FA Cup 2014: Uwe Rosler returns – but not to the City he knew

Tournament takes Wigan manager back to a club where he was a hero but where money now rules

The applause will be guaranteed but then Uwe Rösler already knows what a Manchester City crowd sounds like. A decade ago, he was lying in a Norwegian hospital bed, having had a cancerous tumour the size of a tennis ball removed when a friend called from their stadium. He was holding up his phone to allow Rösler to hear the sound of the crowd chanting his name.

For the man who will oversee Wigan Athletic's defence of their FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium today, it has been an enduring love. He named his sons after Colin Bell and Tony Book. He was at Wembley when City clambered out of the third division in 1999 and when a reconstructed, unrecognisable club won the FA Cup, their first trophy of what will become known as the Abu Dhabi years.

"It is not the same club," the German said. "Now the Premier League is, financially, the strongest league in the world. Manchester City is not a club for local people any more. I must stress that I don't mean that negatively – obviously local people are involved but it has become a global player.

"Maine Road was a fantastic, old-fashioned English stadium. I was privileged to be there when the Kippax was singing my name. It is obviously a totally different atmosphere at the Etihad. Manchester City needed to go to the next level."

What is remarkable about Rösler's relationship with City is that his time at Maine Road coincided with the years of "Cityitis", when in the words of their then chairman, Francis Lee, the only cups they won were for cock-ups – the years when the club splintered into the third division of English football. He had left by the time of their finest hour, the season in the third tier when crowds of 30,000 came to Maine Road as United were rolling towards the Treble.

Yet, because he shone at a club whose foundations were being washed away with every result, because he scored great goals, particularly against Manchester United, Rösler was loved.

The T-shirts that proclaimed: "Uwe's grandad bombed Old Trafford" caused camera crews to be dispatched from Germany in search of a diplomatic incident. Rösler told them he found it funny.

They could still laugh at themselves at City. After they beat Coventry to set up an FA Cup tie against United, Lee gathered everyone around the piano and launched into a Stanley Holloway monologue, Albert and the Lion. Rösler scored, United won. Then, they usually did.

There are some who do not welcome revolutions, however successful. When, in 1977, England cricket captain Mike Brearley thought of his team-mates going off to earn fortunes under the sodium floodlights of tycoon Kerry Packer's cricket circus, he reflected: "I prefer the tramp steamer with its cargo of pig iron to the monstrous super-tanker, hurriedly constructed." Colin Shindler, whose book Manchester United Ruined my Life spoke for a generation of fans, is one of those.

"It all looks very lovely but there is a price to be paid," he said. "There is nothing of Manchester in it. I recognise that this is the best squad we have ever had but it doesn't move me. I loathed Peter Swales and his regime but this in its way is worse.

"I can imagine Swales's wife going to the hairdressers, sitting under the dryers and having to defend her husband. There is no point of contact with Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Mansour doesn't read the Manchester Evening News and his wife doesn't go to a hairdressers' in Sale.

"We used to mock United's fans in Kuala Lumpur buying their shirts without knowing anything of Manchester, but once we got money that is exactly what we wanted for ourselves. We have become Manchester United in blue shirts."

It says something that Shindler's latest book, Manchester City Ruined my Life, which articulates those thoughts, receives either one or five-star reviews on Amazon. "There are some older City fans with whom Colin's views might strike a chord," said Dave Wallace, the editor of City's most celebrated fanzine, King of the Kippax. "But there has never been a better time to support City.

"It is has always been a quirky club and not just when Rösler was there. In 1938 we were relegated the year after we won the championship and went down having scored more goals than the team that won the title. Cityitis will never stop – losing the FA Cup to Wigan was part of that.

"When we went down to Wembley for the Community Shield against Manchester United some of us left a day early so we could see Uwe's team, Brentford, play Yeovil on the Saturday. Some of us can imagine him coming back as manager."

Rösler said that when he was growing up in East Germany, he would have a "real team" to support – the relentlessly unfashionable Chemie Leipzig – and a "fantasy team" – the Borussia Monchengladbach that used to contest European trophies.

He has already experienced the earthy realities of playing for City. As a manager Rösler is returning to a fantasy club separated from reality by an ocean of money.

Manchester City v Wigan is on BT Sport, kick-off 4.05pm

A tale of two citys

Uwe Rosler's time

Annual turnover: £30m

Record signing: £3.75m for Lee Bradbury

Highest position: 17th Premier League 1995

Highest-paid player: Georgi Kinkladze £15,000 a week

Best FA Cup run: Fifth round, 1995, 96, 97

Sheikh Mansour's time

Annual turnover: £271m

Record signing: Sergio Aguero £38m

Highest position: 1st Premier League, 2012

Highest-paid player: Yaya Touré: £210,000 a week

Best FA Cup run: Winners 2011

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open