As any fan of Manchester City football knows all too well, following the Blues can be an absolute rollercoaster ride, making betting on the team a weekly coin flip between exhilaration and depression. Although the Club has an illustrious history dating back to 1880, in the past decade alone there have been sufficient ups and downs to match all of the peaks and valleys of the past.
Consider for a moment the first two seasons of the new millennium, when Man City had to claw its way back into the Premiership after falling all the way to Division Three in the 1990s. Their return to the top rank of British football put even greater pressure the team, but in 2002 they lived up to expectations by breaking Club records for the most goals and points scored in a season: 108 goals in 46 league games.
Under the leadership of manager Kevin Keegan, the Blues seemed poised for a return to greatness. A ninth-place finish had assured their tenure in the Premiership for another year, and in August of 2003, the franchise moved from their 80-year home on Maine Road to the new 48,000-capacity City of Manchester Stadium. Also referred to as “Eastlands,” it is the fifth largest facility in the league.
Despite the lavish new surroundings, the 2003-04 campaign did not go well. Man City faced the possibility of relegation right up to the penultimate game of the season, ultimately finishing in 16th position in the table with a goal difference of just +1.
Qualifying for the cup competitions in 2004-05 brought short-lived delight to Blues backers. The smiles dissolved in disappointment at the hands of Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup and Arsenal in the Carling Cup. Keegan resigned, putting Coach Stuart Pearce in charge.
In 2005-06, Peace got his boys within a missed penalty kick of UEFA Cup qualification, but only managed a 15th place finish and was stopped in pursuit of the League Cup by the Doncaster Rovers of League One. A miserable second season got Pearce the sack and former-England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was announced as his replacement.
Ninth place in 2007-08 wasn’t good enough for City’s management, who were now cash strapped and considering selling the Club for £81.6 million to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The deal fell through, however, putting former Manchester United striker Mark Hughes in charge as the new Blues manager and the franchise without fresh capital.
It was only when billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan stepped in with the Abu Dhabi United Group for a takeover that the financial situation righted itself. The new owners were able to sign second striker/winger “Robinho” (Brazilian Robson de Souza) from Real Madrid for £32.5 million, breaking the British transfer record.
Hughes did not achieve the consistency desired of the Club in 2008-09, starting well at home but losing badly on the road to end up tenth overall. When a strong start in 2009 stalled, the Arab owners gave Hughes his walking papers in favour of Italian Roberto Mancini at mid-season. The maestro then guided the Blues to eleven victories and six draws in their final 21 match-ups, completing the season in fifth place.
If Man City fans were looking for some good bets going into 2010-11, a couple of excellent ones would have been for the Club to finish in the Premiership’s Top Four and to win the FA Cup for the first time since 1969. In May, the League’s #3 team beat Stoke City 1-0 at Wembley Stadium for the right to tie their coloured ribbons on the famed sterling silver trophy. What’s more, they have automatically qualified for the 2011/12 Champions League for the first time, too.
High-street bookmaker ladbrokes has a lot of confidence in Manchester City: “With billions in the bank and the experienced Roberto Mancini at the helm, (they) are looking a very real threat to win their first Premier League title.”
The potential stumbling block, of course, is a familiar one. According to ladbrokes, “If they are to … upset the football odds, they will need to improve their head-to-head record against United.” City have not beaten United in the League since February 2008.