Manchester City season review: A historic campaign for Roberto Mancini’s men
Manchester City ended a 44-year wait to be crowned as England’s top team in 2011-12, in what was a nail-biting but massively exciting campaign for the Etihad Stadium faithful. Premier League glory was the number one goal of the big-spending outfit, however it took last-day drama to ensure this ambition became reality. After a summer of strengthening City will look to push on next season, and although they are the newly-crowned English champions, dominance domestically and making waves on the continent (and new soccer footwear sponsorships, if they go by Dalglish’s mantra) will be their next objectives.
City’s lavishness in the transfer market since Sheik Mansour’s takeover has propelled them into one of the country’s best teams, and the blue side of Manchester looked unstoppable early in the 2011-12 season. With David Silva in mercurial form and Edin Dzeko in freescoring mood, City powered to the top of the division and made their intent to challenge painstakingly clear with a 6-1 win at Old Trafford.
Heading into Christmas the title race was starting to take shape with the Manchester rivals leading the way, and Tottenham keeping pace surprisingly. In 2012 the advantage shifted hands on a number of occasions, with City throwing away a lead to finds themselves eight points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men with less than ten games remaining. With the reputed strong finish of perennial table-toppers United and City seemingly demoralised, many stated that City would have to make do with second – with even Mancini admitting defeat.
However, jointly due to a United collapse and strong City form, the Citizens clawed back the advantage through dogged displays, a 1-0 derby win and victories over other top teams such as Chelsea, Spurs, Newcastle and Arsenal. Going into the last day City were level on points with United, and needed only to beat QPR. Finding themselves 2-1 down the game entered injury time, and the rest is history.
Highlights of the campaign obviously include the dramatic last day, but the Yaya Toure-inspired 2-0 win over Newcastle on Tyneside in the penultimate game and 3-2 home victory over Tottenham hold massive importance. The rout of United at Old Trafford and an imperious and unbeaten home record capped a fantastic league campaign for the side.
Despite triumph in the league, City were unable to back this up with a final appearance in the domestic cups. In the FA Cup Mancini’s men were drawn against rivals United in a mouth-watering third round tie, but the Red Devils exacted revenge for their 6-1 defeat in the league with a 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium.
In the Carling Cup City made it through to the semi-finals, but a determined Liverpool side eliminated the Citizens to set up a Wembley date against Cardiff. Mancini may well have had other priorities, but next season will look to have increased squad depth to compete on all fronts.
City’s first venture into the Champions League was made all that bit more difficult by being drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside eventual finalists Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal. The German team showed their superiority by winning the group, whilst the El Madrigal outfit finished pointless and bottom of the pile. This left City fighting it out with Walter Mazzarri’s men for the other qualification spot, and the Italians proved a tricky opponent over two games – a draw in England and defeat in San Paolo eliminated City.
There were no real highlights for City in Europe, although a Sergio Aguero last-gasp winner against Villarreal at home buoyed the fans. However, Carlos Tevez’s temperamental antics at the Allianz Arena and defeat in Italy meant that it was a fruitless Champions League campaign. Defeat to Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League ended a disappointing return to European football.
All-in-all it has been an excellent season for City due to their Premier League triumph, and the club’s fans will proudly state that they support the best team in the land. However, for Sheik Masour’s objective of world domination to become anywhere near a reality progression is needed in European football’s holy grail – the Champions League – whilst United amongst others will come back stronger than ever next season in the Premier League.