When Garry Cook, the loose-tongued Manchester City chief executive, sounded like he was the Mad Hatter, rather than simply in the Mad Hatter, when he told a gathering of supporters in New York last week that they would first eliminate Sir Alex Ferguson's side from the Carling Cup before turning the United manager's worst nightmare into a reality.
For a fair chunk of this absorbing FA Cup tie, Scunthorpe United proved themselves a pretty difficult obstacle to overcome. Difficult enough to make Cook, unable to make it to Glanford Park because of illness, sweat a bit, anyway.
Goodbye to all that? Robinho reacts after being substituted
In the end, City got there, Robinho signing off with what might wellhave been his last act as a City player thanks to an 85th-minute goalthat ended any hope Scunthorpe had of forcing a replay.
Enlarge But they certainly gave their illustrious visitors something of afright and demonstrated on their first live appearance on terrestrialtelevision that they do indeed play some decent football under theguidance of manager Nigel Adkins.
That they do so when the entire squad earn less in a year thanRobinho does in six months highlighted what a dreadful waste of moneythe Brazilian has been.
While Scunthorpe possess courage and desire in abundance, Robinhoclearly has lots of cash but not much else. Not even a great deal oftalent on this evidence.
Intelligence certainly seems to be a quality he is lacking, becausehe cannot be terribly bright if he cannot fathom why he is unable tosecure a regular first-team place ahead of consistent, classyperformers like Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Martin Petrov is another who often gets picked ahead of him and deservedly so judging by his display. Petrov was excellent.
Robinho most definitely was not.
Game on: Battling Scunthorpe hit back through Cliff Byrne
The match marked Robinho's first goal of an otherwise miserable season.When you command a fee of £32.5million and wages in excess of £160,000a week even a club as flash with their cash as City can demand somekind of return.
He turns 26 today (Monday). Perhaps he will lose the attitude and the apathy and start to grow up.
Fortunately for manager Roberto Mancini, other players remain keento earn their corn and, despite difficult periods when Scunthorpemanaged to exert real pressure, City produced some impressivecounter-attacking football on a particularly sticky pitch.
'At times they were like the Red Arrows,' said Adkins.
Manchester City certainly started quickly, scoring after just threeminutes when defenders somehow fell for a quite ludicrous series ofstepovers from Robinho.
Letting fly: Sylvinho unleashes a rasping drive to put City 3-1 up
Enlarge Seemingly mesmerized by his apparent genius, Scunthorpe's back lineallowed Robinho to feed a neat pass into the path of Petrov who,unchallenged, beat Joe Murphy at his near post with a vicious left-footshot.
It amounted to a crushing start for the home side. Not exactly whatAdkins had in mind when he finished his programme notes by declaring carpe diem!Not exactly what the club chaplain had in mind, either, when hesuggested in his own programme notes that this was an opportunity toavenge that League Cup defeat at Eastlands back in October.
Reverend Alan Wright even had a few thoughts on City's considerable wealth.
'Do money and riches bring lasting happiness and success? he asked.'They may in the fairly short term, but long term? I think not.'
Jump to it: Nedum Onuoha prods home to restore City's lead
To Scunthorpe's considerable credit, however, they responded withreal drive and determination. Martyn Woolford threatened with a decentshot before both Cliff Byrne and Paul Hayes at £220,000 a year theirtop earner went agonisingly close to equalising.
After Byrne met a cross from Gary Hooper with a header that struckthe underside of the crossbar, Hayes somehow directed his effort widefrom no more than a few yards.
Scunthorpe's supporters did deliver a chorus of 'what a waste ofmoney' but only in the direction of Robinho, who then did his best toprove the point by losing out in an aerial challenge that led to thehome side's 29th-minute equaliser.
Parity restored: Scunthorpe United's Paul Hayes overpowers the City rearguard to fire a fine equaliser
From David Mirfin's head down came a ball forward by Woolford thatbounced kindly for Hayes who, from an off-side position it has to besaid, blasted a neat half-volley past Stuart Taylor.
Scunthorpe would nevertheless be left regretting those missedopportunities. Not least in the 45th minute when Nedum Onuohaaccelerated on to a nice pass from Stephen Ireland and guided his shotpast Murphy.
Taylor, making his City debut, would deny Scunthorpe a secondequaliser when he excelled in directing a super strike from Sam Togwellto safety. Which was more than Murphy could manage in the 57th minutewhen Sylvinho beat him from 30 yards with apowerfully struck shot.
Mob rule: City hail Martin Petrov after his stunning opener
At 3-1, it looked like game over. But then came a 69th minute shotfrom Byrne that took a nasty deflection off Dedryck Boyata and suddenlypresented Scunthorpe with the chance to answer the Reverend's call.
For 16 minutes it seemed like they might just do it. For 16 minutesit seemed like City could be heading to Old Trafford for the second legof that Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday nursing a seriously bruisedego.
Terrace humour: Scunthorpe fans in full flow
But one terrific ball from Petrov and suddenly Robinho had onlyMurphy to beat and for the first time since last season he actuallyscored.
That he was then booked, for his celebration, and hooked pretty much says it all.
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