History of Manchester City F.C. (2001–present)
This page chronicles the history of English football team Manchester City Football Club in further detail from 2001 to the present day. See History of Manchester City F.C. for a history overview of Manchester City.
The 2001 to 2011 history of the club has been marked by stability, with the club establishing itself as a Premier League regular since 2002. The club was taken over in 2007 by Thaksin Shinawatra, who invested a considerable portion of money into the club with Sven-Göran Eriksson. After being arrested for political corruption in the summer of 2008, Shinawatra had to sell the club.
- 1 Stability (2001–2008)
- 2 Shinawatra ownership
- 3 Revolution (2008–present)
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Keegan stability (2001–2005)
Kevin Keegan's four-year tenure as City manager brought much needed stability, as he gained promotion to the Premier League at the first attempt and then kept the side in the top flight. He failed, however, to build on those positive foundations once they were established in the Premier League.
In his first season in charge, in 2001–02, Keegan brought in several influential players such as Eyal Berkovic, Ali Benarbia and Stuart Pearce. The club went on to win the 2001–02 Division One championship, breaking club records for the number of points gained. Fan favourite Shaun Goater led the club with 30 goals and strike partner Darren Huckerby notched 26 of his own, in a season which convincingly put Manchester City back into English football's elite, with a total of 108 goals scored in 46 league games.
In preparation for his second season as manager (2002–03), he signed Nicolas Anelka, Peter Schmeichel and Marc-Vivien Foé. That season saw City win against Liverpool at Anfield and take four points from Manchester United, but concede five goals away to Chelsea and at home to Arsenal, securing their Premier League status by finishing ninth. Keegan also guided City into the UEFA Cup, qualifying via the UEFA Fair Play ranking. 2002–03 was also City's last season at Maine Road, which the Club left after 80 years to relocate to the 48,000-seat City of Manchester Stadium, originally built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The club and their supporters were stunned when Marc-Vivien Foé, a player who had been on loan in the previous season to Manchester City and was arguably one of City's best players of the season, died while playing for Cameroon during the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in a match against Colombia. In the 72nd minute of the match, Foé collapsed in the centre circle, with no other players near him. After attempts to resuscitate him on the pitch, he was stretchered off the field, where he received mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and oxygen. Medics spent 45 minutes attempting to restart his heart, and although he was still alive upon arrival at the stadium's medical centre he died shortly afterwards, in spite of the efforts to save his life.
Despite having signed four new players in Steve McManaman, Paul Bosvelt, David Seaman and Michael Tarnat, 2003–04 was a difficult season for City. They were in with a slight chance of relegation up to the penultimate game of the season, finishing 16th in the table with a goal difference of +1. Nonetheless, the season had some high points, with City defeating Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane after being down 3–0 at half-time during an FA Cup replay, with their match prospects worsened after Joey Barton was sent-off on the brink of the interval. City, however, pulled off one of the greatest FA comebacks of all time, scoring four second-half goals from Sylvain Distin, Paul Bosvelt, Shaun Wright-Phillips and a headed winner by Jon Macken to seal a famous victory. There was also a 4–1 humbling of rivals Manchester United at Eastlands.
City again disappointed in cup competitions in the 2004–05 season, with a defeat to Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup and a loss to a typical reserve Arsenal team normally seen in the League Cup by manager Arsène Wenger. Later in the season, in March 2005, Keegan quit as manager with immediate effect, 15 months before his expected retirement. Keegan remarked after resigning, "We could have jumped into the European shake-up, again we couldn't make that leap. That's seven or eight times in a year we could have jumped into something good for this club and we've failed."
Stuart Pearce years (2005–2007)
In March 2005, one of Keegan's coaches, Stuart Pearce, was appointed caretaker of City after Keegan left the club. After a successful run of form which put the club close to UEFA Cup qualification, Pearce was given the job on a permanent basis. The final match of the season against Middlesbrough was remembered for Pearce's decision to bring on goalkeeper Nicky Weaver for outfield midfielder Claudio Reyna during the latter stages of the game so that 6 ft 5ins David James could play upfront, despite having £5 million striker Jon Macken on the bench. City even had a David James number 1 outfield shirt ready if such action was deemed necessary. The ploy was somewhat successful, with James proving difficult to deal with. Franck Queudrue eventually committed a handball in his own penalty area to give City a last minute penalty, but Robbie Fowler missed his kick, squandering City's opportunity to reach Europe; the game finished 1–1.
Despite a successful start to the 2005–06 season, Manchester City finished 15th in the Premiership after losing nine of its last ten games. They were also eliminated from the League Cup by League One side Doncaster Rovers. Pearce developed the reputation as being unusually fair and honest by refusing to criticise referees for mistakes they may have made. He was also touted as a potential successor for England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson in the early stages of the season when City were impressing.
Pearce failed to bring about an improvement in the 2006–07 season which saw City skirmish with relegation and the season would prove tough for club. The club were again eliminated from the League Cup by a League One team, Chesterfield, early on in the season. Ben Thatcher's elbow challenge on Pedro Mendes while playing Portsmouth shocked many – a challenge which prompted City to take unprecedented action and banned Thatcher for six matches by the club and a six weeks fine. Pearce called the challenge "indefensible" and The Football Association (FA) banned Thatcher for a further eight matches.
The side scored just ten goals at home in the league, and none after New Year's Day in 2007, a record low in top-flight English football. Pearce was sacked at the end of the season in May 2007 and another period of transition at the club was about an unravel off the pitch during the summer.
In December 2006, the club issued a statement regarding a possible takeover, prompting press speculation about potential buyers. On 24 April, former City player Ray Ranson announced interest in making an offer for the club, though the club denied press reports that a bid had been made. On 1 May 2007, it was announced that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had been granted access to the club's accounts. The deal, however, was thrown into doubt when Thailand's Military Government froze £830 million of Shinawatra's assets after they investigated allegations of corruption made against him.
On 21 June, the Manchester City board accepted an £81.6 million offer for the club from Thaksin Shinawatra and advised the shareholders to accept the bid. On 6 July, Thaksin finally acquired a 75% share in the club, enough to take full control of the club and delist it as full owner. One of his first moves was to schedule a press conference to announce former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson as the club's new manager, Eriksson's first job since leaving international duty.
Eriksson spent approximately £45 million before the 2007–08 season, though his signings had mixed success. He purchased Martin Petrov for £4.7 million, Gélson Fernandes, Rolando Bianchi for £8.8 million injury-prone Valeri Bojinov, Javier Garrido, Brazilian Elano, Geovanni on a free transfer and Felipe Caicedo, with Benjani also joining in the January transfer window.
Under Eriksson, they made a positive start to the season. City's form in the second half of the season, however, was weak: they finished ninth in the final table, but nonetheless finished with their highest-ever Premier League points total, including double victories over rivals Manchester United. The season was tainted with typical City performances, including a 6–0 mauling against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge early in the season and a last day 8–1 defeat to Middlesbrough, a beleaguered performance which was overshadowed by the incessant rumours about Eriksson's future at the club.
Months of speculation began in March 2008, as the season drew to a close, over Eriksson's future. City fans launched a "Save our Sven (SOS)" campaign to prevent his sacking, but this was to no avail after Eriksson's one-year reign as manager ended on 2 June 2008.
Mark Hughes appointment and financial disarray (Summer 2008)
On 5 June 2008, Mark Hughes was unveiled as City's new manager on a three-year contract. The former Manchester United striker had been manager of the Welsh national side for five years before spending four seasons at Blackburn Rovers, achieving UEFA Cup qualification twice and reaching two FA Cup semi-finals. Shinawatra believed Hughes was a wise choice to take City forward after impressing at Blackburn with limited resources, and believed Hughes had potential to be a top manager with some "firepower".
That "firepower" being transfer money trickled out slowly, with Hughes re-signing Shaun Wright-Phillips from Chelsea the poorly-judged signing of Tal Ben Haim likewise from Chelsea and Vincent Kompany, who would later prove to be one of City's shrewdest buys of recent years, joining for £5 million from Hamburger SV. The appointment of Hughes as manager placed a veil over Thaksin Shinawatra's troubles with the Thai authorities: he now had his £800 million fortune frozen in Thailand, and he did not wish to return to Thailand to clear his name.
Throughout August 2008, media outlets claimed that the club was in complete disarray and that City were on the brink of financial meltdown, with Shinawatra asking a now disillusioned former chairman John Wardle for a £2 million loan and new manager Hughes threatening to resign unless finance problems were sorted out and the board stopped trying to seemingly sell Stephen Ireland and Vedran Ćorluka behind his back. City supporters were also growing restless with Shinawatra – supporters who had seen many false dawns in their lifetimes, the situation looked bleak and an "out with Shinawatra" tone was beginning to gain favour with some City fans, much in the same manner of Peter Swales' departure in 1994. Rumours began spreading throughout the footballing world in August 2008 that Shinawatra's position as owner of the club was just not viable because of his frozen financial backing, and it was believed he was considering selling Manchester City to a new owner(s), claims which were refuted by club and manager at the time. Hughes, however, later acknowledged after Shinawatra left that he was "close" to leaving City because of the "confusion" at the club, further saying, "the reality wasn't exactly what was described and sold to me" when talking about Shinawatra's broken promises when he signed on for the job.
The dream of bringing back the glory era to City, set out by Shinawatra just a year before, now seemed doomed, but what was about to unravel was something Hughes and the Manchester City supporters could probably never have even imagined, never mind anticipated – as within the coming months Hughes would find himself placed in a financial position which would become the envy of many a football manager and one which would hopefully change the course of Manchester City's inconsistent history for good.
Takeover (September 2008)
As August drew to a close and the summer transfer deadline was imminent, Shinawatra struck a late takeover deal on deadline day with an, at the time, mostly unknown Arab consortium called the Abu Dhabi United Group.
On the day of the takeover, the club tried to sensationally sign Dimitar Berbatov from under the noses of rivals Manchester United, with United manager Alex Ferguson even driving Berbatov on his arrival at Manchester Airport to United's training ground. News broke in the late evening on 1 September 2008 that the club was nearing a deal for Real Madrid's Robinho for a British record transfer fee of £32.5 million, beating rivals Chelsea, who were poised to sign him for his services. Robinho did sporadically have impressive games for City, though his inability to maintain consistency and adapt to the physical English game hindered his progress and he later became a peripheral figure during his two-year spell at the club. City also made deadline day bids for star strikers David Villa and Mario Gómez of Valencia and Bayern Munich respectively.
A degree of uncertainty surrounded the takeover, which itself was first believed to be a takeover by a group of wealthy Arab businessman, with Sulaiman Al Fahim leading the group. However, it soon became apparent in the days after the takeover that it was led by Sheikh Mansour, who is worth at least £17 billion and possesses an estimated family fortune of US$1 trillion, making him the richest owner in world football.
Meanwhile, Sulaiman Al Fahim was swiftly relieved of his role as publicity figure after the takeover, one such example of his conduct being his discussion of a £134 million bid for Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo: "Ronaldo has said he wants to play for the biggest club in the world, so we will see in January [transfer window] if he is serious." Despite making a series of other comments, this naïve statement was believed to have particularly irked Sheikh Mansour, who quickly appointed his trusted business friend Khaldoon Al Mubarak as chairman designate during the due diligence period, with Al Fahim relieved of his publicity duty.
Hughes year (July 2008 – Christmas 2009)
Hughes' first season was a model of inconsistency. Easy victories against West Ham United, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Stoke City and Arsenal were paired with disappointing defeats, mainly away from home. Good form at the end of the season meant that City challenged for seventh place, though a defeat at Tottenham in the penultimate game of the season ended their challenge. Domestic Cup competitions show further unpredictable form: they were defeated in the League Cup Second round to Brighton & Hove Albion of League One on penalties, while in the FA Cup, City faced Nottingham Forest at home in the third round proper, losing 3–0. The middle of the season was overshadowed by the club's ambitious attempts to purchase Milan attacking midfielder Kaká. The saga shook world football and media reports suggested a transfer fee in the region of £100 million was offered to Milan. The move, however, ultimately broke down, with Manchester City CEO Garry Cook claiming Milan had "bottled it". The Kaká transfer saga was perhaps embarrassing – but importantly, City had announced their future intentions within months of their new ambitious owners at the helm on a world stage. Arguably the shining light of the season was the UEFA Cup, in which City fared well, playing in more matches than any other team in the competition due to their early Fair Play start. They were eventually eliminated in the quarter-finals by Hamburger SV, 4–3 on aggregate. Overall, City finished tenth in the Premier League.
In the summer transfer window of 2009, the first full summer transfer period Hughes had to spend the owner's millions, Hughes decided to bolster his team, signing Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn Rovers, Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, and both Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Touré from Arsenal. The club also eventually completed the prolonged signing of Joleon Lescott from Everton.
The club also achieved a major transfer coup with the acquisition of Carlos Tevez from rivals Manchester United, a player whom United fans had urged manager Sir Alex Ferguson to sign with chants of, "Fergie, Fergie, sign him up!". The club commissioned a witty "Welcome to Manchester" billboard based at the end of Deansgate in Manchester city centre. The poster provoked an angry Ferguson to claim City are "a small club with a small mentality", and talked about how he did not see them as a threat, though he later retracted his opinion in January 2010. Some media outlets perceived Ferguson's attack may have been down to the growing fact that City were on the verge of consistently challenging for honours for the first time in his tenure at United.
City made a strong start to the season, beating Blackburn Rovers 2–0 on opening day, followed by a win against Barcelona at an at-capacity Camp Nou in the (non-competitive) Joan Gamper Trophy. City continued their unbeaten run by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 1–0 at Eastlands the following weekend.
However, a run of just two victories in eleven games for Hughes' side saw City fail to capitalise on their early season form, and the burden of pressure on Hughes began to grow considerably. On 19 December 2009, only hours after a 4–3 win over Sunderland, Hughes was sacked, despite the club sitting in sixth in the league and having only lost twice. The Italian Roberto Mancini, formerly of Inter Milan, was appointed his successor. Rumours had begun floating around early on Saturday amongst the media, prior to the game, that Hughes would lose his job, notwithstanding the Sunderland result.
The swift manner in which Hughes had been sacked and replaced after just winning a match was decried by some media outlets. Some in the press disagreed, but many rated Hughes as the best young British manager and had viewed him as the ideal choice to build a Manchester City winning dynasty. Despite this, Mancini is a year younger and possessed the experience of winning silverware and the ability to build a team, something he did successfully at Inter.
The appointment was made more controversial as news broke that Mancini agreed to take the manager's job on 2 December 2009, nearly three weeks before Hughes was formally terminated. Mancini had also been linked for manager's position 11 months prior.
Mancini era (2009–2013)
In his 21 Premier League games in the second half of the season, Mancini won eleven and drew six, guiding City to fifth place in the final league table – their highest finish since 1992 – and earning UEFA Europa League qualification. Soon after the season ended, club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak confirmed in an interview that Mancini's job was safe despite the club missing out on Champions League qualification after being beaten 1–0 by Tottenham. The season was viewed as a sign of progress after a League Cup semi-final and a number of promising performances, notably the 4–2 win against league leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and impressive consecutive 6–1 and 5–1 wins against Burnley away and Birmingham City at Eastlands.
Before the 2010–11 season, Mancini, with support from his chairman and financial support from the owner, had the opportunity in the summer to build his squad for the upcoming season. Mancini embarked on a summer spending spree, signing Jérôme Boateng from Hamburger SV, David Silva from Valencia, Yaya Touré from Barcelona, Aleksandar Kolarov from Lazio, Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan and James Milner from Aston Villa. However, the club also let fan favourite Craig Bellamy leave on loan for Cardiff City after a rumoured fractious relationship with Mancini. 2008 signing Robinho also left, joining Milan on transfer deadline day for an estimated £22 million, £10 million less than what City bought him for from Real Madrid.
After an inconsistent pre-season, City drew their first Premier League match 0–0 with Tottenham at White Hart Lane – an improved performance in the second half after a shaky first 45 minutes gave City a point against one of their "bogey teams". The club made a decent start to the season and beat Liverpool 3–0, but lost 1–0 to Sunderland after Carlos Tevez missed an open goal in the first half, leaving City on four points after the first three Premier League games of the season.
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe|
|2010–11||3rd||Winners||R3||1/8 Europa League|
|2011–12||1st||R3||SF||Group Stage Champions League
1/16 Europa League
|2012–13||2nd||Runners-up||R3||Group Stage Champions League|
The club season was curtailed for two weeks for the international break of qualifiers for Euro 2012 and there was a degree of pride around Eastlands that despite all the money spent, the club were still very keen on investing in English footballers, a nation of footballers that some believe the Premier League is hindering England's progress on the international stage with too many foreign players. During the match against Switzerland on 7 September, England fielded four Manchester City players from the start – Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and James Milner. By the end of the match, England were fielding six City players after the inclusion of Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Only a few other teams in the history of football can claim to have such a numerical influence in the England national team, with City joining Herbert Chapman's 1930s Arsenal's side, Bob Paisley's Liverpool team in the 1970s and Alex Ferguson's early 2000s Manchester United side.
By the middle of October, City were second in the league, two points behind leaders Chelsea and three points ahead of rivals Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham. Three wins against Newcastle United, Blackpool and Lech Poznań in the Europa League had put City in a good position. A spell of bad form developed, however, as City suffered consecutive league defeats against Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers, as well as a 3–1 away defeat against Lech Poznań, the first time Roberto Mancini had lost three matches on the bounce; this sparked erroneous speculation that Mancini could be sacked.
City then embarked on a nine-match unbeaten run from early November after the Europa League loss against Lech Poznań to 20 December. The unbeaten run started with two goalless home draws against Manchester United and Birmingham City, in which Mancini was pinpointed in the media for his "defensive" tactics. In response to media criticism, however, a good portion of Manchester City supporters personally backed Mancini with the chant, "He comes from Italy, to manage Man City, Mancini! Ohhhh! Mancini! Ohhhh!," which has become commonplace (particularly at away matches) in response to what some Manchester City fans saw as an anti-City agenda and an attempt to undermine the club and manager by the national media. The two draws, were interjected by a 2–0 win at West Bromwich Albion and an impressive 4–1 victory at Craven Cottage against Fulham. A last-minute equaliser at the Britannia robbed City of three points against Stoke City but was followed up by a 3–0 win against Red Bull Salzburg which secured City's progression into the knockout phase of the cup. And City racked up another win against Bolton Wanderers, putting them in fourth in the Premier League, and only three points behind league leaders Manchester United. A 3–1 win followed at Upton Park against a struggling West Ham team and a 1–1 draw in Turin against Juventus in the Europa League preserved City's nine-match unbeaten period, and sealed progress to the knockout phase of the Europa League as group winners. During this nine-match period, City had scored 15 goals and had only conceded four goals.
On 12 December 2010, Carlos Tevez made a transfer request notifying the club of his intention to leave in the January transfer window, citing homesickness from being away from his family in Argentina. Journalists reported that City's recent form was excellent and had been gradually sneaking up the table to catch up with the leaders, so much so it seemed inevitable that an incident in the vein of typical City would occur soon. The club appeared to blame the player's advisor(s) in a statement, believed to Kia Joorabchian, for influencing Tevez's decision, while Tevez reiterated his intention to leave, calling the situation "regrettable". Despite this, Mancini displayed initial confidence about Tevez staying in the days after his transfer request, and on 20 December, before the Everton game that evening, the club confirmed Tevez had withdrawn his transfer request and committed his future to the club after talks.
The team's nine-match unbeaten run came to an end on 20 December against Everton at home, in which they lost 2–1 after a sluggish start in the match conceding twice in the opening 20 minutes and consequently City missed the chance to top the league at Christmas for the first time since 1929. Two wins against Newcastle away and Aston Villa at home followed, 3–1 and 4–0 respectively, placing City joint top on points with Manchester United.
In the New Year, the club struggled in the league with emphasis appearing to have turned to the FA Cup and Europa League, but maintained their position of fourth, which they occupied throughout the majority of the season. City successfully beat Aris 3–0 and progressed to the last 16 to play Dynamo Kyiv. City lost the first leg 2–0 away and won the return leg 1–0, meaning they lost the tie 2–1 on aggregate, thus ending City's involvement in the Europa League.
The club, however, embarked on a strong FA Cup run, albeit with two replays. They surpassed Leicester City 4–2, Notts County 5–0, Aston Villa 3–0 and Reading 1–0 – all at home – and consequently made it to an FA Cup semi-final, where they were drawn against rivals Manchester United. It was the first time both teams had met at Wembley, new or old, and the second time they had met in the FA Cup semi-final, with City beating United 3–0 in 1926. Over 86,000 packed Wembley to watch the match with a further 9.5 million watching on TV – nearly half the viewing audience at the time – during the last 15 minutes of the game. United controlled the first 30 minutes with striker Dimitar Berbatov having a one-on-one shot with City goalkeeper Joe Hart saved and seconds later missed from only a few yards out having spooned his shot over the bar, while Nemanja Vidić headed wide from a pinpoint corner. From the 30th minute, however, City started to come into the game, with a fierce shot from Mario Balotelli saved, a Vincent Kompany shot narrowly missing the target and Joleon Lescott wastefully volleying over from a corner having been in space; City went into the half-time interval with cause for optimism. Roared on by their supporters, City continued the momentum they had generated before the break, with the breakthrough coming in the 52nd minute after Yaya Touré caught central midfielder Michael Carrick unaware, pouncing on a sluggish pass, sliding the ball past Vidić and then through goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar's legs to make the score 1–0. From then on, City had found confidence, controlling the game with some new-found aplomb, limiting United to one opportunity which provoked a strong save from a deflected Nani free-kick. Paul Scholes was later sent off in the 72nd minute after his studs speared into Pablo Zabaleta's right thigh, and the match ultimately finished in a 1–0 City victory, ensuring progression to the FA Cup final. On 10 May, Champions League qualification was secured with a 1–0 win over Tottenham, in which an own goal from Peter Crouch secured the win. A 1–0 win over Stoke on 14 May 2011 secured their fifth FA Cup. The result gave City their first major trophy in 35 years, with Mancini dedicating the victory to the long-suffering supporters and urged his team to use the win to provide impetus for achieving greater success.
Fresh from their successful 2010–11 season, City began the new league season in imperious form, breaking a number of Premier League records. City won their seven out of their eight league matches at the start of the season, with a 2–2 draw in between this run. The magnitude of the victories surprised many: 4–0 against Swansea City at home, 5–1 against Tottenham away, 4–0 against Blackburn away and 4–1 against Aston Villa at home.
However, the magnitude of victory in the ninth league match against Manchester United in October 2011 surprised many more. Before the match, City were on 22 points and United close behind at 20. Some believed that this would be a season which would be contested between the two Manchester clubs, as Arsenal were in poor form and Chelsea appeared in transition under new manager André Villas-Boas. The match therefore carried great importance in the title race, but the scoreline proved to be a mismatch: City defeated United away at Old Trafford 6–1. United had not lost a home match since April 2010, it was also their heaviest defeat in Premier League, worst loss at Old Trafford since 1955 and the first time conceded six at home since 1930. United manager Alex Ferguson called it his "worst ever day" and "the worst result in my history, ever".
By the end of the Demolition Derby, Manchester City fans were convulsed with joy, revelling in the sight of the majestic David Silva putting the champions to the sword, serenading Sir Alex Ferguson with "getting sacked in the morning" and designing their "Six and the City" T-shirts. Incredible.
On 13 May 2012, the final day of the season, City and United were level on 86 points, though City had the superior goal difference by 8. City faced Queens Park Rangers and United faced Sunderland. With five minutes added to the total of 90 minutes, and QPR having a lead of 2–1 with ten men (having had Joey Barton sent off by referee Mike Dean for violent conduct), most of City fans lost their hopes since United were leading against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Manchester City won a corner on 90+2 minutes. David Silva stepped up to take the crucial set piece and as he sent the ball into the middle, Edin Džeko headed into the net to equalise the game. Two minutes passed without any kind of important goal attempts, and right before the last extra minute of added time, Sergio Agüero attempted a one-two with Mario Balotelli. After getting the ball in his feet back again, Agüero skipped past a lunging Taye Taiwo and drove the ball into the back of the net as City triumphed in their campaign. Džeko's headed goal came at 91:15 minutes, while Agüero's came at 93:20, just 13 seconds after United's match against Sunderland had concluded.
This marked City's first English title since 1968, as well as the first time the Premier League has been won by a club whose current spell in the top division began after the League commenced play. It is also the first Premier League title to be decided on goal difference. A poll by Goal.com readers ranked this as the greatest-ever comeback, ahead of Liverpool's Champions League victory over Milan in the 2005 final, and United's turnaround against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.
For the 2012–13 season, it seemed that City had failed to secure new players to strengthen the team, although 19-year-old Serbian international Matija Nastasić, signed from Fiorentina, would become one of the side's regular central defenders. To begin the year, rivals Manchester United established a large lead in the Premier League, City failed to win a single game in a difficult group in the Champions League, and had conceded their Champions title before the FA Cup Final against Wigan Athletic. The night before the Final, rumours were rife that manager Roberto Mancini would be sacked and replaced by Manuel Pellegrini; the team played badly and lost 1–0 to a late Wigan goal scored by Ben Watson. Mancini was sacked on the following Monday, 13 May; he took out a full page advert in the Manchester Evening News to thank the City fans for their support in his three successful years; City fans responded by subscribing to place an advert thanking him in the Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Pellegrini era (2013– )
One month after Mancini's departure, Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini, formerly of Málaga and Real Madrid, was hired as his replacement. As Mancini was criticised for aggravating both his players and his boardroom-level superiors, as well as for failing to give young players a chance, Pellegrini was considered a strong candidate with a history of successful outings in the Champions League. In contrast to the late transfer dealings the previous year, CEO Ferran Soriano and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain moved quickly, securing four new signings for their new manager effectively before the team even flew out for its first pre-season match. Major acquisitions for the 2013–14 season included Álvaro Negredo and Jesús Navas for approximately £16 million and £14.9 million, respectively, from Sevilla; Fernandinho for £34 million from Shakhtar Donetsk and Stevan Jovetić for £22 million from Fiorentina; Martín Demichelis was acquired much later in the transfer window to shore up a defence ridden with injuries. Demichelis, who had transferred from Atlético Madrid despite the fact that he had only signed for them from Málaga just one month before, was almost instantly injured before playing a single game. The most significant departure from City was striker Carlos Tevez to Juventus, though Gareth Barry was also allowed to move, joining Everton on a season-long loan. This latter move was met with uncertainty from the supporters, who reckoned Barry to have a larger importance to the team than was commonly appreciated.
Pellegrini's managerial era began with mixed fortunes in pre-season, which continued into the start of the domestic season. A strong 4–0 home win over Newcastle on the opening day of the season was followed by a series of poor performances, including giving Cardiff City their first win in the top division of English football since they last were in the division, in 1961. However, an improved showing in the Champions League against Viktoria Plzeň led to a one-sided 4–1 annihilation of Manchester United, a game which was commented by the press as being even more emphatic than the 6–1 derby day win of two seasons previous. A week of vastly improved football was capped by a 5–0 demolition of Wigan Athletic, the team who had defeated City in the previous FA Cup final. In the Champions League, however, the team suffered a home defeat to reigning champions Bayern Munich, 3–1. The team would quickly recover, beating Newcastle in the League Cup and a crushing Norwich city 7–0 at home. Two six-goal home victories then followed against Spurs (6–0) on 24 November and Arsenal (6–3) on 14 December. Other successes included the home win against CSKA Moscow (5–2), then a 3–2 away victory over Bayern, marking the first time City qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League after two prior attempts. By early January 2014, City had scored over 100 goals in all competitions, leading to talk about possibly winning four competitions.
However, elimination from the Champions League by Barcelona (4–1 on aggregate), as well as a surprise home defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup, proved the "quadruple" to be unrealistic, although City did win the League Cup, beating Sunderland 3–1 in the final. Because of postponements of Premier League games for cup matches, and for a storm that forced the late cancellation of a game, City had three league games in hand on their rivals. Nearing the end of the season, they played Liverpool away at Anfield with both teams in the position that to win every remaining game would mean winning the league. City were soon 2–0 down, but fought back to 2–2 before an error by captain Vincent Kompany led to Liverpool's winner. City won their remaining games and Liverpool lost one and drew one, leaving City two points clear at the end of the season to win their second league title in three seasons. Their tally of 102 goals was one short of Chelsea's record.
In the 2014–15 season, despite some lacklustre early season performances, City again reached the knockout stages of the Champions League and at the turn of the year had caught up with Chelsea to be joint first with identical records. Four consecutive away defeats for City, however, left Chelsea clear favourites for the title, and Barcelona again knocked City out of the Champions League. Early elimination from both the League Cup and FA Cup, as well as a drop to fourth place in the Premier League table, led to criticism of some players' commitment and Manuel Pellegrini's tactics, though City ultimately finished the season with six victories to secure second place and thus 2015–16 Champions League qualification.
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"Mancini, Mancini. He came from Italy. To manage Man City," sang the delirious away fans. It must have been music to the boss' ears. He might be a hard man who pretends to have no feelings but Mancini would not be human if he was not thrilled at the support. At half-time, as he walked towards the tunnel, he was cheered again and gave the fans a wave to ironic chants of 'Boring, boring City'.
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For a man who hails from the land of Verdi and Monteverdi, Roberto Mancini has probably heard more lilting lyrics than “he comes from Italy, and now he’s at City’’ but the song was music to his ears last night.
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Many fans also rail at what they see as negative media coverage of City. A quick search of fans' websites will turn up accusations of anti-City media agendas
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