It seems strange to be talking about Manchester City’s greatest ever Premier League season as a disappointment. It’s very much like being disappointed with your wife of just two hours or not being content with Belgian chocolate after years of that stuff your grandma always gives you that looks like a dog turd, smells like it went off in 1984 and crumbles under the weight of an ant.
Let me make it clear that I am, in no way, shape or form, linking my beloved football club to a dog turd.
But, like a man who’s stepped in a dog turd, I’m currently feeling a mixture of anger and disappointment, and I can sense a bad smell hanging around. The defeat against Tottenham on Wednesday ended City’s push for fourth place and, while I’m not especially surprised that Tottenham won the game, I feel justified in being angry and disappointed.
Disappointed that City couldn’t raise their game and take on Tottenham on their home pitch and angry that I let myself think that City would probably win the game before kickoff. I’m a City fan; I’ve seen unexpected defeats snatched from the jaws of victory, I’ve cried at Wembley because of this team’s obsession with putting its fans under stresses and strains known only to astronauts, and I know better than to expect a victory in one important game.
Yet, despite the news that City will finish outside of the Champions League, I’m not as disappointed as I wrote that I would be last week. I can’t say why exactly; I expected that I would be absolutely distraught, but I’m just not. This has been an excellent season, but it finishes on a low note because it could have been so much better.
I could have gone to bed Wednesday night salivating at potential ties with Barcelona or Real Madrid. You’d think that not getting to play the best in Europe would be totally earth shatteringly bad, but it’s not. It’s not ideal, either, but the positives to take are that City are in a competition they weren’t in this season and they have a fair chance of winning it. It doesn’t have the player-pull that the Champions’ League has, but I don’t think it was a ‘this season or never’ situation for City and I do think that they will be in the competition sooner rather than later – I don’t think any potential transfer targets would be too put off by that.
We can analyse, until the cows come home, a multitude of reasons why City didn’t finish fourth this season. But I don’t own any cows and don’t know anyone who does, so I suspect it’s not a good idea to do that because it could be centuries before any cows come to reside in this inner city Mancunian abode. Had there not been daft home draws from leading positions to Fulham, Burnley and Hull… Had there not been daft last minute goals against United… Had we bothered to turn up against Tottenham twice… All of those arguments hold water as to why City won’t finish fourth, but when it comes down to it, they all count for nothing unless we improve on them next season.
But, to reiterate, while City haven’t finished fourth, this has been a good season.
City have finished above Liverpool for only the third time in the last 48 years. City, at the time of writing, have the same number of defeats as Manchester United. City have scored more Premier League goals than ever before. City have qualified for a European competition outright and haven’t had to rely on not getting booked, sent off and being all round nice to everyone. City’s season wasn’t over when the points tally ticked to 40. City’s points tally ticked to 40 well before March. City have three players in the goal scoring charts in double figures in the top flight for the first time in decades.
It’s a measure of how far City have come for all of that to be a disappointment, eh?
A lot of fans compared Wednesday night’s match to the 1998/99 Division Two playoff final. While the reward two days ago was potentially bigger and better – the Champions League – personally, I don’t feel that that game was as important. Should City have lost to Gillingham in 1999, where would they be now? Would they have found Division Two as hard to get out of as even the most uncomfortable of beds early in the morning when the alarm sounds, just like Leeds have done? It could be questionable as to whether they would have ever re-climbed the league ladder and it would certainly be questionable as to whether Sheik Mansour would have bought the club.
And what has losing to Tottenham done? Nothing but make City have to try again next year, following on from their best ever Premier League position and with the added bonus of a hefty transfer budget. How awful is that?
It’s all too easy to forget that, just over three seasons ago, City fans were contemplating a season of relegation struggle and financial oblivion, while crossing their fingers for a takeover. And, when that takeover came, it wasn’t all sweetness and light as, at the end of the 2007/08 season, there was the rumoured fire-sale because of a lack of funds. Add to that several managerial changes for a nice bit of instability and it’s a miracle that City are in as good a shape as they are.
For now, we have to say congratulations to Tottenham. It’s hardly like they have finished fourth by accident – City haven’t done enough and Tottenham have, it’s as simple as that. It’s not the end of the world; it’s not like football won’t exist after next season, it’s not like the human race will cease to exist next May and it’s not like Lily Allen’s releasing any more albums.
It’s just a matter of time and patience. It doesn’t matter that City just missed out this season, especially if the club can improve and build on that next time around. Just imagine what City could be capable of, after a summer of spending and hard work, next season. It’s exciting to say the least.
Though, as City fans, we must know by now to expect the unexpected: Relegation battle here we come!
Written By David Mooney