‘Welcome to Manchester’ read a blue poster with the image of Carlos Tevez on it. A clear indication to their cross-town rivals and indeed the rest of the premier league that Manchester City had arrived; and not just to make up the numbers. Manchester was well and truly divided. The battle lines were drawn, the swords unsheathed; it was time to play.
As expected, with the backing of their phenomenally rich owners, Mark Hughes brought in massive names: Tevez, Adebayor, Santa Cruz in attack, and Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott in defence. With an expenditure of more than a hundred million pounds, City were making their intentions clear. A top-4 place was expected and many even tipped them to be challenging for the title.
They started off in fine form with 5 straight wins that included a win over Arsenal. They went on to win 7 of their first 8 games with the only defeat coming in the controversial Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Then came the run of 7 successive draws that ultimately signaled the end of Mark Hughes as manager of Man City. Results did improve in December with back to back wins over Arsenal in the Carling Cup and Chelsea in the league but Sparky’s days were quite clearly numbers. His replacement was the suave Italian former Inter manager, Roberto Mancini.
Hughes’ unceremonious dumping and the appointment of Mancini was met with a mixed reception with many players publically coming out in support of the ex-boss. Clearly loyalties were divided in the dressing room but Mancini was adamant that he could make them a success story. His reign started off with 3 wins on the bounce. Then came the ill-tempered 2 legged semi-final affair against their Mancunian rivals which they ultimately lost.
February and March were mixed with draws and losses interspersed by good wins. Stoke dumped City out of the FA Cup and come the end of March, the only focus was now on the elusive 4th champions league spot. January was a relatively quiet month in the transfer window with only the arrivals of former Arsenal skipper, Patrick Viera and the relatively low-key Adam Johnson. January also saw the departure of the club’s most expensive player Robinho; no he wasn’t sold, merely sent out on loan to former club Santos.
With the race for the 4th spot heating up, Man City went all out. There were good wins against Burnley, Birmingham and Villa but were either side of a loss in the Manchester derby and a draw at the Emirates. It all came down to the showdown at Eastlands and the Lily whites came up trumps. Manchester City are consigned to the Europa League next season.
The story of the season is merely a sub plot to the revolution at City. For the first time in recent memory, a team has actually emerged that is a genuine threat to the established big guns. A club with the financial muscle to genuinely give the big boys a run for their money. The spending power and the utter nonchalance towards the very concept of money is a frightening thought. The loaning out of the club’s most expensive player is case in point. Any other team, possibly even Real Madrid would think twice on a decision like that but to Man City, it seems like just another day at work.
With Roberto Mancini seemingly with the owners’ backing, in spite of not delivering the Champions league spot, and backed by the near endless cash reserves, a top 4 place is most certainly on the cards next season and possibly a strong challenge for the title as well. The biggest problem with City this year has been that on many an occasion, they’ve played as a bunch of 11 individuals rather than a team. Mancini has an entire summer to think about that particular problem, and we may well see a different Man City next term.
There is talk of dressing room unrest and the likes of Carlos Tevez leaving but the club will ensure that if indeed they do leave, able replacements will be recruited, at any cost. As the close season nears, City are inevitably linked to most of the big names of world football. Insane amounts of money are mentioned but it wouldn’t in the least bit be surprising if these massive-money deals did indeed materialize.
People will question the appointment of Roberto Mancini. After all, Mark Hughes won a total of 32 points in his 16 games in charge while Mancini has won 34 in his 21 in charge. Since Mancini took over though, City have looked a lot more organized and that instilled discipline is evident. With Mancini at the reins, and given time to build a team, there is every chance that Man City will be a force to be reckoned in the very near future.