When Manchester City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour on September 1st 2008, we could feel the tectonic plates of football shifting. With City’s takeover, a new era of football in England began, one which would clearly go some way to changing the guard in the upper echelons of the English game.
All of a sudden there was a new player in the Champions League qualification race, a team determined to dethrone the legendary big four, determined to match and then surpass their rivals achievements. From day one of the new ownership, Manchester City have been actively trying to forge themselves a place alongside English football’s elites, the signing of Robinho was just the start of an almighty revolution.
It took City more than a year to finally begin competing for the Champions League place that they had so craved, 2008/09 proved to be a year of transition more than anything else, early talk of silverware was soon washed away by a wave of mediocrity.
In 09/10 the Citizens continued to fight; under the stewardship of first Mark Hughes and then Roberto Mancini their rivalry with neighbors Manchester United began to intensify. First to ignite what was a bristling rivalry, was an epic 4-3 loss at Old Trafford which sowed the seeds of Mark Hughes departure, prompted fits of delirium from United supporters everywhere, and had every known reporter sitting in front of a TV with their stopwatches going…
Later that same season, with Mancini at the helm, City clashed with United again, this time in the Carling Cup. Rarely had a League Cup semi final been as hotly anticipated as this one, both United and City dearly wanted to win, and a two-one victory at Eastlands for City had set the tie up for a brilliant second leg at Old Trafford. Again, a late Red Devils show helped Fergie’s team to prevail, as a Rooney header early in stoppage time sent United to Wembley, and City to another trophy less season. A year later though, City would finally have their revenge.
It is difficult to put into words the pain felt by supporters of Manchester City throughout their long, long barren spell. Watching their rivals, year after year, parade trophy after trophy through the streets of Manchester must have been a chastening experience, one that produced much frustration; frustration that was soon to be released. Victory in the FA Cup semi final of 2011 was the first major achievement of the “new City.” The noisy neighbors had finally broken down the Old Trafford door, and let the dog out to urinate on the lawn to boot. A win over Stoke a month later in the final confirmed the ending of an era, as City at last claimed that sought after trophy. Additionally, qualification to the Champions League just days earlier meant that the men from Manchester could finally count themselves as part of Europe’s elite.
However, for all their battles in the league, cup competitions and in the stands, we have never really had a true Manchester transfer tug of war. Yes, Dimitar Berbatov was briefly in line to figurehead the City revolution, but the lateness of City’s bid insured that there was never any destination other than Old Trafford that was feasible for the lanky Bulgarian. Carlos Tevez as well, left United to join City, but he was never directly sold, the Argentinean joined the Sky Blues as part of a bizarre contractual permutation far too complicated for any honest football fan to claim they understood fully. Even Yaya Toure, who came out after signing for the Sky Blues to denounce United, was never as clear and important a target to United as he was to City.
In Samir Nasri though, we have finally found our transfer battle, one that could become so fierce as to warrant mention in the history books mapping this ever growing rivalry. Nasri is the type of player needed by Manchester United, a versatile creator capable of playing on either wing or through the middle, just the man to provide the Devils with the innovative spark they so lacked last season. For City, the signing of Nasri would represent a statement of intent, a coup large enough to give them a realistic chance of Premier League success, and to insure progress to the latter stages of the Champions League.
What transpires in the next couple of weeks between United and City, will give us a realistic idea of where City lie in Manchester’s monumental power struggle, for the first time a player will have the opportunity to publicly turn down United for City, an opportunity to let the entire footballing World know that the Sky Blues mean business.
If United and City needed anymore motivation to beat each other, then this latest battle will provide it. Those two have already locked horns on the playing field, and now their perpetual struggle has been translated to the transfer game as well.
This article was originally published by The Chairman on Football SpeakFollow The Chairman on Twitter @INFTH