Manchester City is the wealthiest futbol side in the world now…
Coming into the new Premier League season spending hundreds of millions of dollars on some of the finest players in the world — and starting the season winning their first five fixtures to go top of the table — the Blues entered their first Manchester Derby with every expectation of making a statement and shaking up the status quo, even with the game being played across town at Old Trafford. After thoroughly manhandling Arsenal a week ago, one of the so-called Big Four in English futbol, Manchester City were no longer satisfied with being the bastard stepchild to their cross town arch-rivals, and were poised to take over English futbol…
…Manchester United had other ideas.
A City side that gave up only one goal in five previous matches gave up four against the Red Devils, including a Michael Owen game winner five minutes into stoppage time, stealing a point away from the Blues and giving full points to their hated arch-rivals. Instead of the statement at the top of the table that City desperately wanted to make, they fell to third place, three behind United.
Blues manager Mark Hughes had every right to be angry with the game referee, who had signaled that their would be four minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half but granted United almost six. But while his anger with the timekeeping may be legitimate, it is no excuse for his team having taken their foot off the pedal before the final whistle. With a Craig Bellamy equalizer just seconds into stoppage time, the Blues effectively mailed it in the rest of the way. Say what you will about the Red Devils, but they play hard in every match through to the final whistle.
Was the game referee being kind to Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges? Possibly. But Mark Hughes played for United for 15 years, including eight under Ferguson. In his 24 years at the helm of Manchester United, Ferguson has won ten Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, one Cup Winners Cup, two European Championships, one Euro Super Cup, and two Club World Championships. As a result of such largesse the Red Devils have the largest private stadium in England, the most popular sports club in the world, are the most expensive single sports club on the planet (valued at close to $2.5 billion), and generate the most annual revenue of any sports entity in this dimension (about $500 million annually). In every measurable sense Manchester United sit on top of the futbol summit. So it should come as no surprise that on occasion the referees give United the benefit of the doubt that is usually accorded a king. Hughes should be well aware of that from his time there.
Nature Boy Rick Flair once said, “If you want to be the man, you gotta beat the man.” There is also an axiom in boxing that says, “If you want the title then you can’t just win it on points, you’ve got to get a knockout.” The Blues did neither.
If Mark Hughes, Manchester City and their wealthy Abu Dhabi sugar daddy owners want to become one of the elite teams in England and the world like Liverpool, Boca Juniors, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich – and Manchester United – then these aforementioned sides are not just going to bow down and relent simply because the Blues have more money than they have now. All of them spent decades earning their place atop the futbol food chain…
…Manchester City is going to have to earn it, too.