Still No. 2? City plays for Premier League title
Manchester City always seems to be second best in its own
backyard, like a little brother overshadowed by his bigger and
He’s already done the things you want to do, and has done them
better anyway. And when you finally do something he hasn’t done?
Well, he’d probably beat that, too.
In England’s third biggest city, Manchester United always seems
to one-up Manchester City.
What happened when City won its most recent English league title
in 1968? United won the European Cup, the most prestigious trophy
in club football.
The season City was promoted to the Premier League after four
years away? United won it, for the 13th of its 19 league
That time City convinced Argentina striker Carlos Tevez to ditch
United and move across town? United still beat City in the League
Cup semifinals, and went on to win the trophy.
United’s dominance over its neighbor was even on display at Old
Trafford, the stadium nicknamed the ”Theatre of Dreams.” Hanging
from the stands was an annually updated banner counting the years –
it had reached 34 when it was finally brought down last season –
since City last won a trophy of any kind.
But little brother looks set to come out on top Sunday in the
world’s most popular league. After decades of watching its biggest
rival lift trophy after trophy, City can win the English Premier
League title in its final match of the season with a victory
against struggling Queens Park Rangers.
”I came to City to make history,” said Yaya Toure, the driving
force in City’s midfield. ”I want to win it for our fans.”
Satisfyingly for those fans, there is almost no chance of being
upstaged this time because of United’s failure to win the Champions
League or either of England’s domestic cup competitions. Instead,
City can become English champion for the first time in 44 years and
leave United empty-handed for the first time in seven seasons – a
remarkable reversal in a city where red has been the color of
success for more than a generation.
”Forty-four years is unbelievable,” Toure said. ”It is too
The difference these days, of course, is money. City’s abundance
of it and United’s lack of it.
While United is still paying interest on debt incurred in the
2005 takeover by the Glazer family that also owns the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers, City has spent about 400 million pounds ($635 million)
on new players since being bought by in 2008 by Sheik Mansour, a
member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.
”No one can match their financial resources. No one,” United
manager Alex Ferguson said. ”We have to accept that and try to do
things in a different way.”
City, however, knows all too well that money doesn’t necessarily
bring success. After all, the club paid a then British record 1.44
million pounds (then about $3 million) for Steve Daley in 1979. The
midfielder buckled under the pressure of the giant fee and left for
the Seattle Sounders in the NASL 20 months later, his European
career in ruins.
What matters this time around is that City has spent money
Despite the flop of Brazil striker Robinho after a
British-record 32.5 million pound (about $60 million) transfer from
Real Madrid, the Abu Dhabi United owners were undeterred.
Tevez and Argentina teammate Sergio Aguero were brought in,
backed up in attack by Italy firebrand Mario Balotelli. And even
Edin Dzeko, a Bosnian who is the least known and least trumpeted
member of City’s forward quartet, has 13 Premier League goals this
season – more than any United player other than Wayne Rooney.
Under manager Roberto Mancini, City brought in Ivory Coast’s
Toure, Aguero, Dzeko, Spain midfielder David Silva and France
forward Samir Nasri. That depth helped City when Tevez stormed off
in September, apparently the only player unable to accept a place
on the bench.
Tevez is back, and is likely to start Sunday when City walks
onto the field looking for only its third league title in 132
It’s a head-spinning turnaround for fans who watched as United
won two Champions League titles, 12 Premier League trophies, eight
FA Cups and four League Cups since City was last champion of
Even then, years before anyone on the current squad was born,
George Best and Bobby Charlton were doing their best to upstage
their neighbors. With Best and Charlton leading the way, United
beat Benfica 4-1 to win the European Cup – two weeks after City
completed its last championship season.
But City’s spell as a contender didn’t last long, and the club
spent much of the 1980s and ’90s bouncing like a yo-yo between the
top two divisions. Only 14 years ago, City became the first former
winner of a European competition to fall into its country’s
United fans were almost too busy to stop and laugh, with
Ferguson on his way to making the Red Devils the most successful
club England has ever seen. Ferguson has regarded Liverpool, Leeds,
Arsenal and even Chelsea as more important rivals to United and
only recently upgraded City from ”noisy neighbors” to ”direct
At the moment, both City and United have 83 points, but City has
the advantage on goal difference. So if City fails to beat QPR on
Sunday, United can outdo its hometown rivals once more if it beats
”We have one match left to play at home and we have to deliver
in this game,” Toure said.
This may not be the last laugh, but little brother is definitely