There was a time not so long ago that City fans dreamed of European nights, watching with envy as their arch rivals from across the city stamped their name across tournament after tournament. Manchester United’s dominance of English football in the 90’s was matched in Europe with Ferguson’s men picking up an impressive haul of European and World trophies. Over that ten year period, United lifted the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and Champions League crowns whilst City fought to stay alive. Relegated in 1996 from the Premiership, Manchester City slipped down the leagues and by the end of the decade was languishing in England’s third tier with financial ruin a real possibility. Now fifteen years on Manchester City are back on top after a lengthy journey which has seen more than its fair share of twists and turns along the way. Once considered the poorer sibling to the mighty Manchester United, City’s fortunes turned when in 2008 they became one of the richest clubs almost overnight thanks to new wealthy owners in the form of the Abu Dhabi Group. City fans watched in stunned silence as a radical overhaul of their club began with money pumped into every corner and crevice of the City franchise. Star players like Robinho and Carlos Tevez would arrive as City turned their misfortune into one of the best rags to riches stories ever told in football.
Now possessing world class facilities and a team to match, Manchester City has become one of the best teams in Europe. Well on paper at least. Despite blitzing the Premiership, City have failed to ignite in European competitions and rekindle the memories of the great City team of the 1970’s who marched through Europe to claim their one and only title – the Cup Winners Cup. Winners of two of the last four titles, City have featured in the Champions league on four occasions and the Europa League three times in the last six years but their record has been less than impressive. Whilst having managed to get through to the last 16 of the Europa league on more than one occasion, City should really be judged on their performances in the Champions League given their newly crowned status and wealth. It is here that alarm bells ring. In four attempts, City has only once made it through the group stage (in 2013-2014) where they were eventually knocked out by Barcelona. This season, City lie bottom of their group with only two games remaining for them to rescue the situation. The Blues have been poor so far in Europe with few willing to tip them to win the Champions League any time soon. Manager Manuel Pellegrini still believes that City have enough in the tank to win the tournament but admits that when his team travels, something strange appears to happen. The confidence that his team shows week in week out in the league evaporates and City appear lackluster and on several occasions lost in Europe.
Worst still for City is the apparent lack of care by their fans who have stayed away from Champions League fixtures in their droves the past few seasons. The team desperately needs their support but still they stay away. During this seasons crunch Champions League clash at home to Roma, City’s crowd was just over 37,000 people, 10,000 short of sell out. City reacted by offering promotional tickets and buy one get one free for kids which helped to drive the attendance figures back up for their match last night against CSKA Moscow to almost capacity but the problem then was less about number of bodies but instead the noise generated. City fans were eerily quiet throughout the game, which was more noticeable due to the lack of away fans that were banned from the match. They appear to be already bored with the Champions League and having City compete in it season after season. After all who would want to play in a tournament that has the greatest teams in Europe all competing for one trophy?
It has led some to suggest that the once famous Chelsea prawn sandwich brigade has migrated north to the Eithad with winning games regardless of the competition becoming expected by many. The City crowds of old were daunting, making noise and cheering on their team regardless of the clubs situation. It’s troubling times for the club who have appeared to have lost its way both on and off the field come European nights. City fans need to rally, get behind their team again and remember past days when European adventures were limited to holiday plans and the odd stag do. Their team needs them, they need to hear them roar once more which in turn will give City’s all star cast the confidence it so badly needs. City do have the potential to win the Champions League given their squad but it takes more than great players to lift Europe’s pinnacle title.