So the light at the end of the tunnel has been extinguished. The last chance to salvage something from a lacklustre season instead turns into another crushing disappointment. City's abject display in the Cup final was certainly humiliating, but it wasn't all that surprising. The signs have been there for a while.
Only a few weeks ago I wrote a blog on this very site, emphasising the importance of learning from the recent Premier League match victory over Wigan. Then, City had been largely outplayed but managed to convert home advantage through a late Carlos Tevez goal. Surely, we couldn't be as bad in the final? Well, no, we could be worse.
City's form going into the Cup Final had been patchy at best - nervy wins over West Brom, Wigan and West Ham and a point against Swansea had merely papered over the cracks. Maybe the players were saving themselves for the final, we thought. Maybe they weren't.
The final exposed many of the flaws that have blighted City's entire season. A staggering lack of pace and urgency through midfield meant that Wigan were able to reorganise their defence each time we attacked, with unnecessary extra touches and passes removing any sting from the forward play. Chances, when they finally came, were squandered. City let Wigan set the tempo of the game - something they did to excellent effect, with the front three constantly causing problems.
The most concerning element of the final though was the apparent lack of desire or motivation among the City players. Although a lazy cliché, did they indeed think that all the hard work had been done in the semi final, and that all they needed to do was turn up to win? Although 2010's final against Stoke was another nervy affair, at least that day the players took full responsibility, pressing from the front and winning second balls. Not so this year. City were second best across the park, and you'll do well to find many City fans who felt we deserved more.
So is it all doom and gloom? Well, the 2012/13 season has undoubtedly been a failure for Manchester City, and from now on any trophy-less season with be judged so. Second place in the League is certainly not the worst result, but this tells only half the story, having fallen so far behind a workmanlike United side. The Champions' League debacle has also been well documented and may prove to be Mancini's downfall, while this FA Cup final loss leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The summer will see plenty of comings and goings, and it remains to be seen whether Mancini will be one of them. The concern for City fans is that he no longer seems able to conjure any consistency from a squad which is effectively the same as the one that won the league last year. New signings will undoubtedly freshen things up and inject some much-needed competition, with a clinical finisher and a pacy, creative midfielder high up the shopping list.
For many City fans it will seem incongruous to label a second place League finish as a failure, but there's no point comparing this season with where we were five or ten years ago. We are a new proposition now, with accordingly altered expectations. This season has been disappointing, yes, but it is how we react next season that will define us.
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