City have overtook United in quality and position, it seems that the gap between the two will only get wider.

 

The noisy neighbours have certainly made a lot of noise this season and sit back on top of the Premier League with two games remaining. City have overtook United in quality and position, it seems that the gap between the two will only get wider.

According to Sheikh Mansour Manchester City are ahead of schedule in their quest of world domination. This is quite remarkable considering the investments made in the past five years, yet there is clearly a long term plan which is planning for the following decades and not just a short term trophy haul built of faulty foundations.  

There should be no surprise that City are top of the league; since 2006 Man City have spent £530m on players, and have a wage bill of around £180m a year. There is of course issues concerned with financial doping, yet the truth is that in a short space of time Man City are now the best team in England. The only surprise to this season is that they haven’t won the league already. Some terrible form away from home has allowed their rivals United to make a charge of their crown, however in the “biggest game of the season” City took back the top spot, and regardless of the money spent, City deserve to be there.

A power shift in Manchester

On Monday night the game billed as the game of the season, the game which would decide the Premier League, this was perhaps overhyped in some respects, yet the lesson learnt from the match was that City had now overtook United not just in position but in terms of quality. The 6-1 victory at Old Trafford was seen as an anomaly, one of those freak games where the result just doesn’t reflect the match itself. Excuses were made for United, especially going down to 10 men. Their apparent desire to keep attacking when the score was at 3-1 was the reason why they ended up conceding six. However, the excuses could not hide that Man City’s quality was so much better than United’s. 

The game at the Etihad confirmed that City are a better side. Ferguson’s team selection said as much. Gary Neville said he chose that side based on the game against Arsenal when Nani destroyed Clichy and Park supported Rooney in a counter attacking 4-5-1. They won 3-1. Yet that was Jan 2010, over two years ago. If that was Ferguson’s rationale then he was very much mistaken. Two years is a long time and importantly, Man City are not Arsenal. What Ferguson was admitting was that his side was inferior to their neighbours and that if they could get away with a draw then they would be happy. The problem is,  United don’t have the quality in defence and midfield to play for a draw and City have qualities all over the pitch to keep a clean sheet and score goals. 

There is nothing wrong with playing with a five man midfield, it is a necessity in order to prevent a team like City dominating possession in midfield and preventing space for Silva, Nasri and Tevez to pick up the ball. However, to play Rooney on his own against the quality of City was not a tactic which was going to lead to anything positive. As was shown, Rooney got frustrated, had limited support and became a non-entity. No shots on target in a game from United shows how well City defended and how badly United attacked. Surely Welbeck up front on his own would have caused City more problems as he likes run in behind and into channels. Rooney dropping into his preferred 10 role would have given him more chance to link up play and get more possession of the ball. 

Valencia would have been a better option out wide, his directness and crossing quality would have given Clichy more to deal with and the centre backs more to worry about with quality coming in. Why Park played is rather ridiculous; he has garnered a reputation for being a “big” game player yet what this means is that he runs around and breaks up play. It didn’t work against Barcelona and it certainly didn’t work this time. There is a reason why he hadn’t played for four months previously, the thing is, if you your best and only asset is work rate and speed, then if you lose that, you don’t contribute anything.

This season United have shown their vulnerabilities in defence; a major loss has been Vidic, yet De Gea, Evra, Jones, Smalling and the Da Silva's are not good enough for a side of United. I have discussed the problems in defence before, the stats showing 33 goals conceded this season and 19 at home, is the highest amount of goals conceded by United at home in the Premier League. The truth is, United's cloak of invincibility has dropped, teams like City, Newcastle, Bilbao and even Wigan have decided to go at United and have beaten them, where once United were seen as invincible, sides now believe they can defeat this side. That is worrying for United. 

Simply, Ferguson got this last game wrong, and what it showed both sets of fans is that there has been a major power shift in Manchester; a major change in the quality and importantly the futures of both sides.

Abu Dhabi conquest      

Since deadline day on August 31st 2008 Man City have made their intentions very clear. Immediately the purchase of Robinho showed the world that a new power had emerged. How big this side could be was up for question, was this going to be a though out process or a Madrid style Galactico experiment. History will show that these new owners were very serious about developing the world’s greatest side.

Sheikh Mansour has invested £1 billion into the club and the results are not surprising. Credit to the City owners who have not just sought to develop a world class side for the present, but they have a major interest in investing for the future of the club and have put a £100 million plan in place to develop a youth academy which can rival that of Barcelona and other European giants.  They have also invested into community projects and are seeking to be a major part in the long term future of the club.

Compare them to Abramovich at Chelsea who looks at his club as a personal hobby, a past time to enjoy the billions he has accumulated. He has goals to be successful yet the long term is questionable; his side is 90 minutes away from reaching his holy grail, yet his handling of managers, and lack of interest in really developing the club for the future has led to a side which competed strongly domestically and in Europe for the past eight years, to now be an ageing squad with their last hurrah being the final in Munich. 

Man City seem different to Chelsea. They appear to be very pleased with slowly developing this club, importantly building strong foundations which enable the club to build healthily and be stronger in the long term. The future looks very bright for City, yet their successful neighbours appear to be going in the other direction.

United’s gradual decline

In 2008 Man Utd were crowned double winners after winning the Champions League and the Premier League, a title win the following the year and another Champions League final indicated this United side were one of the top sides in world football. With world class players like Ronaldo, Rooney, Vidic and Scholes this side appeared one of Ferguson’s best. They were playing some of the best football seen at Old Trafford too and it seemed that United were built for the future and playing football befitting the needs of the modern game. At this time the ownership of the Glazer’s was a somewhat muted subject; all appeared positive. The initial issues which fans brought up before the Glazer's take over were now subdued, success had quelled the protests.  

However, that final in Rome against Barcelona showed that United were a little bit off their Catalan compatriots; and if they wished to regain their Champions League crown then serious work was needed in the transfer market. However, that summer, instead of improve the side, they diminished it; out went world class talents in Ronaldo and Tevez, replacing them with Antonio Valencia, Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen. To say this was underwhelming was an understatement. What it had shown was that United were no longer one of the biggest sides in world football, financially. Madrid’s desire for Ronaldo and willingness to pay £80 million is a price you cannot refuse, yet what happened to this money, only £25 million was spent that summer, leaving a net of around £65 million. The question which arose from the fans was, where is the money?

In the season of 09/10 there was a lot of unrest and protests from the United fans because of the Glazer ownership, for the first time since their initial takeover in 2005 they were being seriously questioned about their intentions and running of the club. United had lost their best player and had not properly replaced him, as other sides around Europe were improving, United appeared to be in a state of decline. 

Although United won the title again last season, I believe that teams like Chelsea and Arsenal had an ideal opportunity in which they threw away, City were getting closer to the top and with new owners Liverpool appeared rejuvenated to push forwards this season. Although apart from City these sides have struggled this year, the future looks positive for these sides because of their finances. 

Champions League = Investment

The sense at City is that the sky is the limit. Is this unfair? Has football become a plaything of the rich with success coming to the richest men? Is the debt that clubs like City and Chelsea and even Madrid and Barcelona, healthy and sustainable for the future of the game. Unfortunately, it is. Your debt is only relevant relative to the owners and in the case of the billionaire owners, £500 million is not unsustainable. For the Spanish giants, with their influence on society so strong, their debt is manageable and even inconsequential.

Credit to sides like Arsenal and Dortmund, who with sustainable models of development have managed to stay in touch with the might of those around them. Yet, the truth of the matter is that money talks. The best two sides in the world football are the ones who pay the highest wages. In any business, if you want the best then you pay them the best. As much as any fan complains and finds the world of football baffling, the truth is that there are no rules holding these clubs back. 

As for financial fair play, the only thing this will do is make the bigger teams bigger and will prevent the smaller teams growing. By not allowing a club to exceed their limits, the rules will restrict sides to challenge the top sides around them. For the big sides there are ways around financial fair play; Liverpool have shown how to get over it by signing a new kit sponsor for £25 million a year. Warrior sports, who also sponsor John Henry’s other team, the Boston Red Sox. This company will be looking to use Liverpool as their global marketing tool, so qualification for the Champions League is a necessity.

With only four sides from the Premier League being able to qualify for the Champions League, there will be big sides who will fail to qualify for the lucrative tournament. With Man City appearing nailed on for it for years to come and teams like Chelsea and Liverpool looking to invest heavily still in order to reach the tournament, with Arsenal appearing ready to invest now their stadium is close to being paid off then all signs point to the somewhat precarious future of Man Utd. Will United invest this summer in order to keep up with those around them?

You may think I am being crazy in this belief that United could drop out of the top four, yet the most decorated English side in the past twenty years, with arguably one of the best managers ever in the game are in serious danger of dropping out of the elite echelons of world football. Since 2009, United have been on a steady path of decline. And the reason is the owners and their lack of genuine investment.

As Jose once said – different eggs, different omelette

Comparing the players that City have bought in the last two years to United shows the difference in financial might and future direction. One team is investing to be the best in the world, the other is trying hard to keep up. When people say this is the worst United side they have seen for a long time, they are right. The quality of player at United is not what it was, and the decline of this side since 2009 has been evident. 

It is their manager who has managed to retain their challenge for trophies, his drive and desire to win has kept United challenging, however without Ferguson, I believe United are a Europa League side. There is an issue at United; a need for better quality is obvious. Ferguson has been publicly supportive of the Glazer’s, they have obviously given United some money to spend, yet it is clearly not enough. The incident when Rooney spoke out about the future of the side was deemed by many to be unprofessional and disrespectful, yet he was right.  I would not be surprised if Rooney was pushed into his outburst from Ferguson, a man with his hands tied perhaps used his main asset to push the hand of the owners. 

To show the lack of quality they have had to bring back a retired player in Scholes in order to keep up with City this season, that will not work next season. Investment will be needed. I question the signings of Jones, Smalling and Young in regards to level required for a team like United. I don’t see potential world class in these players. Big money players like Nani, Berbatov and Anderson have been failures and where money has been spent, it has not been effective. 

The worry must be that each season now, City will move further ahead of their rivals. Like Madrid and Barcelona, sides which seemed on United’s level have now left them behind. City are doing the same thing now and I can see Chelsea and Liverpool doing the same too.

United – dying a slow death with these owners

It was interesting a few months back when Ferdinand spoke of “delaying” City’s rise and winning the league, yet it would appear that they have not done enough to delay or keep up with the side in blue.

It seems that delaying something as unstoppable as City’s rise to the top is the most worrying aspect for United fans. Do they have owners who are willing to invest in the side to bring in real quality talent? Or is the Glazer family more interested in using United as their bankroll for their other interests. It is a sad state of affairs that is happening at United. Success hid the issues, allowed criticism to be hushed, yet like in 2010, protests will happen more often and the issue will be raised louder. If City do win the league this year then fingers must be pointed at the United board for their allowing of the team to get in the state it is in.

The future doesn't have to look bleak, yet the key must be to get the Glazer's out. I am sure that there are billionaires who see United as a worthy purchase, no doubt the Glazer’s would accept a £1 billion offer too. For United fans, they must hope this happens soon, because the longer the Glazer’s are at Old Trafford, the further away United will be from the cream of the crop. These are worrying times.

While City are investing £500 million into a world class squad, the Glazer's are taking out the same amount to fund their own interests and not that of the club. Foreign ownership has it’s advantages, ask Chelsea and City fans, yet it has it’s problems too. A side like United were always going to be an ideal acquisition, yet the questions should have been asked of the suitability and intentions of these owners. While Shiekh Mansour appears willing to make City the best team in the world, the Glazer’s, like a slow cancer, are gradually diminishing United, and in front of our eyes we are seeing the gradual decline of one of football's great. United fan’s need to act now before it is too soon and the club drops out of the elite of football.