Although currently one of football’s global superpowers, Manchester City Football Club began life in much humbler surroundings, formed in 1880 as St. Mark’s (West Gorton) before becoming Ardwick Association Football Club in 1887, and finally morphing into Manchester City in 1894.
The club will forever be synonymous with Maine Road, the ground at which they spent 80 historic years between 1923 and 2003 and won two First Division titles.
Their initial title came in the 1936-37 season, but it would be a long wait for fans until they could celebrate once again, with the second only arriving at the end of the 1967-68 campaign.
A bitter rivalry
In the decades that followed that last triumph, the blue half of the city were forced to watch on in envy as rivals Manchester United emerged as the dominant force in English football, winning countless trophies under Sir Alex Ferguson.
In that time, Man City spent eight seasons in the second tier and one in the third, but have played in the Premier League every season since being promoted back to the top flight in 2001-02.
City seemed to become plenty of Premier League supporters’ ‘second team’ thanks to the irrepressible habit of supporting an underdog. They were seen as the poor relations to the Red Devils, and it was always deemed an enormous upset if they managed to win the Manchester derby.
That all changed in 2008, however, when City Football Group – led by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan – bought the club and decided to invest more than enough money to send it to the top.
Despite some good performances over a year-and-a-half, Mark Hughes was quickly dispensed with as manager and the new regime opted to bring in Italian tactician Roberto Mancini to oversee the development of the club.
The manager’s way
Success was not instant, but Mancini delivered the 2012 Premier League title in the most dramatic of fashion. Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero wrote themselves into City folklore by scoring in injury time as the Sky-Blues beat QPR 3-2 on the final day of the season – meaning City pipped United to the title on goal difference.
It was a huge turning point in the club’s history. The blue half of Manchester had finally emerged from the long shadow of Old Trafford to snatch the most coveted football trophy in England from the hands of their bitter rivals.
Although Mancini only lasted another year after that momentous result, his replacement Manuel Pellegrini continued to deliver the goods in his first season in charge.
The Chilean delivered an overall win percentage of 59% during his tenure, also winning the 2013-2014 Premier League trophy and securing two League Cup triumphs.
However, in 2016, after two seasons without silverware – the inevitable happened; the South American was replaced by the most sought-after coach in world football – Pep Guardiola.
A modest first season in charge last year, when City could only manage to finish third seems to have been quickly forgotten already. The Mancunian giants have swept all before them so far this term and are on course to win the top-flight title by a landslide.
An international influence
Money from the United Arab Emirates through the aforementioned City Football Group has already lured some of the world’s best players to the Etihad Stadium. As a result, the squad is packed full of internationals from across the globe.
There has been a particularly strong South American influence for some time through stars such as Argentina’s Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi. Brazilian players, including Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus, Danilo and goalkeeper Ederson have also made a major impact at the club.
That’s not to say Guardiola hasn’t also brought in and developed English talent too, most evident with the acquisition of Raheem Sterling from Liverpool and John Stones from Everton, while Kyle Walker made a big-money move from Tottenham last summer.
The Spanish tactician seems to have a knack of identifying areas that need strengthening. In bringing in Walker and Benjamin Mendy, he replaced ageing full-backs with younger, dynamic players capable of contributing much more going forward.
It was always likely that it would take him a season to find his feet in the very different world of the Premier League, but Guardiola now seems to have the measure of what it takes to succeed in England.
In Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, he has arguably has the most influential player in the league at his disposal. Able to dictate matches from start to finish, the man once rejected by Chelsea is now the perfect player to carry out Guardiola’s possession-based style of play.
The road ahead
City have always tried to be entertainers, but it sometimes came at the expense of results, and that is where the current crop of stars differs. They are not simply brilliant to watch but also have a work ethic second-to-none, with the former Barcelona coach pulling the strings.
City are now major players on the world scene, having put their marker down in the Premier League. The next challenge must be to conquer Europe in the Champions League.
They are already through to the last-16, with a decent draw in the shape of Basel ahead. Whether they can sustain their Champions League challenge, only time will tell, but they have all the ingredients and the perfect chef to get the job done.
Written by Greg Murray
Greg Murray focused on watching football rather than playing it after realising he wasn’t going to be the next Gianfranco Zola. Writing prolifically on Italian football while keeping an eye on the game around the world, Greg has also turned his pen to the aviation industry and the betting market.