If you ever ventured down to see the blue half of Manchester during the 1990’s you would have been lucky to see them play top flight football. From 1996 to 2002 the club were a lowly spent force. Glory years had been and gone and they were the lesser half of Manchester. An outdated ground located in the urban backwater of Moss Side meant things for City were bleak for a lot of the 1990’s.
Even Blackburn Rovers had tasted success while the Blues floundered.
Maine Road was a stadium with its roots in the 1920’s – that alone tells you that Manchester City (unlike say Red Bull Leipzig) are a very historical club. Appearance wise, at the end of its lifespan, it was a stadium of haphazard design with stands of varying heights. Although a purely footballing venue Maine Road had a visual feel that was hotch-potch and irregular.
Due to the ground being renovated several times over the decades – and being hemmed in by neighbouring houses – moving was the only solution if City wanted a modern stadium.
In a decade when rivals Manchester United were conquering all of Europe and dominating domestically Manchester City were almost a laughing stock in 1996. Manchester City fans revelled in the train of failure that followed them and in some ways glorified and used this sense of failure as a badge of honour.
While Manchester United fans travelled to Galatasaray the blue half had away games at York City.
Man United had a superstar in Eric Cantona by 1996, but all Man City could do was call upon Niall Quinn. At Old Trafford the Dane Schmeichal was an almost unbeatable presence in goal but Manchester City only ever had German veteran called Eike Immel to keep out visitors.
Of course, to Manchester City fans, Immel was a hero but the two goalies were a perfect example of the class differences between the two clubs.
Season 1998-99 saw Manchester City play in English League Division Two – what was then the third tier of English football. The club scraped past Darlington in the early stages of the FA Cup only to fall to Wimbledon in the next round.
Only a famous and miraculous win over Gillingham in a League Two play-off at Wembley saw Manchester City win a place back in the second tier.
The season after saw a range of cult heroes emerge at Manchester City and the club regularly attracted nearly 28,000 to every home game. Away from home Manchester City were a big catch taking 1000’s of travelling fans everywhere from Devon to Kent.
A key campaign saw Bermudan Sean Goater, Shaun Wright Phillips and Paul Dickov get the goals. The former and the latter in particular were the players who won City a much sought after promotion back to the Premier League.
After a single season in the Premier League the club from Maine Road were relegated again in 2001 but things were certainly looking brighter in terms of talent and off the field. The money floating around in English football was increasing even in the lower leagues and those who ran the club knew Man City could be a major player in English football if its financial affairs could be sorted.
The free scoring trio of Darren Huckerby, Shaun Goater and Paulo Wanchope struck over 70 goals between them. And while they have long gone Manchester City as a club have never looked back since that season.
Manchester City have been ever present in the Premier League for twenty years now but surely even supporters of the club will find it hard to believe what they have achieved since then.
English Premier League
Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion
We tend to think of those who were poor and who suddenly become rich as lottery winners. Bar the financial hiccup under Thai owners Manchester City are now regarded as an extremely wealthy side similar and on par with PSG.
Some would call it solid investment although others (particularly if you are not a fan of City) might call it buying success.
While the purchasing power of City has been the object of many opposition fans chants, it’s true that Manchester United never got anywhere without bags full of money. It just took Manchester City a bit longer to catch up with the spending power of United.
If Manchester United were a child of Sky 1992 then Manchester are a product of 2002.
The Etihad Stadium is not really a football stadium; it’s a football campus where new and old fans of City alike now congregate to see a star laden side. It all started with Robinho but the new current superstar is a Norwegian whose dad was more famous for a Roy Keane tackle.
The Man City of today have a Brazilian goalkeeper who is worth £35m. The blond headed striker from Norway Erling Haaland is worth approximately £80m. Haaland will probably turn out to be the new Ronaldo 10 years from now; vying yearly with Mbappe to see who can score the most goals for club and country season after season.
At 22 years of age Haaland has at least another 13 seasons in elite football left.
2022 will be the 14th season of Abu Dhabi ownership at City. Since 4 August 2008, the club has been majority owned by Sheikh Mansour a man worth £17bn, The current chairman and man responsible for running the club is Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak someone said to oversee a business portfolio worth nearly $230 billion.
Staggeringly, Haaland has scored more goals than he has played games for Manchester City. Already he is breaking records left, right and centre. He has become the first player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick in three successive home games including a treble in the demolition of United.
At the last count he has 17 goals in only eleven games.
His goals come in all shapes and sizes – headers, spectacular finishes and penalties. But what marks him out is his robust power and frame. At 6ft 5 inches the Norwegian towers over most defenders and his power running in behind defences creates havoc weekly. Not only goals the Norwegian has a record number of assists already this season; and he is effectively the perfect foil up front either with his back to or facing goal.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Despite losing a promising manager in Graham Potter, Brighton are still a force and not to be taken lightly – even by a team with the firepower of City. New manager de Zerbi has made them solid. And with talents up front and in defence, Albion are firmly back in the big time.
However, despite a set up that looked solid, strong and very professional Erling Haaland still managed another two goals against BHA.
After failing to score in the crucial previous away game against Liverpool Haaland was on fire again. His first being a telling approval of his speed, power and awareness.
Capitalising on the distribution of his goalkeeper Ederson he barged Albion defender Adam Webster out of the way before rolling the ball into an empty net past Sanchez.
His second could be regarded as pretty mundane compared to the majority of his goals. He drove home a penalty after a VAR award found in favour of the home side.
Kitted out in strange change colours BHA tried to find a way back into things via Leandro Trossard’s goal (one which Ederson might be slightly disappointed in as he allowed it to squeeze in at the near post) but it wasn’t to be.
The points were eventually sealed through Kevin de Bruyne’s spectacular finish in the second half.
Taking a pass just outside the penalty area the City captain smashed a 25 yard strike into the top corner.
What made the strike so special was the technique used as well as the accuracy of the shot. A few inches lower and Sanchez would have saved it but the dip and swerve took it out of the reach of the Albion keeper leaving most of those watching gaping at how anyone could have the audacity to usurp the Norwegian.
Changed days indeed.
Manchester City: Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish (4 – 3 – 3)
Brighton and Hove Albion: Sanchez; Veltman, Dunk, Webster; March, Mac Allister, Caicedo, Trossard, Gross, Wellbeck, Adam Lallana (4 – 3 – 2 – 1)