Sheikh Mansour’s faith a vital part of Manchester City’s title success
Incredible, unforgettable, crazy. Three words that were so synonymous with a final day of football in the English Premier League that was emotionally unlike any other.
If the 1989 title showdown between Arsenal and Liverpool could spawn a book and a movie, it will be interesting to see what comes out from Manchester City’s first championship for 44 long and laboured years.
No writer could have scripted the outcome on super Sunday. When Manchester United finished their game at Sunderland they were champions courtesy of a 1-0 win. They barely had time to leave the pitch when they heard their neighbours had pulled off an epic victory.
This was not “Typical City” and finally they will be able to shed the tag that has followed their faltering fortunes for so long. And while the team will get the acclaim, few should ignore the influence of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the man who made it all happen in more ways than one.
Just three weeks ago the owner eased pressure on the team by saying he was “very happy and satisfied” even if they did not win the title. It was the show of faith manager Roberto Mancini and his players needed at a crucial time.
Sheikh Mansour, who bought the club in 2008, might not have been at the Etihad to witness the crowning glory, but he will be proud of a dream double after his other club, Al Jazira, won the President’s Cup.
With his backing, City became the team that others loved to hate – and fear – because of their financial strength. But this league triumph, matching the 1968 achievement, has been more about self-belief and a determination to prove others wrong.
People questioned the motivation of the players who had joined on big money, namely Yaya Toure – who did not want to go off when he clearly hurt against Rangers – or record signing Sergio Aguero, who came up with a winner of sublime quality.
People questioned their attitude when former captain Carlos Tevez did a runner and Mario Balotelli went a bit bonkers on and off the pitch.
People questioned Mancini’s managerial qualities as he confessed to making mistakes and City bowed out of the Champions League and Europa League far too early for their liking. But most of all people questioned the team spirit.
“They only have individuals who play for themselves. You can see that they lack the right team spirit.” Those words from United coach Rene Meulensteen a month before the season finale hit a nerve, perhaps even spurred City as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had taken control of the title race.
A run of six successive wins was the response. As Pablo Zabaleta said: “When you believe in yourself you win.” And how City believed. They fostered a spirit that might have been questioned in 90 minutes against QPR, but came to the fore when it mattered most at the death.
When they had to dig deep, they did and ended the resolve of the valiant visitors, who had been down to 10 men through more unsavoury antics from Joey Barton.
It was four years in the making, but took just two memorable minutes for City to make history. Curiously, it mirrored some of United’s own heroic efforts in the past. Football. Bloody football.
Ferguson has been there before and now Mancini has the task of making sure City don’t stand still. While United, Chelsea and Arsenal will all have a say, the Etihad’s great entertainers have the chance to become the glory boys for many years to come.