Manchester City Premier League comment: Pitch invasion shows huge joy in triumph stems from grim past
Monday 12 May 2014
The songs of Manchester City are essentially sad, wistful things. Their battle hymn, “Blue Moon”, depicts someone alone with their cigarette “without a love of my own”. “We’re Not Really Here” is about their season in the third tier of English football.
Towards the end of their title-clinching triumph over West Ham, as it became clear not even the old Manchester City would screw this equation up, the fans began chanting “Joleon Lescott – he’s top of the league” as if to emphasise the ridiculousness of it all.
When the crowd poured on to the pitch on the final whistle, a few carried a banner that read “Oops we did it again”. The invasion itself was an indication that even after four trophies in three years, Manchester City are not a club that really expects these triumphs, what with all that has gone before it. During near neighbours United’s long years of dominance, they would never be seen celebrating on the pitch at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson would not have allowed it for starters.
Finally the last spectator was cleared, although since he was dressed in full Bedouin garb, security had to be sure they were not manhandling the club’s owner.
Then the Etihad Stadium sang something altogether more stirring, a version of “Hey Jude”. The irony that the Beatles came from Liverpool was lost on them – although Paul McCartney did go to the 1968 FA Cup final to support Everton.
Manchester City are not romantic champions. It was Liverpool who captured the imagination more, due to the unexpected nature of their rise to the top. There were some who willed on Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger through the early months of the season as an ageing gunfighter returning to reclaim his inheritance.
Chelsea, who beat Liverpool and City home and away, were on their day arguably the best team. City, who led the table for only two weeks in a nine-month season, won it because they made the fewest mistakes on the way.
It was not an afternoon where anything was really in question. The match began in driving rain with ticker tape streaming from the stands, part Manchester, part South America, which sums up the club pretty well. By the end the whole playing surface was strewn with blue and white paper. Manchester City chairman, Khaldoon al Mubarak, gazed down from the stands at the party going on below. When he appointed Manuel Pellegrini it was with the expectation of five trophies in as many years. Given that the Chilean manager had not won any silverware in his years in Europe, this was quite an ask. He has won two already.
“No I cannot say it was the best moment of my career,” the City manager reflected. “I had five years at Villarreal, where it is really impossible to win the league.
“I managed to finish second and third in La Liga and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. I nearly won the league at Real Madrid. I always think the way you win the title is more important than the actual titles themselves.
“We had the conviction to play in a certain style. The week we lost at Liverpool and drew with Sunderland was not a good one but we always believed Liverpool would drop points and we won our last five games.
“The worst moment was when we lost to Wigan in the FA Cup. I lost my temper then but we played 14 more games than Liverpool and perhaps if we had won that quarter-final, I might not be sitting here.”
There was also a sideswipe at his predecessor, Roberto Mancini. “When I came here, maybe the relations were not the best,” he said. “It was very important to be calm and try to convince all the players how we could play and how important it was to be close.”
Nevertheless, the bulk of the players who won the title for him were signed by Mancini. With a sense of theatre few imagined he possessed, one by one Pellegrini took them off so they could receive the ovations due to them – Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Yaya Touré. The goals were scored by two others at the heart of the club, Samir Nasri and captain Vincent Kompany.
None are English, none were bought by Pellegrini and Roy Hodgson thought his time as England manager would be better spent in Southampton. If the English players wanted a group photo in the dressing room to celebrate the title, it would have been a selfie.
At the end Pellegrini found himself being thrown in the air and caught in joyful celebration by his own players. There was a time when, under those circumstances, previous City managers would have been rushed to hospital suffering a serious back injury.
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