It’s one of my favorite things to say about our noisy neighbors, but “Let’s all laugh at City” could soon be shelved, right next to the “35 Years” banner we literally held over their heads for the last 3.5 decades. With an FA Cup in their desolate trophy cabinet, City have started this league season with more than just a few pipe dreams. As I type this, they are 5 pts clear of us and a week off a 6-1 thumping of a United team that was a miniscule shadow of our early season form. We have some fickle fans, but even the most grounded United fans can share in some trepidation when it comes to this year’s City team. The real question is: Are they better than United? Let’s find out.
The most glaring thing to notice about this City team is that they finally mean business, and I’m not just talking about spending the money this time. For years City have thrown money at a problem they couldn’t seem to fix – winning. When an ownership with deep pockets takes over, money will be spent. We all knew that would happen. But, we watched from our side of town while City made an attempt to replicate even the most minute United success with purchase after purchase. It’s quite difficult to sit on the other side while your rivals win every trophy possible, so City took the approach that loads of money would buy loads of the best players. The simple law of economics does prevail and, yes, whoever has the most money can afford the best players. The problem City faced was that they were buying players for exorbitant amounts of money, but they were overpaying and buying the wrong players. Robinho, Milner, SWP (2nd time around), Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Zabaleta, Barry, etc. Some are gone, some are still there, but City kept buying. We laughed at the failures year after year, but at some point, these players would learn to play together. That time has come.
Over the last three or so seasons, City fielded a team with the highest wages and highest transfer fees, but no one wanted to play together. The joke was that no one spoke the same language, so how could they possibly play football as a cohesive unit. The funny part about this was that it was true. They constantly underachieved. Even an FA Cup and a CL birth last season were considered a letdown for a team with close to 600m in players. In the end, City and its fans were ecstatic with those two accomplishments, though I’m sure a Carling Cup win would’ve satisfied a City fan after 35 years of nothing. However, it still begged the question, “When will City produce?” No manager, Mancini or not, can stick around from just winning an FA Cup or Carling Cup each year. City wanted European glory just like every other team, so coming into this season the stakes were just a bit higher for them. They tasted some success and wanted more. But, is more success in City’s future? Let’s look at both teams now.
City have gelled in a way that hasn’t been seen since, well, since some 35 years ago. Mancini is finally finding a way to make the players work. His comment about having a lack of players was comical, but when you’re spoiled with money, you get greedy and unsatisfied. David Silva has been their star, controlling a mid-field that needed some serious grounding and continuity. Balotelli is still petulant, but he’s started producing. Tevez turned into the sour apple everyone in Manchester knew he would, so Mancini went out and purchased his replacement, Aguero. Kompany has always been their best defender, but they’ve fortified themselves in the back so far, conceding very few goals. Silva has glued their MF together while their strikers have put in goals. The bickering and lack of team unity have turned into a viable squad. They have slaughtered teams, including United – us being the only real competition thus far. You know who they remind me of? Chelsea this time last year. Remember what happened to Chelsea at season’s end? They were 9 points back of United. So let’s look at United.
We spent the off-season getting De Gea, Young, and Jones. We couldn’t lock down a CMF, but when the season started we settled in on using Cleverley as Scholes’ immediate replacement. The formula seemed to work – until it didn’t. Eventually, the MF issue of the last few seasons crept back into view and our early season form went away. The culmination of this slip in form happened to City. At home. 6-1. Does that mean City is better than us? On the weekend, yes. On the season, no. The one thing that we have on our side that will set us apart as season’s end is Fergie. He finds a way to win. Mancini hasn’t shown us that yet. He has a plethora of players at his disposal, but when his team starts sustaining injuries or booking suspensions or Balotelli’s temper, can Mancini find a team that works like Fergie can? For me, the answer is “No.”
You can could argue that on paper, and even on the field, City have a better team. Lord knows they have the money to support that. But, what they don’t have is a heart like Manchester United. Fergie has the respect of players. And, he holds their respect without having to demand it – he’s earned it. It’s just the United way. Mancini has spats with his players on the sidelines – see Balotelli and Tevez. That would not happen at United. And while Mancini has dealt with Balotelli and Tevez, the bottom-line is that he shouldn’t have to. Sure, Fergie has had spats with players (Beckham and Ronaldo), but he’s also been at the club for 25 years and it’s almost never on the sidelines of a match. Mancini hasn’t even hit the two year mark. He might very well be a great manager, but that has yet to be seen. The sincere truth is that there’s just an air of professionalism at Old Trafford that has yet to find its way over to Stockport. And see, the season isn’t 9 games long. A Prem season is 38 games long. We understand what it takes to get through those 38 league games, and about 20 some odd others, and have something to show for it. Just drive by OT and you’ll see the proof of 19 domestic titles. Drive by Stockport and you won’t see any of that. You’ll see one trophy and a half-empty stadium on match day. In the end, City isn’t a better team than United. It’s something they have to earn. Something they have to want. Something that they’ll have to come and get from us. Something I hope they have to wait another season to try and do.
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