Manchester City: Expectations have never been higher

The Dream team? Roberto Mancini and Gary Cook

These days, city rivals, Manchester City and Manchester United seem to be having more scraps than Oasis brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, with money being at the forefront of these arguments – recently, stoked up by Sir Alex Ferguson commenting on the “kamikaze efforts” of clubs and their wealthy owners to spend money.

The gulf between the two clubs spending during this summer’s transfer window and in particular the past two or three years is quite a large one. United are currently in a severe amount of debt, no thanks to those pesky American owners (no, not Hicks and Gillett) but Malcolm Glazer and his sons. While on the blue side of Manchester, money seems to be no object to City, mainly because they are owned by one of the leading members of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, Sheikh Mansour, who has pumped in excess of £300million since taking over the club in September 2008.

These wealthy owners have got one man talking, a man who is no stranger to spending money and that it Sir Alex Ferguson: “Over the last two or three years we have seen very wealthy owners become part of football clubs, therefore go on this kamikaze effort to spend their money.” he said. “It is amazing the amounts of money that are being bandied about in the present-day game.”

Is this not a bit hypocritical coming from the man who has broken the transfer record four times in the last 20 years? Not in the slightest. Granted, Fergie has spent copious amounts of money buying players such as Dimitar Berbatov (£30m), Rio Ferdinand (£29m) Wayne Rooney (£27m) and Juan Sebastian Veron (£28m). But he has never gone out and blitzkrieged the market, the highest spending season for United was in 2007 when the club spent £52million, half the amount City have spent this summer. Sadly, football is fickle and people forget these things. So it is no surprise that Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini has shrugged off Ferguson’s comments: “It’s not important, this for me,” said the Italian. “I respect his opinion. Manchester United are like Manchester City, they have spent a lot of money in the past.”

Now, City haven’t broken the transfer record this summer, not since they bought Robinho for £32.5million two years ago on deadline day, who arguably, we have yet to see the best of.  However, they have been the highest spending club in the Premier League for the last three consecutive seasons – spending which is even more ridiculous than Roberto Mancini wearing his trademark blue and white scarf on a hot day. There has been somewhat of an open door policy at the club over the summer. Aleksander Kolarov, Jerome Boateng, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli have all been bought in a outlay of close to £100m.

Recently, The New Paper journalist, Iain Macintosh wrote about, City – Crippled by stupidity – “Look at any dynasty in English football, however, and you’ll see one constant theme. Patience. It takes time to build a team, time to hone a refine it.” before giving examples of previous dynasties in English football of Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Don Revie’s Leeds.

While the days of dynasties are coming to an end, Sir Alex Ferguson probably being the last, everything is wrong with the way City are going about their business. They don’t seem to have any patience. What they are doing is they are setting themselves up for a massive and what could well be embarrassing fall, especially if they don’t finish in, at minimum, fourth place this season. Last season was supposedly their year, but with the money that’s been spent this summer and the calibre of players that have been brought in, realistically they should even be challenging for the title at the very least, if not, second or third place.

You also look at the players who have departed the club, in particular, Stephen Ireland and Craig Bellamy. In my opinion, they have arguably been the clubs best players in seasons gone by, only to be shipped out, amidst rumours of a breakdown in communication with Mancini. The comments coming from Ireland on leaving [part of the James Milner deal] were particularly interesting to note, “I guess James Milner thinks the grass is greener on the other side.” “He’s going to get a shock.” Make of that what you will.

Despite clear interest from Premier League clubs, it was obvious that Manchester City were never going to sell or loan Craig Bellamy to a rival, God forbid they would be that stupid.  Harry Redknapp providing us with a soundbite on Bellamy saying: “With no disrespect to Cardiff, he should be playing top Premier League football.” City seem to be alienating players in order for them to leave the club, Bellamy, once again is an example of this, as is Ireland.

Mancini seems intent on weeding out players that were signed by the previous manager, Mark Hughes, during his tenure, with Robinho, Shay Given and Roque Santa Cruz all expected to make transfers away from the club, sooner rather than later. The question is, has the spending finally stopped, or City will go out during the Januaray transfer window and spend say, £50million if things aren’t working out? More importantly, will Roberto Mancini still be in a job by then?

Certainly the signs are looking good, an opening day 0-0 draw with Tottenham in the Premier League, followed up by a 3-0 thumping of Liverpool on Monday night before progressing to the Europa League knock-out stages last night after a 3-0 aggregate victory over Timisoara. Meaning, City are yet to concede a goal this season. However, Mancini will have to avoid complacently; after all, City did start last season with four wins on the trot before that disastrous run of draws.

The expectations have never been higher, the bar has been set on last season’s finish, it is just a question of – can City do what is required of them this season?


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