Europa League success an important step for Manchester City
Thursday 23 February 2012
Manchester City ensured smooth progress to the next round of the Europa League on Wednesday night, seeing off the challenge of Porto with a 4-0 victory at home, to win the tie 6-1 on aggregate. While the competition may not carry the prestige of the Champions League it may yet act as an important step on City’s path towards continental supremacy, much like the FA Cup did for Roberto Mancini’s side on the domestic front last season.
Mancini may have led City to the top of the Premier League this term but a year ago the club’s aim was slightly lower - a place in the division’s top four was the target. Mancini himself admitted as much on the eve of the FA Cup final last May, when he also stressed the importance of that competition. Quoted in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “Our target was the Champions League and after that we wanted to get into one of the finals. We are in the FA Cup final…the FA Cup is very important…it is…the first time Manchester City have been in it for a long time.”
Patrick Vieira, now a Manchester City executive but part of the squad that reached the Champions League and won the FA Cup last season, agreed. According to ITV.com, Vieira said: “ This is the start of a new era, a really successful time. But the first trophy is always really important because it marks the start of everything. It would give more belief to the squad as a whole." City duly triumphed over Stoke City at Wembley last May through a Yaya Toure goal, ending a 35-year wait for major silverware in the process. The club is currently at the summit of the Premier League this season, two points ahead of Manchester United with 13 games remaining. That may have been the case regardless of City’s fortunes in the FA Cup last season, but there appears little doubt amongst the some of the club’s senior figures as to the importance of picking up the trophy.
If the FA Cup could then act as a catalyst on the domestic stage, the Europa League must have the potential to do so on a wider scale, particularly when Manchester United are also in the hunt for the honour. Winning the Europa League at the expense of their rivals - either by eliminating them themselves or simply succeeding should United fail - would be another statement of City’s intent. It would also provide valuable experience for a number of players and the team as a whole, should a Champions League final appear on the horizon in the near future. With either Legia Warsaw or Sporting of Portugal waiting in the last 16, City’s route to at least a Europa League quarter-final berth appears relatively straightforward on paper, considering the ease with which Porto were dispensed with. From there, it is just a few games from the final in May in Bucharest and, after that, potentially the ultimate prize of the Champions League.
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