By Gary James, Thu 08 December 2011 11:12
After hearing and reading some areas of the media today, I thought I'd make a post on the position City are actually in this morning. Most Blues know this stuff - we've all seen it first hand - but some speaking in the media haven't quite grasped it yet.
City took an enormous step forward in the Champions League this year and ultimately the only difference between City going through as champions of the group and finishing 3rd was the 1-1 draw with Napoli in our very first CL game.
People have said 'City have very experienced players in major competition' and so on, but the fact is that the first CL game was a real learning experience for City - as a club and that does weave its way through all areas.
Playing at home the Club had more pressure on them than Napoli. It's not an excuse (we don't need excuses because we're progressing not failing), it's a fact. And like the Community Shield game when we ultimately came unstuck, the Club learned from the experience.
This club, under Mancini, is learning all the time and to have reached the CL and to face 3 significant sides (no one should underestimate Villareal's European pedigree in recent years) is achievement.
Of course, as fans, we all wanted to progress, but we are not as upset as some journalists have suggested. We recognise that City are still learning, still developing. Ultimately 1 goal conceded at home to Napoli in our very first CL game was the only issue. People can talk about style of play, approach to games, players refusing to get off the bench or whatever, but ultimately it was one goal in our first game. That's all.
A couple of weeks ago I interviewed a very famous European Cup winner for an article that will be published later this month. This guy has a footballing record anyone would be proud to have (or even just a fraction would do) and he was full of enthusiasm for what he can see at City.
He compared City with the great Liverpool side of the mid-70s and said that he has no doubts whatsoever that City will find European glory soon and that the Club this year could win every competition. Okay, that would now be sensational and extremely difficult to achieve, but he said that so long as they continue to have the belief then anything's possible with this side. He explained it all fully to me, and his comments ring true.
But worth pausing to remember that already this year, before we even get into the New Year, we've headed the League table for possibly our longest spell ever (not checked yet, but 1967-68 was a late surge, and so was 1936-37 - if anyone gets chance to check it would be interesting to know). We're also through to a major semi-final and we're in the Europa League - the second most significant trophy in Europe (remember how disappointed we all felt when we failed to qualify via Fowler's missed pen a few years back?).
City are making significant progress in all areas and, as fans, we recognise that.
I've researched, studied and written about the history of Manchester football extensively and recognise the twists and turns in the story of both Blue & Red. Rarely have both sides been at the top at the same time. One tends to fall away as the other becomes dominant. It's unlikely this will happen considering Utd's income (ignore the debts for a minute) and modern fanbase, but the way the 2 sets of fans greeted last night's results suggests there could be a change happening in mentality. As I drove home from the match last night Radio 5 had predominantly Utd fans calling. 2 asked for Fergie to resign (plus criticised Rooney etc.) and were very downbeat. They had 1 City fan on (as I listened), they tried to get her to say she was disappointed/frustrated at City's defeat and she did the exact opposite. She talked of this being part of our progression and that City are still at the beginning.
She was spot on, but it still surprised Radio 5. They tried to suggest we would see it as a real failure, yet the 2 defeats were different. City were looking for an impossible scenario last night, Utd were going for what should have been a bread and butter result for a team that had their level of investment, support and so on over the last 30 years.
Worth remembering as a final point - it took Ferguson almost 4 years (with the highest level of investment in a squad that any manager had ever been given) to win a major trophy at Utd and 13 years to win the Champions League. Arsenal & Chelsea despite their investment and domestic record have yet to win the trophy.
Mancini won a major trophy in his first full season at City; took the Blues to 3rd place (equal 2nd on points!) and now has taken us through our first CL campaign with honour and into the latter stages of the Europa League, plus of course the League Cup semi and much to play for...
This is a very positive time for City and I can't wait for 2012.