There was a time when virtually everyone barring United fans liked Manchester City. The perennial under-achievers who were always in the shadow of their more successful brother were one of the most popular ‘second’ teams in England. Now though, the exact opposite is the case. When Manchester City lost against Sunderland on the weekend it provoked delight amongst most neutral football fans, a few years ago the manner of their last minute defeat would have been greeted with sympathy, there was none of that on show on Sunday. Have Manchester City now gone from being one of the nations favourite clubs, to one of the most hated?
For years it has been the other side from Manchester that has arguably been the most hated side in England. There is nothing like success to grate ones opponents and United’s unparalleled triumphs in the last couple of decades have undoubtedly made them one of the most loathed clubs in England. Leeds United have also been strong contendors for the title, with many fans still having a negative view of the club since the Don Revie glory years in the 60’s and 70’s, when what was considered by many to be ‘dirty’ tactics helped drive them on to great victories. Since the clubs relegation though, the dislike of Leeds has died down, primarily because they no longer pose a threat for the top English honours.
Chelsea provoked a similar backlash to what Man City are receiving now when Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003. The club went on to experience a level of success that far outstripped anything they had done in the past, but they were seen by many to have bought their way to the silverware they won and there were very few neutrals who were glad to see them lift a long awaited league title. More recently though, the antipathy shown towards Chelsea has lulled, perhaps in part due to the club not spending the vast amounts it did in the past, and the fact that before last season they had not won the title for three years.
Like Chelsea, Manchester City are experiencing a level of animosity from rival fans that is unmatched in the clubs history. City’s massive expenditure and almost limitless financial backing has lifted them to the upper echelons of the Premier League, but has also plumbed them to a new nadir of unpopularity. The one thing rival fans cannot stomach is another club’s success, it is far easier to like a team when they are not posing a threat to your club. What fans dislike about Man City is the fact it looks like they are going to be challenging for the top honours in the next few years, and the manner in which they have done this via vast amounts of spending, means they have become a club that is now widely unpopular in England. Another factor is jealousy, what Everton or Aston Villa fan for instance could honestly say they are not envious of the wealth of Manchester City, and the success that will in all likelihood be brought to the club.
Manchester City probably have a few more years to go before they match Manchester United in the ‘most hated’ stakes. So far they have not reached the Champions League or lifted a trophy under their new owners, and this is what is holding back the full force of invective from rival fans. Should they lift a major honour in the next few seasons though, you can expect that force to be released in full and Man City will be right up their with United. City fans though, will not mind one bit if it means success is brought to their club, and who can honestly blame them.