Vive la Sky Blue Revolution! Why the guillotine is set to fall at Manchester City in 2011

Posted on January 9, 2011


2008 was Manchester City’s 1789 (bear with me on this one).

The Eastlands’ annus mirabilis held promise of a liberation from years of stagnation and a final end to humiliation at the hands of their hated neighbours and rivals.

The seizure of power by Abu Dhabi’s oil-rich was met with the understandable optimism of one half of the Mancunian sans-culotte. The new leadership were swift in culling failed King Thaksin’s ancien régime and topped things off with the populist capture of Robinho from under the noses of the West London club whose paradigm they sought desperately to emulate.

Whilst the Great Powers could only look on in a mixture of awe and antipathy, the league’s lesser-names (and journalists) sniggered at a prospective power shift and the hope that they too would one day follow suit.

The past 2.5 years will loom as the brightest and bloodiest in Manchester City’s 120 year history: The Brazilian mascot of ’08 has been erased from memory, sole remnant of the pre-revolutionary age Mark Hughes met the same fate as his predecessor, and the guillotine now hangs sharpened and suspended over a bescarfed and besieged Roberto Mancini.

Without stretching this analogy beyond its already spurious limits (Shaykh Mansour after all is no republican, signs of a partial restoration of old ways under a diminutive world-conquering Corsican General seem unlikely, and Blue Moon is nowhere near as catchy as the Marseillaise), post-takeover Manchester City are the profligate, paranoid, and perennially unstable player in Premier League of nations.

Despite their considerable achievements, including topping many fan lists of ‘most hated club’ (one title that they have wrested from Chelsea), the Citizens leadership can’t help feeling that things aren’t going quite as planned.

The petro-dollar visionaries continue to agitate: their very public courtship of Kaka ended in an embarrassing snub of nouveau riche for old money, whilst for the past two seasons, the Eastlands outfit have only rubbed shoulders with continent’s third-rate actors in the Europa Cup.

But recent months have shown that the squad the billionaire built will achieve the Champions League qualification feat with ease and are set to make the title race the most genuinely well-contested in a decade. City have already beaten champions Chelsea this season and in Vincent Kompany possess one of the Premiership’s outstanding midfield players.

And yet, history shows that contentment has never sat well with blue-sky ambition. Second place in the League they may be but reports of training ground bust-ups and player-manager frictions are coming as thick and fast as 3 points away from home. The arrival of Italian football’s enfant terrible Mario Balotelli has amassed column inches that would make Jose Mourinho proud, whilst stalwart Carlos Tevez may still jump ship for pastures more South Americaney.

As much as City seem to stand on the cusp of realising the promises of August 2008, it is their propensity to prematurely wield the axe and/or implode (knacks that seem to go hand-in-hand with a get-trophies-quick scheme) that stand between a fruition of footballing grandeur or a continuation of the Revolution and its revolving door.

The end, as yet, seems nowhere in sight. The arrival of Edin Dzeko from Wolfsburg this week for £27 million is the highest single transfer fee paid by a Premiership club in the January transfer window, a month that usually gives way to Arsenal’s reserve-squad teenagers signing for Plymouth for six months. Dzeko will be a direct replacement for Roque Santa Cruz. So coveted by City long back in 2009, the Paraguayan is set to join the growing list of failed names associated with year 1 of the Abu Dhabian experiment.

The managerial position remains the most precarious. City are self-consciously following the blue-print laid out by Roman Abramovich. Logic determines that if success continues to elude them, they are sure to chase after someone a little bit Special.

To be fair to Shaykh Mansour, Manchester City are still in the formative stages of their break from the past. The travails and turmoils of boardroom and changing room are not yet affecting the spirit of the faithful, for whom the misery of yesteryear is still far too vivid to forget.

2011 may mark a slowing of the merry-go-round and a semblance of stability at Eastlands but expect the guillotine to claim a few more victims if, almost 3 years on, the summer brings with it no physical cup shaped return for City’s Arabian investment.