Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The extinction of Pityus Mancityus

Manchester City’s stunning Premier League triumph was achieved in typically Madchester style. As someone wrote in the aftermath, the second half of their final game at home against Queens Park Rangers was a microcosm of their season. Comfortably winning the league, then almost throwing it away before finally snatching it back at the end.  It was an astonishing climax to a wild ride and probably just as well they won as the alternative would have been one calamity too far for a side renowned for its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It was an expensive triumph. Abi Dhabi's Sheik Mansour has poured almost a billion pounds into his expensive toy but he has achieved his first target of winning the Premier League within four seasons. As well as their expensive assemblage of players, Mansour also recruited a hardnosed winning manager in Roberto Mancini who took Inter to three Italian titles before adding the English crown to his collection. The talk now is of moving forward to collect European silverware, a task that fellow billionaire Roman Abramovich has found beyond him in his reign as Chelsea moneybags – though he has one more chance in Munich this weekend.

As a Liverpool fan, I remain a fully paid up member of ABU (Anyone But United) for at least one season.  I have to say I enjoyed the way the title was snatched from Manchester United’s grasp on Sunday. I thought they were a poor team but I thought the same in 2003 and 2011 when they also managed to win the league. Sir Alex Ferguson has long ago proved himself the best manager ever to grace the British game and time after time he has come up with the goods to coach United sides in the fine art of grinding out victories.

I might be persuaded to leave ABU if City put together a run of title successes but I’m not convinced that will happen. I certainly wouldn’t bet against United coming back next season, having just lost out on goal difference this year. Defensively they are almost impregnable while the ageless pair of Giggs and Scholes will be back for another season, playing as well as ever. Wayne Rooney appears at the peak of his considerable powers well supported by the likes of Hernandez and Valencia though their midfield needs bolstering.  The memory of that 6-1 shellacking at Old Trafford (the size of the victory ultimately decided the title) should be enough motivation to do better next time round.

City meanwhile may struggle to keep up the momentum next season and could be distracted by a longer European campaign.  They will have money to spend in the summer but there will be much to spend it on with bad boys Tevez and Balotelli and relative failure Dzeko all likely to move on.  They also rely too much of Yaya Toure which is great when he is on the park, but a risky policy as shown when he limped off injured against QPR. Like United however, Mancini has drilled them into a formidable defensive unit with Kompany and company backed up by Joe Hart who has the chance to earn back the good name of English goalkeepers that was lost around 20 years ago. 

Chelsea and Arsenal will continue to flip around for third and fourth with Tottenham there or thereabouts. Redknapp has proved a shrewd acquisitor of talent in the transfer market with Van der Vaart and Modric both inspired signings while developing the considerable talents of Bale before the inevitable transfer to Old Trafford (or maybe the City of Manchester stadium). I’m not sure if Newcastle’s season is a one-off or they are back in the mix. Papiss Cisse was a sensation at the end of the season as was Demba Ba at the start and getting them both to click at the same time will be crucial to their chance.

My own team Liverpool look an absolute shambles and it is probably just as well they did not win the cup final as a second trophy would have disguised the fact it was their worst season in living memory. The fact is if they keep their 2012 form into next season, they would have to be among the relegation candidates. Their new stadium plans are in disarray, King Kenny’s crown is in tatters and they are a long way from getting back into the Top Four let alone making a title challenge. Gerrard is looking past it, Suarez and Carroll is not working, and none of Downing, Adams or Henderson have risen to the challenge. It’s difficult to see anything but hard times for the Reds in 2012-2013.

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