Manchester rivals hope to party like it's 1999

Manchester rivals hope to party like it's 1999

Published Apr. 15, 2011 4:32 p.m. ET

Manchester City returns to Wembley on Saturday for the first time since the victory that began the club's ascent from the wilderness of England's third tier.

After returning to the Premier League in 2002 and staying in business when it faced oblivion under Thaksin Shinawatra's ownership, the wealth of Abu Dhabi's royal family has given City the biggest spending power in world football.

"Everyone is taking notice of us now," City defender Joleon Lescott said. "It's one thing to buy players and have the backing from the top, but it is no guarantee of success. When we do have success then everyone will acknowledge we mean business."

But after committing around $1 billion to a squad overhaul in less than three years, Sheikh Mansour will want coach Roberto Mancini to end City's trophy drought, which goes back to the 1976 League Cup.


"All my players should understand very well this is a big moment for us," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "We can change the history of the club. The first trophy is the hardest but it is time for Manchester City to win something."

Realistically that can happen only in the FA Cup. After losing 3-0 at Liverpool on Monday, City was left 13 points behind United in the Premier League with six games to go.

"When you build a new team you can always lose matches, like we did against Liverpool," Mancini said. "It is the first time in a year that we played like that and it was better to happen at Liverpool than on Saturday.

"I know we have improved a lot. The important thing is that we don't go there and think about the enormity of the game. We cannot afford for our heads to get full with the occasion."

Such occasions are rare for City, which lasted reached the FA Cup semifinals in 1981, when it went on to lose to Tottenham in the final.

Winning trophies has largely been the preserve of local rival United. But while Mancini feels the heat after barely a year in charge at City, the Italian recalls how United manager Alex Ferguson took four years to win a trophy - the 1990 FA Cup - and didn't win the league until 1992.

"Today is very different from 25 years ago," Mancini said. "Today if you are a manager who wins nothing for six or seven years, it is difficult. After 15 months I am very happy in my job because I know how difficult it is to build a team to win trophies."

For Ferguson, capturing the 1990 FA Cup was a "big moment."

"Winning the first trophy at any level is always important," the 69-year-old Scot said. "I experienced it at Aberdeen and St. Mirren and also with United. I don't know if City are obsessed with it. I can't judge that at all.

"But it is obvious with the money that has been invested, they have big plans."

Even when City last won the league title, in 1968, the team was upstaged by United, which won the European Cup for the first time.

It is a feat that United is on course to emulate this season, with Ferguson's side top of the league and preparing to face Schalke in the Champions League semifinals later this month.

"We have got the momentum at the moment," Ferguson said. "We are winning games (seven in a row), which is important at this time of the season.

"The consistency of the team has been good and we are playing well. Our players have a great determination. I am really pleased with that. It has given us a good chance."

Some of the heat has been taken out Saturday's match with United striker Wayne Rooney suspended for swearing into a TV camera during a match and City captain Carlos Tevez out with a hamstring injury.

It could be the chance for City's temperamental forward Mario Balotelli to seize his chance despite renewed concerns about his volatility when he was sent off during the team's Europa League exit last month.

"I trust Mario," Mancini said. "He knows it is an important game for him. If his focus is on the game, he can do everything."