Continuing our series from Division Three to three times Premier League champions, we take a look back at the 2009/10 season. Although it was unsuccessful in terms of trophies, the 2009/10 season laid the foundations down for City’s future success. They just needed the right man at the helm to guide them there, and half way through the season, it would come.
After finishing 10th the previous season, there were many that viewed the acquisition of Manchester City by ADUG a failure. They not only invested £32.5m in Robinho, but also spent heavily in the January transfer window, only to still finish mid table. During the summer, the blues hierarchy opened the chequebook again as ADUG celebrated their first year in control of the club by spending over £100m on new players. In came Gareth Barry from Aston Villa for £12m and manager Mark Hughes thought Roque Santa Cruz, who he worked with at Blackburn, was definitely worth £18m. But the bleus raised eyebrows with their next two signing. Carlos Tevez, who spent last season on loan at Manchester United, joined the blues for £25.5m and Arsenal striker Emmanual Adebayor arrived for £25m. The blues raided Arsenal again and brought Kolo Toure in for £16m, while the summer long pursuit of Everton defender Joleon Lescott ended on 25th August, as City paid the Toffees £22m.
The blues started the season at Blackburn, and it took new striker Adebayor just three minutes to get himself on the score sheet. Stephen Ireland added a second in the first minute of injury time as the blues got off to a 2-0 win. Four days later, City travelled to Barcelona for a friendly, and recorded a surprise 1-0 win at the Nou camp, Martin Petrov scoring the only goal. The blues then faced Wolves in their first home game of the season and it was Adebayor again who scored the winner as the blues won 1-0. City were drawn away at Crystal Palace in the League Cup and two second half goals sent the blues through. Shaun Wright-Phillips got the first five minutes after the interval, and Carlos Tevez scored his first for City on 72 minutes. Back in the league and a trip to Portsmouth was next. Adebayor once again hit the target as City made it 9 points from 9. By the end of August, City were fourth in the league, only because three teams above them had played four games, but three clean sheets at the start of the season was encouraging for City fans.
Arsenal arrived at Eastlands, meaning Adebayor and Kolo Toure would face their former club for the first time. City were yet to concede a goal, and when Micah Richards gave the blues the lead after 19 minutes, it was looking like another clean sheet for City. But Robin van Persie put a stop to that with a 62nd minute equaliser, then angered the home fans by celebrating in front of them despite only the width of the goal separating them and his own fans. The atmosphere was simmering and Craig Bellamy gave the blues the lead on 73 minutes, before the match’s most controversial moment in the 79th minute. Adebayor, who had endured taunts from the visiting supporters and had earlier stamped on van Persie, headed the blues into a 3-1 lead.
The former Arsenal striker then carried out one of the craziest goal celebrations ever seen. He ran the full length of the pitch, before sliding on his knees to celebrate in front of the fans that had been abusing him all through the game. Arsenal fans reacted by throwing anything they could at the City man, and the striker was booked for his celebrations. SWP added a fourth with six minutes to go, and although Arsenal pulled a goal back, it was City’s day as they ran out 4-2 winners. As for Adebayor, he was later banned for his stamp on van Persie, meaning he would miss the following derby match at Old Trafford.
The game against United was also without controversy. Carlos Teves’ move across Manchester had angered United fans, while blues supporters revelled in his decision, which was enhanced by posters appearing in Manchester City Centre of Tevez with the caption ‘Welcome to Manchester,’ a dig at United’s ground residing on the border with Salford. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had also branded City the ‘noisy neighbours,’ and said the way to combat them was to turn up the TV. With the scene set, Old Trafford witnessed one of the best derby matches in recent times, although it didn’t feel like that at the time for the blues.
Wayne Rooney gave the home side the lead after just two minutes, but Gareth Barry levelled on 16 minutes. 1-1 at the break, the game exploded into life in the second half. Fletcher put United ahead four minutes after the break, only for Craig Bellamy to level again three minutes later. The match was neatly poised and United thought the points were theirs when Fletcher scored his second with ten minutes to go. Bellamy had other ideas and scored City’s third equaliser in the 90th minute. Four minutes of injury time went up on the board, so when Michael Owen scored in the 96th minute, it prompted outrage from City manager Hughes, who had already questioned where the four minutes had come from. So the blues unbeaten record disappeared in the final minute of the match, It wouldn’t be the last time that would happen against United.
In the League Cup, City needed extra time to beat Fulham 2-1 and progress to the fourth round, Kolo Toure scoring the winner after Gareth Barry cancelled out Fulham’s opener. Back in the league, Tevez scored twice as City defeated west Ham 3-1 at Eastlands, but that would prove to be their last win in the league for seven matches. Five wins and one defeat left City fifth, three points behind United at the end of September, but the next month would be the turning point in Hughes’ City career.
October started at Villa Park, and former blue Richard Dunne gave the home side the lead on 15 minutes, Craig Bellamy struck a second half equaliser as the blues recorded their first draw. One became two as Martin Petrov levelled at Wigan two minutes after the break, before City started to become the draw kings when Fulham once again came from 2-0 down to rescue a point at Eastlands. City dispatched Scunthorpe 5-1 in the League Cup to set up a home fifth round tie with Arsenal, a match security were probably not looking forward to after September’s troubles. November started with a 0-0 draw at Birmingham, before newly promoted Burnley belied their lowly status and secured a 3-3 draw. The Clarets were 2-0 up after 31 minutes, but SWP pulled a goal back just before the break, and Toure equalised nine minutes into the second half. Craig Bellamy fired the blues in front three minutes later, but the visitors levelled with four minutes remaining.
City’s annual defeat at Anfield should have occurred on 21st November, but despite being 1-0 down after 17 minutes, the bleus turned the game on its head with two goals in three minutes. Stephen Ireland equalised on 69 minutes, the Adebayor put the blues in front three minutes later. But, as usual City couldn’t hang on and allowed the home side to level five minutes later. November ended with City’s 7th consecutive draw. SWP had given the blues the lead in first half injury time, but Hull levelled with an 82nd minute penalty. Seven points from seven games strangely enough left the blues in seventh place, but was not the return the blues board were looking for after the huge summer investment, and for the first time, speculation began as to whether Hughes would last the rest of the season.
December began with City beating Arsenal 3-0 to progress to their first major semi-final since 1981, and left the fans dreaming of Wembley. All they had to do was beat United over two legs, and a trip to the capital was on the horizon. Back in the league, City finally recorded a win by defeating Chelsea 2-1. Adebayor was on target for both teams and Tevez hit the winner on 56 minutes. But City being City couldn’t capitalise on that win, by drawing the next match at Bolton. City had to come from behind three times to secure a point in an entertaining 3-3 draw, then travelled to Spurs and lost 3-0. The managerial rumour mill was in full swing as Hughes’ head was apparently on the chopping block. The only question now was, when would the board swing the axe?
As it turned out, it was after the next game. Sunderland arrived at Eastlands and blues fans, and the board, expected a good performance and result. After 12 minutes, it looked like City would run away with it. Santa Cruz scored after 4 minutes, and Tevez doubled the lead eight minutes later. But just 12 minutes after that, it was 2-2 and the fans were growing restless. Craig Bellamy regained City’s lead ten minutes from half time, but Sunderland levelled again on 62 minutes. Santa Cruz scored his second and City’s winner on 69 minutes, but the board had seen enough. As soon as the match finished, Hughes was sacked and a new man was installed in the City hot seat. That man was Roberto Mancini.
The Italian’s first match was a Boxing Day fixture at home to Stoke. The blues won 2-0 thanks to goals from Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez. The last game of the year saw City at Wolves. The home side dominated the opening proceedings, and Mancini switched things around a little in order for City to quell the Wolves attack. His tactics worked and the blues ran out 3-0 winners, City’s first away win since beating Portsmouth back in August. The result left City in 6th place in the league, out of contention for the title, but certainly in with a shot at Europe.
2010 started with the blues at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. It was a stern test, but the blues came through it 1-0 with a goal on half-time by Benjani. The match also ignited Mancini’s interest in Boro winger Adam Johnson, and the Italian got his man on transfer deadline day. Another notable arrival came in the form of another former Arsenal man, Patrick Vieira, who completed a free transfer from Inter Milan on 8th January. Back in the league, Carlos Tevez hit a hat-trick as City thumped Blackburn 4-1, as Mancini’s winning start continued. The honeymoon ended with a 2-0 defeat at Everton, which wasn’t the ideal preparation for the League Cup semi-final against United.
The first leg was held at Eastlands, and United took the lead on 17 minutes. Tevez then almost broke the net from the penalty spot to level for City, before firing home the winner in the 65th minute. The blues would take a slender 2-1 lead to Old Trafford, but with an away goal, United just needed to win by one goal to progress. Next up for City was a trip to Scunthorpe in the FA cup. The blues had already beaten Scunny 5-1 in the League Cup and ran out 4-2 winners at Glanford Park.
And so to Old Trafford where a place at Wembley was at stake. It was looking good for the blues at half time with the score at 0-0, but Paul Scholes changed that after 57 minutes. United went 2-0 up on 71 minutes, but Tevez gave the fans sight of Wembley when he pulled a goal back on 76 minutes. One more goal would see City to Wembley, but their inability to defend in the last minute cost them. Like Owen in September, Rooney scored in injury time to send United to Wembley and City crashing out. It was a huge disappointment to the blues fans, but they would get their chance of revenge the following season. City put the League Cup defeat out of their minds as Portsmouth were beaten 2-0 at Eastlands in the final game in January, which left City in 6th place in the league, and still in contention for a place in Europe.
February started with a 2-1 defeat at Hull, before City defeated Bolton 2-0 at Eastlands. The next four matches saw City play at home to Stoke, away to Stoke, home to Liverpool and away to Stoke and it is safe to say that it was a relief to actually play Liverpool. The first Stoke match was an FA Cup tie at Eastlands which finished 1-1. SWP gave the blues the lead on 11 minutes, but conceded an equaliser 12 minutes into the second half as Stoke forced a reply. A rehearsal for that replay took place three days later as City salvaged a point, Gareth Barry 86th minute goal cancelling out Stoke’s 72nd minute opener. The blues drew 0-0 with Liverpool before travelling back to the Potteries. Again the match had to wait until late on for someone to score as Stoke took the lead, which lasted all of two minutes as Bellamy levelled. With the match into extra time, Stoke scored twice and City were out. As with United, it wouldn’t be long to gain revenge.
The blues ended February at Stamford Bridge. League leaders Chelsea were expected to win against a City team that had failed to score in seven visits, but the pre match talk was dominated by the relationship between City’s Wayne Bridge and Chelsea captain John Terry. It had emerged that Terry had an affair with Bridge’s partner while the City defender was at Chelsea. Bridge blanked Terry and refused to shake his hand before the match, and also had the last laugh as the bleus made a mockery of Chelsea’s home record and the statistics. Frank Lampard gave the home side the lead on 42 minutes, but that last three minutes as Tevez levelled. In the second half, it was the Manchester City show as they dominated the home side and went ahead in the 51st minute through Bellamy. Tevez struck a 76th minute penalty to put the blues firmly in control and City fans were in dreamland as Bellamy made it 4-1 with three minutes remaining. Future blue Lampard scored an injury time penalty, but it was City’s day as they ran out 4-2 winners. That amazing result kept the pressure on Spurs in fourth place in the race for a Champions League slot, and the two were on a collision course to decide who would take it.
March started at Sunderland, where Adam Johnson scored his first goal in the 91st minute to rescue a point for the blues. City then went to Fulham and again took a 2-0 lead by half time. On this occasion, they held on despite the home side pulling a goal back. But City couldn’t help losing somewhere along the line and Everton arrived at Eastlands and won 2-0. March ended with a win, finally over Wigan. It looked like it would end in another draw, but a 12 minute Tevez hat-trick won it for City. The blues were still pushing Spurs, but were now two points behind. They needed to match Spurs’ results in the remaining matches, and beat the Londoners at Eastlands in May to secure Champions League football for the first time.
But first, they had to navigate past Burnley at Turf Moor. City’s last league visit to Burnley had ended 6-0 to the blues, way back in Division Three but this was the Premier League and no one expected that kind of result this time around. That was until the 7th minute when City scored, but by the time Carlos Tevez tapped home, City were already 2-0 up. Adebayor scored after just four minutes and Craig Bellamy made it 2-0 just a minute later and when Tevez made it 3-0, some Burnley fans started heading for the exits, while some were just taking their seats. It got better for City as Patrick Vieira made it 4-0 on 20 minutes, then Adebayor scored City’s 5th goal on the stroke of half time. Vincent Kompany buried the 6th on 58 minutes, before Burnley put a small degree of respectability on the scoreline by pulling a goal back on 71 minutes. It was City’s biggest away win in the Premier League and a message of intent to Spurs.
Just over a week later, City thumped Birmingham 5-1 at Eastlands, Tevez and Adebayor scoring two apiece and City were in buoyant mood as United arrived at Eastlands, and the blues were eager to avenge the two last minute defeats at the hands of their neighbours. Sadly, City had learnt nothing from those two losses as Paul Scholes scored in the third minute if injury time to win it 1-0 for United. A week later, City drew 0-0 at Arsenal as their push for Champions League football began to falter and had dropped to 6th place behind Aston Villa.
The first match in May just happened to be at home to Villa and the visitors took the lead on 16 minutes. But the new double act of Tevez and Adebayor fired into action before the break, with Tevez scoring a penalty on 41 minutes and Adebayor giving City the lead two minutes later. Craig Bellamy wrapped up the points with a minute remaining to set up a showdown with Spurs. City were one point behind the Londoners going into the match, and a win would put them two clear. With a better goal difference, a draw on the final day of the season would deliver Champions League football at City for the first time in its current format.
An in true City style, they lost 1-0 thanks to an 82nd minute goal from Peter Crouch. The result sent Spurs into the Champions League and City would have to settle for the Europa League next season. The final game saw City play out a 1-1 draw at west Ham, SWP equalising in the 21st minute.
City finished fifth in the league, their highest finish ever in the Premier League and their highest top flight finish since 1992. Although they were disappointed to miss out on silverware, the blues had shown promise. And with Mancini at the helm, it was surely only a matter of time before the trophies began to arrive.