When Did Man City Become So Good?

Image credit: bodrumsurf/Shutterstock.com

The life of every Manchester City fan changed when Sheikh Mansour bought the club on September 1, 2008. Although they were still a mid-table team at the time, the Abu Dhabi takeover put City on another level financially compared to the rest of the Premier League.

From that day on, we all knew Manchester United’s so-called “noisy neighbours” were going to challenge for major honours for years to come.

But when did Man City become so good that they could back up Mansour’s millions with success?

In this article, I’ve highlighted six key moments that set City up for a generation of English football dominance:

  1. First notable signings in the Sheikh Mansour era
  2. Carlos Tevez joins Man City from Man Utd
  3. Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous Man City quote
  4. Roberto Mancini delivers silverware
  5. The game that changed it all
  6. Man City’s first Premier League title win

I’ll also give my thoughts on the exact day that the club really did become so good after years of promise.

Who did Man City sign in 2008-09?

First of all, let’s not forget May 11, 2008 – the day Manchester City lost 8-1 against Gareth Southgate’s Middlesbrough on the last day of the season. City played with 10 men for 75 minutes due to Richard Dunne’s early red card, but the result was still an eye-opener. A managerial change came that summer, with Mark Hughes replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Hughes had already brought in six new signings before the Sheikh Mansour era began. Then something utterly bonkers happened.

On the first day of the new regime, Robinho joined from Real Madrid in a transfer that sent shockwaves through the football world:

  • July 2, 2008: Jo – £18m from CSKA Moscow
  • July 30, 2008: Tal Ben Haim – £5m from Chelsea
  • August 21, 2008: Vincent Kompany – £6m from Hamburg
  • August 28, 2008: Shaun Wright-Phillips – £8m from Chelsea
  • August 31, 2008: Pablo Zabaleta – £6.45m from Espanyol
  • August 31, 2008: Glauber – Undisclosed fee from Nuremberg
  • September 1, 2008: Robinho – £32.5m from Real Madrid

City followed up their summer spending spree with a £45.9m outlay in the January transfer window:

  • January 3, 2009: Wayne Bridge – £10m from Chelsea
  • January 19, 2009: Craig Bellamy – £14m from West Ham United
  • January 21, 2009: Nigel de Jong – £16m from Hamburg
  • February 1, 2009: Shay Given – £5.9m from Newcastle United

With the exception of Robinho, a blockbuster signing who ultimately failed to deliver, the first few incomings were solid but not spectacular. It is worth bearing in mind that club legend Vincent Kompany – signed before the takeover – was merely another exciting prospect at the time.

City finished 2008-09 in 10th place on 50 points, losing 18 of their 38 league games. Huge improvement needed.

Why did Carlos Tevez go to Man City?

Andy Cole and Peter Schmeichel moved to Manchester City years after cementing their status as Manchester United legends. Those transfers didn’t create too much of a fuss, largely because City were a much smaller club than United at the time.

Carlos Tevez was a different story. The Argentine left United because he felt disrespected by the club’s apparent reluctance to extend his contract. In the end, United offered him a new five-year deal, but it was already too late. Tevez’s contract ran out and he signed for City on July 14, 2009.

In addition to Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz joined City from Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers, respectively. In the space of a few weeks, the club suddenly had three of the Premier League’s most prolific strikers.

What did Sir Alex Ferguson say about Man City?

On September 20, 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson led his United team to victory in one of the greatest Manchester derbies of all time. Michael Owen scored the winning goal deep into injury time to secure a famous 4-3 win over City at Old Trafford.

In the week leading up to the game, the legendary manager famously dismissed City’s chances of battling it out with United at the top of the table one day.

Asked if United would ever enter a Manchester derby as underdogs, Sir Alex replied: “Not in my lifetime.”

Little did he know what would happen next.

Man City’s first trophy after the takeover

Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as Manchester City manager on December 19, 2009. The Italian was a hugely popular figure, leading the club to fifth place in 2009-10 and third place in 2010-11.

On May 14, 2011, Mancini guided City to their first piece of silverware since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover. Yaya Toure scored the only goal of the game as City beat Stoke 1-0 to clinch the 2011 FA Cup.

The victory was made even sweeter because City knocked United out of the cup a month earlier. Toure was the match-winner once again in a 1-0 semi-final win.

Man Utd 1-6 Man City – the day the tide turned

I asked the question at the top of the article: when did Man City become so good? This day, in my opinion, is when everything changed.

City didn’t quite overtake United for good on October 23, 2011 (that’s another article for another day), but this was the moment that the blue half of Manchester made everyone on the red side sit up and take notice.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who labelled City “noisy neighbours”, watched on as his United side were torn apart by their rivals in a 6-1 annihilation at Old Trafford. Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli scored twice, while David Silva and Sergio Aguero were also on the scoresheet in a match that will never be forgotten.

Jonny Evans’ red card with City leading 1-0 didn’t exact help United’s cause. Still, regardless of the circumstances, Mancini’s men showed they meant business on this day.

How did Man City win the Premier League in 2012?

The date was May 13, 2012. Manchester United thought they had won the Premier League title with a 1-0 win at Sunderland. Their match had already finished when Manchester City, in need of all three points at home to QPR, trailed 2-1 in the 91st minute.

Edin Dzeko popped up with an equaliser in the 92nd minute. Then this happened:

“Manchester City are still alive here. Balotelli… Agueroooooooo! … I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again! So watch it! Drink it in!”

The words of Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler have been stuck in football fans’ heads ever since. With 93:20 on the clock, Aguero’s stoppage-time goal sealed City’s first Premier League title in the most dramatic season finale in history.

How many years did Man City go without winning the league?

Before their 2011-12 triumph, Manchester City had not won a top-flight title in 44 years. The club’s only previous title victories in English football’s top tier came in 1936-37 and 1967-68.

Final thoughts

The story of Manchester City becoming so good largely revolves around their successful attempts to topple United both on and off the pitch:

  1. Transfer window: Manchester City snatch Carlos Tevez from Manchester United
  2. FA Cup semi-final 2011: Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
  3. Premier League 2011-12: Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
  4. Premier League 2011-12: Manchester City win the title

It wasn’t all plain sailing for City after that (again, another article for another day!), but these key moments in the first four post-takeover years laid the foundation for a new Eastlands era.