~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, May 14th 2012
A funny thing has happened with Manchester City’s last-gasp Premiership triumph. It is being seen as the start of an era, even a dynasty. Both words were tripping off the lips of their players and manager yesterday. You might expect that, in the dazed aftermath of a stupendous drama. But even the pundits seemed to agree.
There is only one thing to say to this: hang on a minute. Manchester City’s last league title came 44 years ago. The previous one was 31 years before that. One of sport’s eternal verities states that it is harder to stay at the top than it is to get there. Look what happened when City were way ahead in this season’s title race: they choked.
Luckily for them, Man United promptly did the same thing. But even when City went back to the top, and had only to beat QPR at home to wrap it all up, they managed to choke again, conceding two goals against ten men.
Look at how they did in the other tournaments this season: they crashed out of Europe, twice, to modest opponents; they lost in the third round of the FA Cup, at home, to United; they reached the Carling Cup semi-final but lost at home to Liverpool. Dynasty? What dynasty?
We are making an elementary mistake here. Because City come from Manchester (or are based there), we are assuming they will now do a United. But doing a United is a very rare thing: in the 44 years since City’s last title, only United and Liverpool have managed it.
All the other teams to taste the league title—Leeds, Forest, Villa, Blackburn, Arsenal—rose and faded. That’s the norm. And being richer than the rest seldom makes all the difference. Chelsea, so rich under Roman Abramovich and so strong under Jose Mourinho, looked like starting something big in 2006, but they have won only one league title in the past six, have just slumped to sixth, and they are looking for their eighth manager in five years. Money can’t buy me continuity.
Another of sport’s eternal verities states that you have to take it day by day, game by game—“don’t get ahead of yourself”, as the pros say. We are getting way ahead of ourselves here. It could be the start of an era, but as yet there is no way of telling. If City win two trophies next season, let that conversation begin.
For now, instead of gazing dimly into crystal balls, let’s just say this: after scoring two goals in stoppage time on the final day, City fully deserve their title. It was one of the great anti-chokes.
Tim de Lisle is editor of Intelligent Life