They have done it – Manchester City are English Premier League (EPL) champions, 2011-12.
What a feeling it must be for the players, the management team, the owners, the fans and all those associated with the team – league champions after 44 years and perhaps, finally out of the shadow of its derby rival, Manchester United.
For long, Manchester City had been in the shadow of its derby rival, Manchester United, English champions for a record 19 times. However, with this win, City has perhaps come out of the shadow saying “We are here too”.
However, the evolution of Manchester City as the EPL champions is not without a struggle. While in the shadow of its derby rival, the club was bought by Abu Dhabi Group in August of 2008, which is seen by many as the turning point of the club. And what followed then was the purchase of high profile international players including the Brazilian Robinho from Real Madrid for a British record of 32.5 million pounds then.
City finished tenth in the league that year and what we saw during the summer of 2009 was the purchase of more players such as Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Kolo Touré, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tévez and Joleon Lescott.
However, what was considered to be one of the biggest turning points for City is the signing of Italian Roberto Mancini on December 19, 2009. That year, City finished fifth in the league narrowly missing a berth for the UEFA Champions League.
Since Mancini’s arrival and the signing of more players such as Yaya Toure, David Silva, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzenko, the club has indeed turned around – City won the FA against Stoke in 2011, their first since 1969, beating derby rivals Manchester United in the semis. And for the first time ever, City qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2011-12 when they beat Tottenham Hotspur on May 10, 2011.
There has been no turning back since then for Manchester City under Roberto Mancini. More players were signed in summer of 2011 which included Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri from Arsenal, etc.
The line-up of City was such that the club was considered the ‘Team to beat’ in the 2011-12 campaign of the English Premier League.
Truly so, City started the season off on a great note even beating title holders Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford, United’s own homeground, and opening a 5 points lead. They also established a club record of 20 winning streak at their home ground at the City of Manchester Stadium. And what was noteworthy of their wins is their ability to attack and score goals almost at free will; till they met Chelsea FC in the early part of April, City had an average goal of about 3 a game. And while they scored over 93 goals alone in EPL, they conceded just 29, the least in the league for the season.
Manchester City’s rise to the top of the league and being crowned the EPL Champions 2011-2012 is indeed a warning for the traditional four viz. Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal as their top positions will now be threatened.
Though City slipped and fell behind title holders United by 8 points with just 6 matches to go, they bounced back and once again defeated their derby rival at their home ground, a match considered by many that decided the fate of the eventual winners, Manchester City.
While Manchester United has undoubtedly dominated the Premier League winning a record 19 titles including 12 in the open era starting 1992, some of the main rivals have been Chelsea, Arsenal and Newcastle United. However, with the emergence of Manchester City as the champions in close race title that was decided on the last day of the league, United will definitely have more rivals now.
The contract extension of City’s manager Roberto Mancini by four years with a record fee of 5 million dollars a year is a sign and a warning to title rivals that they are serious about the title and mean business.
While the EPL season of 2011-12 has been of high quality and intensity, the season ahead should be more interesting with United promising a stronger comeback while City, having sweated and fought to the last game and tested the taste of victory, will be ready to fight till death for the title again.