The phrase ‘typical City’ has long been used to sum up the pain and hardship for fans of the Manchester club. A simple utterance that encapsulates how any sign of progression or hope was just a temporary lift ahead of a stumble. It became synonymous with the soap opera style shenanigans that went on, first at Maine Road, then the Etihad. If there was an easy way to do something City would consider it, then go the hard way to put their fans through the mire. With the arrival of Sheikh Mansour the phrase should have died out, but that would have been too easy. That wouldn’t have been typical City.
Perhaps the best example of the Typical City syndrome, certainly its peak, was the Division Two campaign that ended with a Wembley showdown which saw City escape the third tier of English football. The fact City had fallen so low was remarkable, yet what compounded the unfathomable was how they struggled to adapt to lower league football. The expected easy march back to Division One never occurred. In the end they needed heroes like Nicky Weaver and Paul Dickov to perform a Wembley turnaround. Gillingham, their opponents that day, were pegged back to 2-2, five minutes into injury time at the end of the 90.
The dreaded penalties ensued and Weaver stopped two to save face for the Citizens, and perhaps much more. If they hadn’t have scrapped back to the second tier that year they most likely would have disappeared for good, such was their fragile financial state at the time. No club is too big to be relegated, but some are too big to survive lower down. With an average of 30,000 turning out to Maine Road each week during their painful Division Two year, it was obvious they were designed for better things.
Fast forward to 2008 and the purchase by Sheikh Mansour, bypassing a few more typical City false dawns like the Keegan era, and the phrase looked like it would die out. But if there’s one club in the world that can become the richest and still make hard work of success, it’s City.
In a strange mirroring of the Gillingham play-off final, it took an injury time goal to elevate and transform the club once again. The moment I refer to is of course the Aguero winner against QPR that brought the Premier League trophy to the Etihad Stadium. It marked the start of a new era in England’s top flight. City had arrived with the intention to stick around and dominate.
It wouldn’t be typical City to comfortably transition into the main club in England and they say retaining the title is always harder. City have proven this on two occasions now. One saw Roberto Mancini lose his job, the other saw many City fans lose faith in Manuel Pellegrini. Yet, they have started the league campaign this year, the West Ham game aside, in terrorising fashion. Demonstrating the two sides of the coin that must exist for Typical City to live on.
One area that has only provided lows is the Champions League. Here ‘typical City’ means, for numerous reason, ‘Not good enough’. The trend of building hope, to crush it, only to build it again, doesn’t apply. The vast majority of City fans have written off the Champions League as a whole, even going as far as booing the anthem UEFA insist is played, or to agree City still don’t have a team capable of challenging.
This shouldn’t be the case. The excuse they are new to the tournament no longer applies. If anything time is running out for this crop to achieve. Yaya Toure could be playing one of his last seasons in the top flight and several others are all heading over the age of 30. It’s now or never.
Tactical naivety has invariably played its part but that tells half a story and is a neat why to ignore other factors. Pellegrini has been particularly chastised for this, and while there are times it can’t be argued against, it should be considered why he often feels his hand forced.
It comes down to personnel. Put simply City don’t have a team that’s good enough to compete with Europe’s top four sides. The games against Barcelona showed that despite splashing out on players they still have some way to go. This is no slant. In a short space of time they’ve played catch-up to a point and they’re no less equipped than any other Premier League side. But there’s still some way to go before the top of the European summit is reached. What should be of concern is how new additions, Kevin De Bruyne aside, threaten to be more of the same rather than advancements.
The Sheikh’s intention would have been to alter typical City into meaning another boring year where his club ride to success. The way the new owners have altered the squad, infrastructure, stadium and academy shows they are determined to meet their mission statement. Mansour delivers. Until then the ups-and-downs will continue and the Champions League will provide City fans with a nostalgic reminder of what Division Two felt like. The feeling that you should be winning, but come-up short.
Like that year there’ll eventually be a pay-off and it’ll be just typical of City to win the Champions League when all seems lost.