Originally posted on Sport Witness.
As a Man United fan, this post could potentially come across as biased propaganda designed for you to hate the blue side of Manchester. But, it won’t – in fact, I want to praise them. Strange, I know, but sometimes you’ve just gotta recognise achievement.
Back in the summer of 2007, Manchester City were bought by Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister of Thailand, and a vision was put in place to ‘restore the glory’ of the club. Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson came in to replace Stuart Pearce, and £30m was spent during the summer in order to strengthen the squad and try and return them to winning ways.
It didn’t. Ninth in the Premier League just wasn’t good enough for Shinawatra, and Sven was shown the door, and in walked Mark Hughes – United legend, and now City boss. But what happened next, nobody expected.
A few signings during the summer to continue building up the squad was what Hughes expected to be doing, and bringing in his own coaching team and backroom staff meant he could do everything he wanted to. But then Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of royalty from Abu Dhabi, appeared, and brought his billions of pounds with him.
And 12 hours later, Robinho was a Man City player. Talk about showing intent – £32.5m for the Brazilian, so just petty cash for Sheikh Mansour. The team continued to play well, finishing 10th in the Premier League, and reaching the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. The new owner was a very happy man, but ready to continue spending his millions.
In comes the likes of Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gareth Barry, and Joleon Lescott, and suddenly every City fan had their tongue wagging at the prospect of world-class football at the City of Manchester Stadium. Things didn’t start off too well, and Hughes was sacked from the club in December, but in came high-profile Roberto Mancini, and he brought a wealth of experience and discipline. A 5th place finish in the Premier League kept Sheikh Mansour sweet.
And then the story of last season. Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, David Silva, James Milner – players who would turn City into a force, not just a team. The club came together as one, and actually began to play some beautiful football. 3rd in the Premier League, and winners of the FA Cup, bringing their 35 year silverware drought to an end.
A bit more strengthening and replacing this summer led to Sergio Aguero, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri being some of the biggest transfers of the window. Their performances so far this season has led to a top of the table clash with United, and the title race is well and truly on. Performances in their debut season in the Champions League have been a little lacklustre, but they will pick up.
So what’s the point of all this? Well, just look how far they’ve come. That’s four seasons’ worth of progression – from lowly mid-table to European contenders, just by signing a few players, changing the backroom staff, and gaining an enthusiastic owner. Many are slagging off City, due to their infinite funds, but just because they have money doesn’t automatically equal success.
Mancini has done an absolutely sterling job in his 18 months in charge. He has refused to spend money stupidly, and bought players that will enhance the line-up, and bring his style of play to the now-renamed Etihad Stadium. Fergie is scared, put it that way. And nobody gets Fergie scared.
They have built a team of winners – players who want to play football to win trophies and be the best they can. Yes, I’m sure wages and agent fees have been a big factor – reports surfaced last week that Aguero only moved to Manchester to move to Real Madrid next summer – but that doesn’t mean that the players aren’t willing to play.
Okay, no pun intended there…
It would not surprise me to see Manchester City become one of the successful sides in both domestic and European football in the next five years. As much as that hurts to say, they truly have become a wonderful team to watch, and they are a determined bunch of players who want to do the best for their manager. Mancini won’t stand for any trouble – he controls the egos in that team brilliantly – and he will continue to do so with the backroom staff he has at his disposal.
There will inevitably be a few moves in January, but only those that will help add more depth to the squad, and make them world beaters. What they could do for English football, with the right amount of time and investment into grassroots football, is phenomenal.
I know every United fan hates City with a passion, just like in any football rivalry. But sometimes, you have to give credit where credit’s due. And the project City have is a very, very exciting one.