Manchester City are shaping up to be the real deal

Since the beginning of the millennium there have been very few contenders capable of gaining membership to the fabled Premier League ‘Big Four’.

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Newcastle United gave it a stab earlier in the decade (and look what happened to them), Everton snuck in once (and immediately got bounced from the Champions League), Aston Villa had designs well above their station and Tottenham, well, the less said the better, especially if you’re a fan of lasagna.

This season though, we’ve got the real deal on our hands and if you like your Chelsea impersonators, you’re going to love Manchester City.

When it comes to nouveau riche I thought that the Blues had the market covered, but with Roman Abramovich losing billions here and there, a gap emerged and City have filled it in some style.

Since September of 2008 the Abu Dhabi United Group have been like kids in a candy store, gorging themselves on football’s tastiest treats.

Some may say they’ve overpaid for a bunch of ‘B’ list stars, but to date they’re looking like Hollywood’s finest. However, when you’re trying to turn the American equivalent of the Chicago Cubs into the New York Yankees, you do have to speculate to accumulate.

I’m finding myself in a bit of a quandary though, because I’m not jealous and disgusted by City’s flaunting of wealth like I was by Chelsea’s. I’m wondering whether it’s because I’m enchanted by that lovable losers tag and the manner in which they would always manage to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Or perhaps it’s because their neighbors, United, finally have something to worry about or (and I think this is perhaps the real reason) I’m happy to see someone serious about breaking up the ‘Big Four’ cartel.

From a pedigree standpoint, City used to have plenty, but that was way back when football was still played in black and white. They last won the old First Division in 1968, thanks to the legendary management duo of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Alison.

Their best Premiership finish was 2004/05 when they finished a mere 43 points away from the champions, Chelsea, in eighth.

But with the addition of the following players — Shay Given, Wayne Bridge, Robinho, Roque Santa Cruz, Sylvinho, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Carlos Tevez, Vincent Kompany, Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy — the belief from the blue half of Manchester is that this gap may be closer come next May.

To date, Mark Hughes, the man responsible for leading these mercenaries, has produced the required results after a shaky start to his Eastlands career. My initial fear was that with a dressing room full of egos, the Welshman wouldn’t have room for his own, but you can’t knock perfection. And to be fair, as a player, he was a winner.

The early City results reminded me of his management tenure at Blackburn — grinding, stifling, but with the shackles released against Arsenal, I saw another side to his management.

Trust is one of the main components to management and he threw the keys of his Ferrari to the boys during the second half at Eastlands. The results were impressive, to say the least, as very few teams have battered the Gunners as convincingly as City did during that 11 minute ‘purple patch.’

It will be interesting to see how he deals with ‘Adebayorgate’ once he reviews the tape of the Togolese striker performing plastic surgery on his ex-Arsenal teammate, Robin van Persie’s face. Adebayor may claim innocence but anybody who has played any kind of contact sport could see the intent.

If I were Hughes, I’d sit him down and fine him a hefty sum in an effort to curry favor with the Football Association who are probably going to throw the book at him and deservedly so.

At the end of the day, City has the talent to be a good football team. Whether they’ll blossom into a very good team is open to debate. We all saw how the Galactico experiment eventually blew up in the face of Real Madrid.

However, what we have in Manchester is Galactico minor and that maybe the difference.

It has been said that money doesn’t buy happiness but if you spend it wisely it sure can buy titles. Chelsea is the obvious example but United, who City face next, aren’t shy about buying the players they need to dominate.

Personally I can’t see the blue half of Manchester winning the Premiership this season, but if they break up the ‘Big Four,’ which I’m positive they will, a new era will finally be upon us.

Until then, I’ll see you at the far post …

Fox Soccer Channel’s Nick Webster writes about English soccer for FOXSoccer.com, and contributes his blog to interact with his fans.