Manchester City’s plan to start an Alex Ferguson sort of rule at the Ethiad will depend not on how much money they spend, but how they succeed in managing the club. And by making sure that they keep hold of their management team, manager Roberto Mancini in particular, who has taken them to this wonderland. The initial signs are optimistic that they will avoid the problems Chelsea have had.


Mancini led City to glory, but must now be in sole control of football matters. Image courtessy of PlayUp

The comparison with Chelsea is very relevant. Remember back in 2005, we heard a similar vision of the future from Chelsea. Then, Peter Kenyon, chief executive of Chelsea, spoke of his vision to turn the world blue. Chelsea went on to win two more titles, indeed, they did the coveted double of League and Cup under Carlo Ancelotti and have won other trophies. The club could still crown it all with what its Russian Tsar dearly wants: the Champions League on Saturday. But if they do not, this is a season with only an FA Cup and sixth in the League, and that domination over United, taking over from Old Trafford in the way Ferguson took over from Anfield, has not been achieved.

The reason for that has not been lack of money. As we all know, Chelsea’s moves in the transfer market still dominate the thoughts of other football clubs. Look at how Tottenham’s season this year was shaped by the fact that the north Londoners prevented Luka Modrić from moving to Stamford Bridge.

The reason Chelsea have not made blue the colour of the world in the way their owner wants is because Abramovich himself has failed to keep a stable management team at the Bridge. Seven managers in eight years, which could be eight after Saturday, tells a lot. And even Kenyon, the man Abramovich met the night he took over Chelsea at London’s Les Ambassadeurs, has gone.

Yes, there have been changes at Manchester City. But in contrast to Abramovich, who gives the impression of a child playing with toys, Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi owners are remarkably grown up. In the instant world of football comment that has developed, there was much criticism back at the end of 2009 when they appointed Roberto Mancini to replace Mark Hughes. Hughes was the manager they had inherited and the reason given for his sacking was that Hughes was not meeting targets. As I said at that time, it was significant that, despite the hostile media reaction to Hughes going, the owners, advised by Gary Cook, then chief executive, went for Mancini because they believed he had the pedigree to take them where they wanted to go.

Of course, Cook did not always cover himself with glory and any number of his remarks can be produced to mock him, and in the end he had to go. But compared to Chelsea, the management changes at City have been very few. And it must be said, Cook brought about his own downfall. Interestingly, the owners still seem to have good relations with the departed chief executive as he was back to watch the crucial derby match against United. What is more, the owners know how to withstand the gale of hostile media comment pushing them in a direction they do not want to go.

Surf through the net and read all that was said after the defeat at Arsenal. Then, everyone was convinced Mancini should go. But the City owners did nothing. Mancini fooled us all. Publicly, he kept saying United had won the title. Privately, as has now been revealed, he told players that they could still win it. And then, like a Hollywood script, he waited until injury time, Fergie time, to make sure his team scored two. Of course, not all this was planned. But now that it has happened, it makes him look like a god.

He is not that, of course he is not, but he has proved himself to be manager who can survive banana skins he has strewn in his own path (i.e. Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli). And he gives the impression of having the potential to rival Ferguson. And key to that is doing it his way.

It is worth noting that in the 20 years of Ferguson rule in the Premiership, there has been any amount of upheaval at Old Trafford. Martin Edwards and the board tried to sell to Sky. The fans hated Edwards in any event. The rejection of the bid was the work of OFT and the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, but they saw it as their victory. Then, the bust up between Ferguson and the Irish owners of United opened the way for the Glazer take-over. But all this time, nothing affected Ferguson’s control of what mattered: the playing and coaching staff and his rule over the training ground.

City must ensure similar control for Mancini if they are to make sure the world turns blue. The Uefa Fairplay rules add a complication, but management stability is vital. Otherwise they will be yet another club that hoped to challenge United but did not quite make it.


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