When you are battling to become the best and you have that fiery ambition for success, it’s not easy always being second fiddle. Second best? Yay. Of course it is frustrating and of course, at some point, you feel the need to turn the picture around and say we are in charge now. Today, we follow the long journey of a team that has had too many ‘almost’ moments in its history, but currently enjoys growing momentum in a context where everything seems possible – the Premier League never ceases to surprise the fans, providing so many unexpected heroes and zeros. The perfect framework for those epic sports dramas.
Have you grown accustomed to seeing Manchester City as a football powerhouse? You should, because they are an absolute avalanche right now and it doesn’t look like they’re retracting any time soon. But just know that it wasn’t always like that…
St. Mark’s in 1880, Ardwick Association F.C. in 1887 and finally Manchester City in 1894. After winning their first FA Cup in 1904 (first football team from Manchester to win a major trophy, surprisingly enough), the greater part of the squad was suspended following financial complications and they would have to wait 30 years for another FA Cup. In 1934, a year after losing one of many finals, City set a record that still stands until today: almost 85,000 thousand people watching a 6th round match against Stoke City, highest attendance ever in English football.
After more lost finals and Second Division streaks, the club’s most bright decade would begin in 1965, when Joe Mercer took over. Second Divison title in first year, League title in the third, FA Cup in the fourth, European Cup Winner’s Cup in the fifth…even though they had to face some unnerving second places in the championship, it was clearly the club’s moment as one of England’s top teams – that is, until the last few years.
Through the latter stages of the 20th century, a long decline loomed, with City falling as low as mid-table in Division One (third tier in national competitions). In 2003, fans kissed the old Maine Road stadium goodbye and welcomed the City of Manchester Stadium. It was the warm-up phase of the club’s rebirth. The Abu Dhabi United Group (an Arab investment company) bought City and big spending came flying in since day one. The message was clear: Manchester City would clean their reputation and become one of the best in the world. After a couple of years tweaking their strategy, they finally found their groove when expensive players found chemistry among them. The FA Cup returned to the Etihad Stadium in 2011, more than 30 years since the last major trophy, and fans finally had to agree with the new route.
The next year, a title that no English football fan will ever forget, the first in 44 years. With two goals in injury time, City won the Premier League in a dramatic, heart-stopping fashion. That magical moment sent Agüero, Mancini and the rest of them to a divine spot amongst the team’s supporters. The importance of that match against is not confined to the trophy – it also meant the development of a winning mentality: as a result, Mauricio Pellegrini would repeat the feat two years later.
Some would argue that money just kept on coming, but this game is so magically unpredictable that if you just focus on what’s happening inside the pitch, you quickly forget about squad budgets and gigantic sponsorships. Through their two winning streaks, the Citizens have gathered:
- 4 Premier Leagues
- 5 FA Cups
- 4 League Cups
- 4 FA Community Shields (5th most wins)
- 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup
When we look at the predominant figures of the club’s history, the emphasis on the 21st century reinforces the fact that the club is making history as we speak:
- Joe Mercer – So far, the most successful coach in the club’s history. Sparked success in the 1960’s;
- Bert Trautmann – Over 500 games with the Citizen’s shirt, this agile goalkeeper broke his neck on the 1956 FA Cup final…and he kept playing!;
- Colin Bell – An unforgettable midfielder who lead the team’s first bright era, the King of the Kippax currently has one of the Etihad Stadium’s stands named after him;
- Mike Summerbee – Just 8 international caps, but this prolific right winger made his mark on the team that won 4 major trophies in three seasons in the late 1960’s;
- David Silva – A token of Man. City’s new beginning. Since coming up in Valencia, the Spanish maestro has sprawled magic in the Premier League;
- Sergio Agüero – Top goalscorer of all time with 131 goals (and counting), ‘Kun’ Agüero is still going strong. And that screamer goal at 93:20…chills. So many chills.
Manchester City is probably the best incarnation of the post-modern football age that we face today (maybe alongside Paris Saint-Germain). Yes, you need ludicrous expenditure to bring in a bunch of world-class players; yes, you need tons of investment in infrastructure to give players and fans access to advanced facilities; but most importantly, you need a plan. If I said this once, I said it a thousand times: Permanent planning is so crucial. If they didn’t have it, they would have fallen again by now. But the truth is, almost ten years after their new ownership structure changed, there is not a single team on this planet that sees them as an easy target.
The historical discrepancy towards rivals Man. United, however, is a lot more difficult to change in the near future – 72 losses, 51 wins and 52 draws. Besides, the Red Devils are England’s most successful team when it comes to major accolades. That will be the real longevity test for them: it’s not enough to just steal the throne, they really need to hang on to it in order to make a true stand in this new footballing world.