Do you hear that? Listen closely. What about now? No? It is the sound of nothing happening at Manchester City – a rarity if ever there was one. Even the club’s official website has been somewhat barren over this fixtureless weekend such is the paucity of news coming out of Eastlands. One City forum has even resorted to discussing if David Moyes is the ugliest manager in the Premier League – that is how dull this weekend was.
The quiet radiating from the City of Manchester Stadium may be a journalist’s nightmare but it is exactly what Roberto Mancini’s side need after months of headlines rarely involving football. When attention did turn to the beautiful game, it tended to be bad news for the Blues with defeats against Stoke City, Everton and Manchester United generating the most interest until the Citizens travelled to Stamford Bridge. Even then, the build-up was concentrated more on whether or not two grown men would shake hands than the meeting of two of the top teams in the country.
Yet still, in the aftermath of City’s stunning victory over the then-league leaders, the voice of football had to fight to be heard over the din of Wayne Bridge’s international recusal when England lined-up for the first time since the whole sorry mess erupted. With no game to focus on this weekend, City quietly slipped into the background for the first time in a long time, possibly since Thaksin Shinawatra took over the club in July 2007 and appointed Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager. From that moment to this, City have not been far from the headlines, a truism only exacerbated when Shinawatra sold to the Abu Dhabi United group.
The spending spree that followed City’s second takeover guaranteed further press, as not only could the transfers be scrutinised like never before but the success or failure of each individual player came under the microscope on a weekly basis. After the transfer window had closed in summer 2008, pundits, reporters and commentators were left with one of the game’s biggest names, Robinho, to trail like a trained dog follows a scent. The former Real Madrid player’s return to Brazil further diminished the spotlight shining on the blue half of Manchester.
Some degree of normalcy threatened to return when Mark Hughes survived summer 2009 with his job intact, but a record-breaking string of draws and Robinho’s continued poor performances drew eyes back to matters in this corner of Manchester and soon enough, the apple cart was upset again when Hughes was sacked. The termination of the Welshman delivered more reports that only touched on football and instead focussed on the behind-the-scenes happenings, which admittedly were clumsy at best.
Hughes’ dismissal spun the usual shouting matches over the time allotted to Premier League managers to ‘get it right’, but for all the talk emanating from the majority of the media of how managers are no longer given time by egomaniacal, results-obsessed chairman, it is much of the Fourth Estate themselves as guilty as anyone for cranking up the pressure. With 24-hour rolling news coverage of every detail, no matter how insignificant, and the unprecedented level of global interest in Premier League football, a snowball effect is created and swamps everything in its path, including City’s push for the Champions League.
With the magnifying glass firmly on happenings at Eastlands it is easy to lose sight of what is really going on. A disjointed squad of good players, being led by a manager not six months into his first job in a new country, is within touching distance of making the Champions League for the first time in their history. They have had good and bad results as every team does through the course of a season, while some players have impressed and others have flattered to deceive. City’s season is comparable to every other team in the top half of the table. The only difference is money.
We are constantly told money cannot buy success but it seems the ones who need reminding of that most of all are the same people spouting said clich