ON the approach to the footbridge that links the Etihad Stadium with Manchester City’s hugely impressive Academy set-up is an advertising board emblazoned with the words ‘City reignited’.
Clearly, the slogan, accompanied by an image of David Silva, is designed to sum up Pep Guardiola’s impact since arriving in English football last summer.
At the end of a potentially huge week for Hull City, however, supporters of the Yorkshire club could be forgiven for believing it is their club that has been reborn thanks to the appointment of a coach from the continent.
Marco Silva’s reign at the KCOM Stadium has only just passed its three-month anniversary but the outlook could not be more different to the one the Portuguese inherited in January.
City were rock bottom of the table back then and so mired in trouble that most pundits viewed the relegation scrap as merely a case of which team from three or four was most likely to join the East Yorkshire club and equally hopeless Sunderland in next season’s Championship.
Now, the Silva-inspired push for safety is turning into one of the stories of the season, even allowing for Guardiola’s men cruising comfortably to a 3-1 triumph that strengthens their own grip on a Champions League place.
This was not the result we wanted. Or the result we spoke about before the game. But it is going to be like this until the end of the season. We have to just keep going and try not to think about the table too much. We have to be cool and play our game.Eldin Jakupovic
Silva’s 12th league outing may have ended in the all too familiar feeling of defeat away from home.
But, after a week that brought six points from home games with West Ham United and Middlesbrough as main rivals Swansea City continued to flounder, the Tigers are above the relegation zone and giving every indication they possess the stomach for a fight that their head coach fervently believes will be won.
No wonder those City fans passing the Sky Blues’ Academy on their way out of the Eithad on Saturday tea-time did so with a spring in their step that, until this past week, had not been seen since Wembley last May.
“We have had three games in seven days and got six points,” said goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. “No-one was expecting us to take anything from this game. So, we have to be happy with this week.
“This was not the result we wanted. Or the result we spoke about before the game. But it is going to be like this until the end of the season. We have to just keep going and try not to think about the table too much. We have to be cool and play our game.”
Hull’s travails this season on the road are clear for all to see. Just eight goals in 16 games and a solitary point claimed since mid-September is why the spectre of relegation still haunts a club whose home form under Silva has been exceptional.
The Tigers’ record in league visits to Manchester, either against City or United, is also rotten with 24 visits having yielded precisely no wins and just six draws.
Against a City side determined to bounce back from defeat to Chelsea in midweek, that poor return rarely looked like improving.
Even in a first half that underlined Hull’s threat on the break, the hosts always seemed to have plenty in reserve to cope with Silva’s side.
Had Oumar Niasse accepted a gilt-edged opportunity soon after the Sky Blues had gone ahead, things may have been different.
But the Senegal striker could not react quick enough to Evandro’s miscued shot and the ball, instead of heading towards goal as it really should have, squirmed harmlessly away from danger.
With that spurned opportunity went any hope of Hull claiming reward from a trip so daunting that the bookmakers were offering odds of 14-1 on an away win before kick-off.
The Sky Blues were already ahead at that stage thanks to Ahmed Elmohamady clumsily putting through his own goal when trying to clear Jesus Navas’s cross that had evaded Sergio Aguero.
There was a similarly slapstick feel to the home side’s second just after the restart, as Elmohamady, Michael Dawson and Eldin Jakupovic got in such a tangle on the goal-line that Aguero’s shot was allowed to squirm in.
As a contest, the game was over and the fear when Fabian Delph added a third just after the hour was Hull’s already poor goal difference could be in for a hammering.
Credit, therefore, is due for how Silva’s men dug in and even came up with a goal of their own six minutes from time.
Andrea Ranocchia did the honours, though the Italian will know that hapless goalkeeper Claudio Bravo played a big part by somehow allowing a tame prodded shot to beat him.
It was the seventh on target shot in a row that has evaded the Spaniard’s grasp – meaning he has not made a save in the league since Burnley were beaten at the Etihad on January 2.
With things so tight near the bottom of the Premier League that goal difference may yet come into play, Bravo’s porosity could still prove key for the Tigers. Sorting out that wretched away form, however, would surely be a much wiser strategy.
“We could win all three home games and get to 39 points,” said former Swiss international Jakupovic about the impending visits to the KCOM Stadium by Watford, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur.
“Would that be enough? Maybe. But we need away points. We still have Stoke, Southampton and Crystal Palace away from home.
“Those are three difficult games but we have to work hard and fight in every single game. Every point will be massive, not just for us but for Palace and Swansea.”