Well, they did it. I was in P4 when the team I (“Foolishly?” – Ed) chose to support in Primary School last won the championship of English football. Yesterday I watched them win again just round the corner from where I saw them gain promotion against Gillingham in 1999, when “typical City” similarly left their own salvation to the very last minute.
And it was a good feeling. And better for the longer wait and the tougher win. The sentiment in the pub where I watched it was pretty pro City. Even the small group of Rangers supporters where relieved that: one, they got to stay up; and two, someone had taken what’s almost become Alex Ferguson’s domestic silverware home.
But to quote Mancini, this crazy end to this crazy #EPL season was that this was likely a one off. In order to reel in Manchester Utd’s long incumbency as Premiership champions and make the league genuinely open and exciting again, City’s new owners have had to spend £1 billion in cash.
And it was a pleasing upset of an odd applecart. Writing in the The Thunderer column today, Matthew Syed noted:
This Premier League season has had it all: stunning matches, impossible results, heroic defending and sublime attacking brilliance. And then, to top it all, we have witnessed the most mind bending finale in living memory.
Henry Winter in the Telegraph does have a comparable memory, but it wasn’t yielded by the #EPL. He goes back to the old First Division of the Football League, “Arsenal’s 1989 triumph at Anfield when Michael Thomas drove through Liverpool’s defence as Brian Moore intoned ‘it’s up for grabs now’.”
But, as argued here before, what Man City’s oil rich owners did with that money was to undo the social engineering of the Premiership. Of course they needed a top rank manager to make that work. Mancini is no Professor Wenger. He was brought to City because he knows how to win, and was paid accordingly.
And he’s not going to settle for taking just one title off United (which would change absolutely nothing). His aim will be to restore the inevitable grind of winning to its customary dull repetition, only with celebrations in Manchester blue rather than red…
The first penalty Man United will pay is the £20 million penalty they will have just for coming second.
Ferguson, in a faint echo of the famous Gerry Adams line, will not go away. But neither is Mancini, whose mirroring of Fergie’s tantrum on the touchline during the derby indicates that for once, someone has finally got a handle on the Scotsman’s brand of gamesmanship.
But the club also has deep enough pockets to enable them to become the new Man U. That will take at least three to four seasons, but once achieved, the Premiership will oblige any new incumbents by similarly cutting the financial legs from under anyone who looks even half ready to take on the champions elect.
This crazy season was crazy in the sense that it was competitive right to the end of the very last minute and then beyond. As junior member of the blue tribe it would suit me personally to see Man City clock up Premierships season after season.
But what I fear is that the Premiership’s feather bedding of its champions will continue to degrade the honours. And at worst, see the top flight of English football become as open and as competitive of as Saturday afternoon wrestling on ITV back in the 70s…