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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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Man City’s Bernardo cult: Tongue-puller, coffee-drinker and great footballer – Manchester Evening News

There are footballers who earn the eternal affection of supporters simply through the beauty of their game, like David Silva.

There are those who become legends and heroes through their commitment and sacrifice for the cause of the shirt, like Vincent Kompany.

And there are some who enjoy a cult following among a club’s fan base simply because they buy into the personality of that club, identify with those supporters, and they with him, like Mike Doyle or Pablo Zabaleta.

Very occasionally, a footballer comes along who ticks all three boxes, and Manchester City have one right now, in the shape of Bernardo Silva.

The social media response after the Manchester derby win said it all, with Twitter bursting with messages along the lines of “Just when you thought you couldn’t love Bernardo Silva any more …”

Bernardo gets it, and he showed that in the run-up to the game, as Pep Guardiola played down the importance of the clash with the Blues’ oldest rivals.

Bernardo stopped short of a Doyle-style “I hate United” rant, which would be unacceptable in such a sensitive age.

But in stark contrast to Guardiola’s pronouncement that he has to stay “cold” and focussed on the match, Bernardo was running hot.

“For us, when we play against Manchester United or Liverpool, beating them has a special taste,” he said.

It’s what the fans want to hear, but that isn’t why he said it. He said it because he lives it.

Fans expect the players wearing their shirt to run their blood to water for the cause in a derby. Bernardo does it in every game he plays, setting a phenomenal level of work, but allying it to world-class football ability.

He chased, harried, annoyed, cajoled and challenged Red shirts from the first minute to the last at Old Trafford, less than 72 hours after doing exactly the same thing against Brugge in the Champions League.

To cap all that, he refused to give up on Joao Cancelo’s rather hopeful angled ball into the box, right at the end of a tiring first 45 minutes, haring after it as United defenders presumed it was going out of play, and then risking a hamstring with what seemed to be a pointless stretch of his right leg. He got his reward for such optimism as his prodded shot bounced off a startled David De Gea and nestled into the corner.

Is Bernardo Silva already a City legend? Have your say in our comments section here Just to complete the moment, Bernardo sprinted off to the far corner, as far away from his own fans as it is possible to get on the Old Trafford pitch, and performed a knee slide before standing up, arms aloft, and glaring down the bile and hatred pouring out of the stands.

It was the same part of the pitch where Doyle, who always led the United-baiting around derbies, had celebrated a goal in a famous City win in 1970, and then given the V for victory sign to an incensed Stretford End. Doyle would have approved of Bernardo’s bold insolence.

To cap it all, and send social media into a frenzy, Bernardo reacted to foul abuse being dished out by distraught United fans as the Blues players walked back to their coach after the game with a grin and a tongue-out response.

The rest of the squad had studiously ignored the at-a-distance abuse, but not Bernardo. He reacted like a fan, and the fans loved it.

Bernardo has history at Old Trafford, and it just keeps growing.

Bernardo Silva celebrates scoring Manchester City’s second against Manchester United (Image: Getty Images) He scored a beauty at the Stretford End in the Carabao Cup semi-final in 2020, and the year before he broke the deadlock in a tense game to keep the Blues on course for the title.

Great memories, but any Blues who were at the 2018 derby have fond memories of the City players playing keep-ball in the corner as they led 2-1 and the game moved into added time.

The Reds players were incensed, Ashley Young taking a swipe at Raheem Sterling, while the City fans – with a grandstand view – could hardly contain their glee.

It reached a new height when City finally broke out of the corner, Bernardo moving menacingly into the penalty area with the ball at his feet, only to do a U-turn, despite being unchallenged, and running back into the corner to continue rattling the ball into the shins of the furious Young and Co..

It was a masterclass in impudence, and after years of being sneered at and lampooned at Old Trafford, this was payback for the desolate United fans.

It’s not just United – he also keeps back some of his chutzpah for Liverpool. His refusal to applaud Jurgen Klopp’s team onto the Etihad Stadium pitch after they had secured the Premier League title in 2020 has been rightly condemned as bad sportsmanship.

But as he stood, there, preferring to clutch his cup of coffee rather than give it up to clap, the supporters loved it. It wasn’t the right thing to do, but it was spot-on for the fans.

And when City won the title back this year, Bernardo put out a picture on social media of himself holding the trophy in front of a coffee machine at the training ground. It may just have been coincidence, but City fans like to think it was deliberate, and Bernardo has enough of the cheeky chappie about him for it to have been entirely on purpose.

On top of all that, he is a simply brilliant footballer, and is now back to the levels when he was hands-down City’s best player as they won the title in 2018-19.

The fact that he has wanted to leave the club, and return to be with family and friends in Spain or Portugal, but has been twice thwarted by the lack of a realistic offer for his talents, simply makes his attitude even more laudable.

He does not wanting to leave for ambition, or because he has fallen out with the manager or players – the love from him in that dressing room is palpable, and he has repeatedly expressed his appreciation of the support he gets from teammates and the supporters.

But to swallow his disappointment, bundle up his personal feelings, and go out, match after match to fight, and finesse, and score and create, is exceptional.

It is to be hoped he can resolve his personal issues and stay – if he does, the statue outside the Etihad is virtually assured.

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