Manchester over the blue moon
Two goals to clinch the Premier League title in ‘Fergie Time’, one wonders who wrote that script for Manchester City in the Sunday drama. Against a side that had the poorest away record for the season coupled with City not having lost at Eastlands through the campaign, Roberto Mancini’s men nearly brought about their self-inflicted ignominy with Jamie Mackie’s 66th-minute goal that put Queens Park Rangers (QPR) on the cusp of a historic twist.
125 seconds of extra-time altered that course, the under-utilised prowess of Edin Dzeko in the air and Sergio Aguero’s calm finish past an inspired Paddy Kenny when the clock read 93′20″, ensuring City’s first league title since 1968 even as United edged out Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium Of Light. Relying on goal-difference to judge the victors of the Premier League during my lifetime – surely you jest.
Aguero’s strike resonated across Manchester and indeed the world for the Premier League proved its ability to deliver a spectacle worthy of swaying emotions and nail-chomping once again. The season, having pretty much been all about Manchester anyway, had been an affair rife with meandering plots even as United and City left everyone else tasting dust. Had the occasion not merited the Poznan breaking out in the terraces, City would have only had themselves to blame and the ‘chokers’ tag would have persisted for at least another season.
Have they bought the title? At $1.3 billion splashed on the club by Abu Dhabi’s ruling elite, it’d appear so. But you’d have to be woefully sour to discredit Mancini and his squad who possessed enough pluck to pip improbability after the defeat at Arsenal in early April left them eight points adrift off top spot.
As the tears of triumph flowed and the City faithful invaded the pitch, it just went to show exactly what waiting for 44 years meant. They finally had their own Nou Camp moment after years of disappointment, including two relegations to the Championship (1996 – followed by a drop to League One in 1998 – & 2000), and it was their time. “Why always United” no more.
And, it helped that it was certainly an electrifying finish to a twisted season for experienced neutrals like yours truly (I shall pray to a fictitious higher being to bring an end to Arsenal’s silverware drought next year. Starting now.)
The question is whether skipper Vincent Company (and what a season he’s had) and the supremely talented squad he leads will continue to dominate the English landscape or if this was one minor blimp. When UEFA’s Financial Fairplay Rules kick in (assuming UEFA commits to not letting the mighty escape its purview), just how much would that hurt the debt-entrenched City if they’re unable to swoop in on the best talent available? Will there be an implosion of Balotelli-esque proportions? One’ll have to endure that annoying wait till August for the answers and any talk of a shift in the balance of power is a little premature.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson stated, “They can go on as much as they like – that’s what you would expect – but the history of our club stands us aside. We don’t need to worry about that. I think we have a rich history, better than anyone and it’ll take them a century to get to our level of history.”
Perhaps they don’t have that legacy but United had managed seven leagues titles before the arrival of Ferguson who’s close to tripling that figure. Will Mancini manage to do the same with the neighbours? It’s difficult to say, that’s why it’s football (bloody hell!). But will the Sampdoria legend make sure he gets the very best out of a team that has finally managed to adopt a winning mentality?
Definitely, with apologies to Liam Gallagher, but inserting a ‘maybe’ here would be counter-productive.
By Tomojit Basu