SUCH was the success Pep Guardiola enjoyed at the helm of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, ‘Can you do the same at Hull or Stoke on a cold winter’s night?’ is a question the Spaniard is unlikely to have faced.
A patchy start to life at Manchester City, however, has led to suggestions that a coach with two Champions League successes to his name plus six domestic league titles may not, after all, have what it takes to prevail at the very top of English football.
Time will tell on that score. But, last night, the Blues did, at least, prove that a Guardiola team possesses the mettle to claim all three points amid plunging temperatures at one of the Premier League’s more blue collar venues.
Mind, the Blues were given a helping hand by Andrew Robertson. Just what the left-back, usually one of Hull’s more reliable performers, was thinking as he dived in on Raheem Sterling inside the home penalty area is something only the Scot can answer
But, whatever thought process or otherwise was behind his attempted tackle in the 72nd minute, Robertson’s rash decision cost the Tigers what, up to then, had been promising to be a precious point in the fight for survival.
After Yaya Toure successfully converted the resulting penalty, there was no way back for Hull as Kelechi Iheanacho netted a second for the Blues and then Curtis Davies put through his own goal in stoppage time to ensure all the endeavour and attacking intent that had characterised the home side’s efforts until the penalty counted for nothing.
No wonder Mike Phelan bore the look of a frustrated man at the final whistle.
“Losing like that was harsh,” said the Tigers chief. “We are playing one of the top teams at this level, if not in Europe. And I thought the way we went about our work was commendable.
“The home supporters knew that and responded really well. The critical part, though, is when you make individual errors, they cost you.
“I am not going to look for a scapegoat, that would be wrong to do. Andy Robertson has been terrific. But he will learn from this.”
Phelan’s frustration was understandable. Until Robertson’s moment of madness had seen Hull concede a ninth penalty of the season, four more than any other top-flight side, Guardiola’s men had been made to look distinctly ordinary.
Tom Huddlestone’s deployment just in front of a three-man defence gave the hosts a foundation that allowed the likes of Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore to ask questions of the expensively assembled visitors.
Dieumerci Mbokani’s muscular frame and willingness to hustle anyone in a blue shirt also meant the striker was a real handful.
In the first half, this all-action approach put the shackles on Guardiola’s men to such an extent that chances were at a premium.
David Marshall did have to get down smartly to hold a Silva shot in the 19th minute but, otherwise, the Tigers were rarely troubled.
Claudio Bravo had a similarly quiet first 45 minutes at the other end, Livermore’s drilled shot into the Spaniard’s midriff being the closest he came to being unduly exerted.
It said everything about the paucity of chances that the half-time interval brought comfortably the biggest cheer of the night from the crowd when a young Tigers fan successfully completed the ‘crossbar challenge’.
That, though, changed after the restart as, first, Harry Maguire volleyed over after being picked out by a delightful free-kick from Huddlestone before Aleksandar Kolarov was fortunate to see the ball trickle wide after he had stuck out a leg during a scramble.
Moments later, Hull went even closer when Michael Dawson beat Bravo to the ball with a brave header that Bacary Sagna cleared from underneath his own crossbar.
At the other end, Kevin De Bruyne went even closer to breaking the deadlock with a well disguised shot that wrong-footed Marshall only for the ball to strike the inside of the post and bounce to safety.
De Bruyne also shot wide from a neat pass by David Silva before the night’s pivotal moment arrived 18 minutes from time when Robertson dived in on Sterling to allow the visitors to go ahead.
Iheanacho doubled the lead five minutes later after Hull had been opened up too easily, something that was repeated deep into stoppage time when Sterling fired in a cross that Davies unwittingly turned past Marshall.
Hull City: Marshall; Maguire, Dawson, Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore (Henriksen 73), Huddlestone (Mason 63), Clucas (Diomande 79), Robertson; Snodgrass, Mbokani. Unused substitutes: Jakupovic, Meyler, Maloney, Weir, Henriksen.
Manchester City: Bravo; Sagna, Otamendi, Stones (Kolarov 16), Clichy; Toure, Fernandinho; Nolito (Iheanacho 55), Silva (Fernando 81), Sterling; De Bruyne. Unused substitutes: Caballero, Zabaleta, Navas,, Garcia.
Referee: R Madley (West Yorkshire).