It has been on the back of the City skipper’s prodigious ability and sensational form that the Cape club stormed to victory in the Telkom Knockout Cup last year and they also currently top the PSL standings with 31 points from 17 games. And just to hammer home how remarkable Manyama’s spectacular displays have been, he was this week named as the PSL’s Player of the Month for October, November and December. Three in a row - that, surely, is an achievement in itself and speaks volumes for his astonishing consistency.
Turkish coach Muhsin Ertugral is a big fan of Manyama. He coached the player at Ajax and Black Aces, and he is not surprised by the impact the City star has had on the PSL this season. As far as the Turkish coach is concerned, the South African football landscape doesn’t have many players as intelligent and aware as Manyama.
“What a player he is,” said Ertugral, who is also a candidate for the vacant Bafana Bafana coaching post. “I’ve always been fond of him I coached him at Ajax and Aces, and I know him as a very professional and ambitious footballer. Importantly, though, he understands the lines and sees the areas on the field well.
"There aren’t too many players like him in the PSL. He knows how to close down and, when his team wins the ball back, he knows where to be to create an attack. He is a very special player.”
There are still three-and-a-half months left in the season, but Manyama is already, by far, the leading candidate to be crowned PSL Player of the Year. It’ll need a string of extraordinary performances if any other player wants to derail the attacker’s momentum. In short, Manyama has, without doubt, been the best footballer on show in the PSL.
A look at footballers who won the PSL’s best player in the past proves that, invariably, it has been someone who markedly stood out; someone whose impressive performances were highly conspicuous and catapulted his team to greater heights - like Khama Billiat last season, Thulani Serero in 2011 or Mbulelo Mabizela in 2003.
City were established after the purchase and relocation of Mpumalanga Black Aces in June last year - and, from the first game the new club played, a 2-0 win over Polokwane City, Manyama was at his creative, energetic best. Ever since, the 26-year-old from Tembisa has been the go-to man for the Capetonians. He’s Captain Fantastic, leading by example and from the front, and his enthusiasm, skill and game awareness ensure he’s a difficult man for the opposition to mark.
For Manyama, the Mother City appears to be a really special place. It was during a spell with Ajax Cape Town (2010-2013) that he came to prominence and then landed a lucrative transfer to SuperSport United. Things never went according to plan in Pretoria and, in 2015, he popped up at Black Aces. It was here, under the guidance of Ertugral, that Manyama was to re-discover the form that made him one of the country’s most exciting prospects during his time at Ajax.
When Black Aces morphed into City last year, there were many doubters questioning how the relocation would affect the squad. Well, we all know the answer. Manyama, for one, set about breathing in the Cape Town air again, and it has inspired him to perform at the top of his game and, importantly, to finally realise his full potential.
Club boss John Comitis expressed his appreciation for Manyama’s efforts for the City this season by extending his contract last month, on a much-improved package, to 2020. It’s a clear signal of how important the player is to the make-up of the team.
“It’s just reward for what Lebo (Manyama) and Aubrey (Ngoma, contract also extended and improved) have done,” said Comitis. “They deserved it, it was what they were looking for and they are now quite comfortable.
"In fact, offering them new contracts was like signing two new players and you could see, when the second half of the season got under way this month, that they are playing with new zest. They are our two best attackers and the passion they show is fantastic.”
And, to add the words of the player’s current coach Eric Tinkler, Manyama is “a leader, someone who plays with no fear and is not scared to express himself”.
Opposition coaches, too, have spoken of their admiration for Manyama. In the build-up to the Mother City derby, Ajax coach Stanley Menzo, a man with vast experience in Europe as a player and coach, singled out the City captain as the man to watch. “They (City) have a good squad, and some important players. The captain (Manyama) is carrying the team as a leader.”
After City beat Ajax 2-0 at the weekend, Menzo went even further in the post-match press conference when he alluded to Manyama’s superb anticipation, awareness and decision-making during key moments.
On Saturday night, City host Orlando Pirates in a PSL fixture at the Cape Town Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm) - and, despite the Soweto side’s 6-0 drubbing by Sundowns at the weekend and the fiasco caused by their fans storming the Loftus pitch, Manyama is treading cautiously.
“Pirates will be very dangerous, especially at a time like this,” he said. “They will be determined to bounce back and we will have to show them the respect they deserve.”
But, while the accolades and plaudits continue to stream in for Manyama, all he’s focused on is the team as a whole, as a unit. Unity and an unshakeable team ethic have provided the foundation for City’s success so far, and there’s no reason to change.
“For me, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the team comes before any individual,” stressed Manyama. “I will keep doing what I do for the team, that is my primary goal. The second half of the season will be tough because most teams have beefed up their squads, but, for us, it’s just one game at a time.”
And, with Bafana Bafana having a busy programme of friendlies and qualifiers over the next few months, the City man should definitely be in the mix for selection. But not even the possibility of a national call-up can shift him from his club priorities.
“Obviously, I’d like to get a chance for the national team again,” he said. “But those are things out of my control All I’m focused on is doing my best for City and we’ll see where it takes me.”
The Cape Times