Sunday 23rd October 2011. What could well be a watershed moment for bothManchester clubs – City announcing in no uncertain terms that they are here and they aren’t going away and United unravelling in front of a global audience in spectacular fashion. So how did I get to this point where I’m finally admitting that the Blue ‘half’ ofManchesterneed to be taken seriously? Previously I’d always thought that there’s no way City would ever attract the sort of players who grace the top sides, happily noting Ka Ka’s refusal to consider a move and even more amused by Gary Cook’s petulant swipe at Ka Ka’s snub. And of course there was the whole Robinho fiasco – a player who genuinely seemed to be surprised to be playing for Manchester City and who would inevitably engineer a move away from the nouvea riche pretenders, more evidence if any were needed that their ‘project’ was doomed to failure.
Then players like David Silva and YaYa Toure began to arrive after the underwhelming signings of the likes of Adebayor and Lescott – but still I was convinced that they would merely be a side full of mercenaries who don’t give a hoot about the club and would be an unmanageable collection of egos. Dzeko’s apparent failure to thrive following his arrival in the January transfer window was further grist for the mill and then of course the customary Tevez wranglings just made City and Mancini in particular look unstable.
But the arrival of Sergio Aguero made me sit up and take note. Here was a player who is rightfully considered a world class player, another that Sir Alex had considered but the ‘no value’ label was applied, and now he was a City player. How could this be? This was starting to become an uncomfortably familiar state of affairs, players who we’d been heavily linked with, Silva and Toure amongst them, were now pitching up at City. Still, there remained that crumb of comfort that Mancini would fail to make them gel, would struggle to keep all of those egos happy, particularly given his hitherto cautious approach with the ever present pair of defensive midfielders and what Wigan’s Roberto Martinez described as a “back six”.
Alas no, it seems Mancini has comfortably dealt with the Tevez issue (a “managerial masterclass” according to Sir Alex) and seems to be getting a response from Balotelli, firework incidents excepted. City have married the two sets of responsibilities in defence and attack and now look a miserly team at the back whilst scoring for fun in the league. Mancini has built from the back, made them difficult to break down and now thanks to some smart moves in the transfer market has made them a genuine attacking threat. Thankfully the Champions League has been a more sobering experience for them to date.
What also makes me sit up is the heavy investment recently announced by city in a new complex that includes a youth academy, so not only is the Sheik generous in providing transfer funds, he’s also providing money for prudent long term investment in the shape of youth players. Whilst there’s no denying the Glazer’s have put their hands in their (or rather, the club’s) pockets for transfer funds and other projects, they have tempered this with the £400,000,000 plus of debt that they’ve saddled the club with.
But we’ve been here before haven’t we? Abramovich arrived, Mourinho went through the revolving door at Stamford Bridge and the threatened domination from the West London club has failed to materialise and we still challenge for honours every season. So what’s changed? City have and that’s something we will have to get used to. Bring on the challenge, yet another for Sir Alex to ponder during his twenty five year tenure, but let’s hope lessons were learned on that bloody Sunday.
Written by Mark Thatcher @MisterTea75