AUTHOR: – Bricki
This weekend the two major trophies in the English domestic game have ended up living in Manchester for the next 12 months.
I want to say ‘Congratulations’ to Manchester City. I have quite a few honest football supporting blues who deserve some success finally.
At a time where the city as a whole should be celebrating you won’t hear many red cheers for blue or vice versa, yet it hasn’t always been this way. The older generation who remember the game in the 50s/60s/70s talk about going to see United one week and City the next. The players socialised together and generally the city enjoyed having two teams competing at the top of the league.
With the potential success of both sides in the near future, How should the fans and the city as a whole approach something we’ve not seen for many a year?
It’s looking likely that in the next few years we will be seeing a battle between United and City for the league title. The vast amounts spent by City mean they must start to show a challenge for the title in the next 12/24 months. That’s not a dig at City, the way the game has become money driven meant that the only way they were going to reach that level was a large cash injection. It is a fact though that they will be challenging and I am personally looking forward to it.
I have been going to Old Trafford since 1991 and been a season ticket holder since 1996. In my time of being a Red I have never had that genuine rivalry with the Blue half of the city. It’s not arrogance but I looked at the teams we were competing with, Arsenal, Liverpool, Blackburn and Chelsea as the clubs that were our rivals. The Manchester Derby was a game we didn’t like to lose (and during the 90s we didn’t seem to lose often) but it did not have the significance the way my Father, Uncles and Granddad spoke of.
The first Manchester Derby I felt nervous and worried about was last seasons 4-3 at Old Trafford. For the first time City were now a genuine rival and it wasn’t just a game about pride but it took on another level of significance. Up until then City appeared as if they were always in the shadow of the Reds down the road, they popped up twice a season but then went on to fight their own battles whilst we dealt with the serious business of the silverware.
Now we had the chance for a genuine rivalry again, not just one built on location but also because we were now true opponents for the prizes the game offers. I could now have discussions with my Blue friends where we were talking about the same thing, not talking about our battles and their battles.
I think an interesting point to address in the relationship between the fans is the ’35 Years’ ticker and everything that went with it. I cannot put it exactly but I think the ‘ticker’ only went up around the 30 year mark. From a personal standpoint I wasn’t a fan of the ticker and felt that any permanent flags displayed in the ground should reflect the achievements of our own club rather than the lack of another club. It became something that cropped up every game rather than just against City, taking up too much time when we could be supporting our own team.
The fact that nearly every media event before and straight after the FA Cup Final that involved anyone connected to City had questions relating to the ‘ticker’ serves only to remove gloss from their achievement. It also takes away from United becoming the most successful league side in English football. The week before we wrapped up title number 19 and we are discussing our rivals?
Going into next season both clubs will more than likely be at a similar standpoint. We will both be looking to compete for the League Title, which is unheard of for possibly two generations of fans. How both teams have arrived at this position is totally different. A lot of United’s’ development and growth has been organic, this is also to say that money the club has spent on players has been from the success on the pitch and development off the pitch. Citys’ has come from a sudden and large injection of cash, which for any club at their previous level to compete at the top needed to happen. This will be the 3rd season since the Abu Dhabi arrival and the money was spent to improve the squad. It would be fair to assume that with Champions League qualification (3rd place could be Citys meaning no qualifying) and the first trophy in the newly acquired cabinet (sorry couldn’t resist that) a tilt at the Title is now the next stage of making the club a big name again.
So where does this leave the relationship between the two clubs and its fans, players and managers?
A rivalry between clubs is expected and healthy, we have some fantastic derbies that take place in the British game. Derbies such as the Merseyside (Liverpool/Everton), Glasgow (Celtic/Rangers), North London (Arsenal/Spurs) are games that have gone done in folklore and are always looked forward to even if you don’t support either team.
It feels now though that the rivalry that was enjoyed between fans has given way to ‘hate’ and threatens to engulf the game at a time when we are seeing more families and women become involved in the game. As Manchester has the spotlight thrust upon it in terms of football coverage, it’s up to both sets of fans to step up and lead the way.
Just today the Manchester City coach David Platt has spoken in the press saying
“The end result isn’t necessarily to outdo Manchester United. The end result is to win trophies”
This is a commonsense view which both sides need to follow now. Sir Alex referred to City as ‘Noisy Neighbours’ in the early days of the Abu Dhabi regime. However when has “keeping up with the Jones” been of value further down the line? To look over the garden fence and be envious of what your neighbour has will not give you any of the success they have achieved.
Manchester City and United have their own identities and styles; Uniteds style has been honed over the years with events such as ‘Munich’, the Busby Babes and the Sir Alex Ferguson era. Which has brought unprecedented success, huge profits gained on the back of this success and the reinvigoration of youth development at the club? Citys’ style has been harder to define from a red perspective, with heroic failure appearing to be the order of the day. Not intended as a dig at City but the club has had to spend a lot of time in the shadow of United since the early 90s. Success that has been achieved, such as the dramatic Play-Off Final win of 98/99 has ironically seemed to coincide with major triumphs of United like the Treble and this season the FA Cup win on the same day as the 19th League Title. For your ‘rivals’ to be always able to outdo your achievements would be a frustrating feeling and one you want to rectify as soon as you can.
However since the injection of the new cash there appears to be a willingness to revamp the club from the ground up, in a similar way to how Ferguson approached rebuilding United when he arrived. Youth Development seems to be important and even if the reserves have been renamed the fairly ridiculous ‘Elite Development Squad’ an emphasis on developing their own players to compliment the new purchases does appear apparent, even if it may be a few years before the results are seen properly.
To round it all up there is a lot for both fans to be positive about rather than focus on the other side and what they are doing. The fans of both sides have shown that when in the public eye, such as the Munich match several seasons ago, we make this city proud of its’ football teams. When it comes to the game though, make your own garden beautiful and leave it to others to do the peering over the garden fence.
With the managers I don’t see a rivalry to match Ferguson and Wenger or Keegan. Mancini comes across as being a thoughtful man who knows the job he has to do and is concentrating on it. Sir Alex has been round the block, over the bridge and generally redesigned the whole city. He knows that Manchester United comes first and he looks out for their interests as his number 1 priority. When City appears on the horizon he will deal with them in the same way Mancini will approach United. The only team either can have an effect on is their own.
The same will go for the players, they may mention getting one over on the other side in order to get the fans onside, such as Dzeko when he arrived or Rooney and the overhead kick. Other than in the build up to games between the sides or in Rooneys case talk of a transfer you don’t expect to hear too much that isn’t ‘beige’ in opinion. Due to the cosmopolitan nature of both squads now and the many different nations represented at both clubs you wont get situations such as the good friends Best and Summerbee like in years gone by.
One of the more famous stories regarding these two was after City had won a trophy (apologies but what it was I cannot find) and prior to the game the pair had arranged to meet in their usual night club. Once City had won Summerbee did not expect to see Best in the club but he was there waiting with a drink in hand to congratulate Summerbee and help him celebrate Citys’ success. If United or City players were seen to be celebrating the others successes with them now it would be viewed as high treason by fans.
This is an exciting time to follow football in Manchester, the next decade could be all about both Manchester clubs. Regardless of how City have arrived at this point I am looking forward to competing against them for the prizes of the English and European game. We will almost certainly suffer some dark days to the neighbours in the coming years but they will also find that it will take more than 1 FA Cup to have legitimate claims to having the upper hand.
Its all set up for a fantastic few years for the city as a whole and both sets of fans can be proud that we are at the heart of the English game.
A tip of the cap to City for the FA Cup, long overdue it may be but if you want the big trophies then you’ll be in for quite a battle as we keep the Red Flag Flying High! (That goes to you as well Liverpool under the ‘Kenny Revolution’)