Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of Sheikh Mansour’s ownership of Manchester City. Here are 10 things that he has brought to the club in the past decade.
The biggest transformation that City have achieved since Sheikh Mansour took over the club is success on the pitch. Over the past decade, City is level with Manchester United and Chelsea with three Premier League titles, but that’s quite a feat considering where the three clubs were a decade ago. United had won the previous two titles, with Chelsea second, while City had finished 14th and ninth. Mansour invested heavily in players, and City ended a 35-year trophy drought in 2011 when they won the FA Cup. A year later came their first league title in 44 years, with Sergio Aguero’s dramatic injury-time winner on the final day of the season. In 10 years, City have landed three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup, although Champions League success remains the ultimate ambition.
2. Some of the best players in the world
City sent 16 players to this year’s World Cup, more than any club has in history. For comparison’s sake, there were just four representatives at the 2008 European Championships. City’s initial splurges were a bit hit-and-miss, with expensive players such as Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz unable to deliver consistently, while an ambitious £100 million move for Brazilian star Kaka was rejected. It was the summer of 2010 that finally delivered the necessary quality with the arrivals of Yaya Toure and David Silva, who went on to become two of the best players in the club’s history. Aguero arrived the following year, and he’s become the second-greatest foreign goal scorer in Premier League history. More recently, players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus have been added, and with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the twilight of their careers, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Etihad Stadium was home to a Ballon d’Or winner in the near future.
3. Pep Guardiola
Few people would dispute that Guardiola is the best coach in the world, and after an incredible run of success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the Catalan could have walked into any top club in the world. The fact that City were able to persuade him to choose Manchester ahead of the traditional European hierarchy shows the power of the project they have started. Guardiola has been given a blank canvas and plenty of money to create exactly the team and club he wants. The rewards have already come, but Guardiola is building the foundations of a club that could dominate English football for years.
4. New playing style
Along with the Premier League trophy, last season’s triumph brought a style that appears to be a template for City sides of the future. Guardiola is determined for his team to always play on the front foot, and he blended his Barcelona passing philosophy with the pace and passion of the Premier League for a hybrid system that brought victories at typically hard places such as Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Napoli. Although they came unstuck twice at Liverpool, a record 100 points and a record 106 goals suggest the philosophy was correct, and it’s one that Guardiola will cultivate in England and Europe.
5. Cure for “Typical City”
City have a long history of taking success and turning it into a disaster. In 1938, they became the only champions ever to be relegated from the top flight the following season, despite scoring more goals than any other team. More recent examples include being relegated in 1983 despite avoiding being in the bottom three until the final seven minutes of the season. Or another relegation in 1996 when, needing to beat Liverpool on the final day of the season, they took the ball into the corner to waste time, mistakenly believing a draw would be enough. It all got worse as City sunk to the third tier in 1998 for the first time in their history. It would have been another horror if they had blown the title in 2012. Needing to beat relegation-threatened QPR on the final day, they trailed 2-1 going into extra time until Edin Dzeko and Aguero goals wrestled the title back from would-be winners United to avoid the most extreme example of “Typical City.”
6. Seat at Champions League table
The great Joe Mercer side of five decades ago won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970, but City have struggled in Europe since. They finally qualified for the Champions League in 2011 but initially found it tough, failing to get past the group stage. But City have started to establish themselves in the competition, and currently they have the longest unbroken run in the Champions League of any English side. They have reached the knockout stages for the past six seasons, reaching the semifinals in 2016, although Guardiola insists the club is still short of European experience.
7. One of the best women’s teams
City brought the women’s team in-house in 2014, and since then they have become one of the best in England. The women’s game is growing steadily, helped by the success of the national team, and City have been at the forefront by investing in players and their own stadium. Success has come on the pitch, with the double secured in 2016 before going on to reach the Champions League semifinals the following year. But they have also led the way away from match day, integrating the Twitter feed with the men’s team and sharing training and medical facilities at the club’s Etihad Campus. And with young players like Ellie Roebuck, Esme Morgan and Keira Walsh coming through the club’s academy, they are helping to shape the future of the women’s game.
8. Taking on United at attracting youth players
Before Mansour’s takeover, United — as well as enjoying far more success — basked in their ability to bring youth-team players to their first team. The Class of 1992 became famous and helped the club attract the best young talent from the area throughout the 1990s and 2000s. City are determined to produce their own players and have started to see some come through, led by Stockport-born 18-year-old midfielder Phil Foden. There is still some time before they reach the target of three or four regular homegrown starters, but they have some exciting youngsters coming through, and the fact that United players Robin van Persie, Darren Fletcher and Phil Neville all sent their children to City shows that their academy has more to offer in coaching and opportunities away from the pitch.
9. Etihad Campus
City wanted to build the best training complex in the game and visited sites from around the world, including those for basketball, softball and American football, before designing the Etihad Campus at a cost of around £200 million. The site is huge, with 16.5 pitches, more than Real Madrid’s Ciudad training complex (13.5), and includes a full-size synthetic indoor pitch. It has cutting-edge gyms, medical facilities and five-star-hotel-style sleeping quarters for the first team. But it’s also a key factor in producing academy players who can move into the first team, with two-thirds of the site dedicated to youth development.
10. Regeneration of East Manchester
Manchester has changed drastically over the past decade, but nowhere greater than in the previously heavily industrialised area in the eastern section of the city. City moved into their new stadium after the 2002 Commonwealth Games and, while other sports were using the area as their base, large swathes of the surrounding area were wasted. The club spent millions detoxifying a huge brownfield site, which had been used for coal mining, gas works and a chemical plant. Working with the Manchester City Council, they are building 6,000 new homes and contributing to a new community hub. Many jobs have been given to local apprentices and contracts to local companies, helping breathe new life into an area that was previously struggling, with apartment buildings and houses now going up in surrounding areas.