Let me preface by conceding that there is often a yawning chasm between rhetoric and reality when owners of Premier League clubs speak. Time and again, a bespoke suited multimillionaire despot has given his chosen manager a public vote of confidence, only to completely renege on his principles one defeat later, leaving another manager out of a job. I concede that it is for this reason that some may choose to take Sheikh Mansour bin-Zayed al Nahyan’s recent comments with the proverbial pinch of salt.
Nor has he asset stripped and outlandishly attempted to denude the club of its heritage, unlike the Glazers at Old Trafford. Whilst reservations will naturally, and rightly, persist with regards his motivations and longevity, the very fact that his lucre has created a team capable of wresting the championship from the Citizens’ detested rivals gives his words resonance rarely afforded to other Premier League owners.
Sheikh Mansour’s words must send torrents of relief washing through Roberto Mancini. The Champions League, he insinuated, is not of priority. City’s impending exit from the competition does not put the Italian’s job under threat. Instead, he preferred to eulogise over the sensational start the team had made to the Premier League season, revelling in the fact that they are on course to challenge for what he perceives to be their “main priority” this season.
“We must not forget that our main objective is to win the Premier League,” he said, sensibly diverting attention away from the troubles Europe’s premier competition has brought the Blues. “If we achieve that, it will have an impact on the team and the club as a whole and show we can achieve anything.”
Incremental steps seem the order of the day: again, on the face of it a refreshing antidote to the irrational immediacy of others’ demands. Time, it seems, will be afforded to the Italian manager whether or not Napoli match, or better, City’s result against Bayern Munich in the final Group A match. Considering the aesthetic and pragmatic strides made over the past six months, this must resonate with City fans.
Perhaps even better is the billionaire owner’s evident single-mindedness. Whilst one has to ask from where he acquires his friends – fortunately, he believes that Mancini’s plans are “on the right path” in spite of the criticism of some of the “Arab and Emirati brothers in London” – his promise to retain faith in the former Inter coach’s project speaks volumes for his sense and rationality.
With City five points clear at the top of the Premier League and buoyed by a string of swashbuckling domestic performances, it bodes well that the owner is not willing to reduce himself to the lowest common denominator; to react indiscriminately at the first sign of discord. As such, even if City find themselves playing Thursday night football in the new year, if Sheikh Mansour’s words are trustworthy, little will change.
The momentum gathering apace behind their Premier League title challenge will grow. If the Champions League has to wait another year, then so be it. City after all, are patient. They waited 35 years for last season’s FA Cup triumph after all. Success will only be the sweeter in the long run.
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