How Manchester City Became A Superpower To The Detriment Of Manchester United
178 Manchester Derbies between the two pillars of United and City. Though the overall record remains in favour of the Red Devils, the visiting side to Old Trafford this week are making ground as the pendulum violently swings as to whom is now the predominantly successful team in the city.
2019 of course, marks 20 years since Manchester United’s historic treble, an achievement that no longer looks likely to be matched in the foreseeable future, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side beautifully assembled from unparalleled passionate in-house talent and astute - but not flamboyant - purchases.
In that season, City were still languishing in the third tier of English football and had failed to register a victory over United in 10 years.
Now, this two decade-span clearly illuminates the remarkable journey to success that Manchester United’s noisy neighbours have been privileged to.
It’s now close to 11 years since Manchester City was purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and are currently registered as the fifth most valuable football club in the world, with only the behemoths of Bayern München, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and - of course - Manchester United ahead of them.
With details notoriously hazy at first as to who the real money man was initially, the Arabic-Gatsby figure of Sheikh Mansour slowly emerged out of the shadows, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates however still remaining deliberately delphic.
City’s preceding standing to that buyout was respectable, if a little beige. Upon promotion from the Football League First Division under Kevin Keegan in 2002 the Blues registered one of the best ever finishes for a promoted team in their inaugural season (and in their last at Maine Road), but subsequently meandered either to mid-table or went perilously close toward to the drop in the years after. It’s important to remember that they even finished in a slightly better position in the year immediately before Mansour’s millions arrived to their first one (ninth to tenth).
Though gifted a new stadium in 2003, City fans still had to watch United win a back-to-back treble of titles in the mid-00s, crowning 2007/08 with the Champions League - their third European Cup which so far remains elusive to the Cityzens. Upon Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, Manchester United had set a new record for most domestic league titles in England.
Since then, and after the teething years of the initial cash-flow, it has been an altogether different story. United have failed to finish above City, who have won the title three times, come runners up on two other occasions, and haven’t failed to make the top four - and therefore Champions League qualification - since 2010. Four League Cups, a brace of Community Shields, and the FA Cup breaking that four-decade trophy drought completes the collection of silverware so far .
United meanwhile, haven’t extended their ‘20 times’. Instead a moderately successful haul of an FA Cup, League Cup, and Europa League trophy provided by Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
A sense of stability also remains visibly intrinsic for Manchester City, from consistent title challenges to retaining key figures on the sidelines, such as co-assistant Brian Kidd who has survived throughout the tenures of Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, and remains a key figure in Guardiola’s staff.
After initial splurges looked frivolous with new-found unprecedented wealth, certain figures have emerged with remarkable longevity, enough to be certifiably considered in the pantheon of greats who have adopted the blue.
Yaya Toure, David Silva, and Sergio Agüero all have a combined service length of a quarter of a century at the club between them and can comfortably sit alongside the likes of Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, and Tony Book in the Hall of Fame, whilst Vincent Kompany - brought to the club marginally before the Abu Dhabi revolution when City were still under the control of deposed Thailand prime minister Thaksin Sinawatra - has become the club’s most decorated captain of all time.
That’s not to say the project isn’t far from finished, nor certain aspects need rectifying. 81 players have been brought to the club in that more than a decade-long stretch, with over £1.3 billion invested into the club. City have yet to ever sell a player for more than £25million, with only four players in their history broaching the £20million mark to move on. Acquisitions have been continuously costly to the envy of most both in England and across the continent but to the detriment of promoting from within, though Phil Foden looks set to buck the trend.
Furthermore, gone are also the notably petty acts of cynicism towards their neighbours, looking sideways instead of up, such as making former Red Carlos Tevez their (literal) poster boy and bizarrely appointing him as captain, creating an individual identity rather than trying to breed in Utd’s successful shadow.
With the League Cup in the bag and an FA Cup Final awaiting, Manchester City could still be on the verge of a historic domestic treble, producing another glittering season. For Manchester United, it’s another reminder that gone are the days of dominance, it is the increasingly familiar path of trying to keep pace with the rest of the ‘Big Six’ and having to gaze longingly on as one of, if not the biggest rival reap the rewards of an increasingly impressive operation.