, but they may also have greater faith in him now they have celebrated victory alongside him at Wembley.
The Champions League may be beyond City as they try to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Barcelona in the Nou Camp, but Pellegrini made it clear he expects further successes before the season ends.
For Sunderland, success will mean Premier League survival, even though they still have the FA Cup to play for.
If they perform with the same passion, commitment and quality on show here (and they were still in the game until a last-minute strike from Jesus Navas on the counter-attack) they can achieve that goal.
In the end, though, they could not defy the law that says quality wins matches - and in this case the Capital One Cup.