After winning the FA Cup and finishing third in the league, City set their sights on the league title, but to do that, they needed to strengthen. In came Gael Clichy from Arsenal and Stevan Savic from Partizan Belgrade. At the end of July, City beefed up their firepower by adding Argentine striker Sergio Aguero to the squad. In August, Samir Nasri joined from Arsenal as the blues spent around £75m on their new acquisitions.
The blues began their season by playing the traditional Community Shield match against champions United at Wembley. The blues were 2-0 up at half time, but allowed United to come back to win the match 3-2. City fans were hoping that would not set a trend for the season, with United their biggest rivals for the Premier league title.
The first match of the season was at home to newly promoted Swansea. The visitors held out until the 57th minute when Edin Dzeko gave the blues the lead. New boy Aguero emerged from bench to score on his debut in the 68th minute. The Argentine turned provider for City’s third, going past the keeper and knocking the ball back over his head for David Silva to slam home. Aguero made it a debut to remember when he hammered home the fourth from thirty yards. A 4-0 opening day win was just what the blues needed and trip to Bolton was next.
Silva and Gareth Barry gave City a 2-0 lead, but the home side pulled one back six minutes before half time. Dzeko made it 3-1 two minutes after half-time, only for Bolton to pull another back, but the blues held on to record their second win of the season. The final game in August was at White Hart Lane, and what was expected to be a difficult game turned into a breeze for the blues. Two goals by Dzeko gave City a 2-0 lead at half time, which was then followed by his hat-trick on 55 minutes. Five minutes later, Aguero scored his third for the club to send the blues 4-0 up. The home side pulled a goal back, but Dzeko scored his fourth and City’s fifth in the last minute to give the bleus a thumping win.
Former bogey side Wigan arrived, but an Aguero hat-trick secured the points for the blues, before City’s first foray into the Champions League. Napoli were the visitors and they left with a point following a 1-1 draw. In the league, there seemed to be no stopping the Argentine as he bagged another brace at Fulham, but once again City threw away a two goal lead to draw the match. City were drawn at home to Birmingham in the League Cup and progressed to the fourth round thanks to a 2-0 win. The blues beat Everton 2-0 at home in the final league match of September to leave them second in the league, with United top on goal difference only. A Champions League tie was the final match of the month and City’s trip to Bayern Munich saw the blues lose 2-0.
October started with a 4-0 win at Blackburn, which was followed up with a 4-1 home win over Aston Villa as the blues looked to make up the goal difference on United. The Champions League was proving tougher than blues fans expected and when Villareal took the lead in the fourth minute, their European adventure looked in tatters. An own goal just before half time drew the blues level and an injury time goal by Aguero gave the blues victory. How many times would that happen this season? Back in the league, the eagerly awaited derby at Old Trafford finally arrived. The blues had won once at United since the 70’s, could they make it two?
The match was preceded by the antics of Mario Balotelli, who inadvertently started a fire in his home by allegedly setting of fireworks in the bathroom. So when the Italian gave the blues the lead, he lifted his shirt to reveal a message saying ‘why always me?’ an action that saw him earn himself a yellow card. 1-0 at half time, United had Jonny Evans sent off for a foul on Balotelli, before the City striker made it 2-0. Aguero was on target again as the blues threatened to run riot. United pulled a goal back ten minutes from time, but substitute Dzeko made it 4-1, David Silva ran through to make it 5-1 before splitting the United defence to send Dzeko free who scored City’s 6th. It was City’s biggest derby win in the Premier League and sent reverberations across the Premier League.
City went to Wolves in the League cup and walked away with a 5-2 win and a place in the fifth round. The blues finished October by welcoming Wolves to Etihad and beating them 3-1 to keep up their 100% home record in the league. The amazing results in October sent the blues five points clear of United at the top and for the first time, City were being touted as potential champions.
November began with City at Villreal in the Champions League and their struggles in the home match failed to surface as the blues cruised to a 3-0 win. Bonfire night saw the blues at QPR and a tight match was won 3-2 by City, Yaya Toure scoring the winner with a powerful header. Newcastle were the next team to try and fail to end City’s home record as they lost 3-1, before City travelled Napoli in the Champions League. A 2-1 defeat to the Italians left their qualification chances in the balance and the blues would need to beat Bayern at home and hope Napoli lost to progress. Back in the league, the blues visited Anfield and came away with a point. Vincent Kompany gave the blues the lead but a Lescott own goal two minutes later completed the scoring. October ended with a trip to Arsenal in the League Cup quarter final. After a goalless first half, Aguero sent the blues into the semi-final with a goal in the 83rd minutes.
Norwich were the first visitors in December and were dispatched 5-1. Four days later was Champions League crunch day as City hosted Bayern Munich. The blues needed to win and two goals either side of half-time gave the blues the win. Unfortunately, Napoli inflicted Villareal’s sixth defeat in six games to send City into the Europa League. A trip to Stamford Bridge saw City’s first league defeat of the season. Balotelli gave the blues the lead in the 2nd minute but lost 2-1 following Frank Lampard’s 83rd minute penalty. City’s 100% home record continued as David Silva’s goal beat Arsenal 1-0 and their last match before Christmas saw City beat Stoke 3-0 at Etihad.
Up to now, City had scored in every league game home and away, and a trip to The Hawthorns should have seen further goals. But the home side were resolute and for the first time, City failed to score as the match ended 0-0. The defeat at Chelsea and draw at West Brom gave United an opportunity to cut City’s lead, which they did and were level on points by the end of the year.
2019 started with City at Sunderland and the blues failed to score for a second match in succession and the Black Cats scored in the last minute to inflict City’s second defeat of the season. City got back to winning ways when Liverpool arrived. Aguero and Toure gave the blues a 2-0 half time lead and a James Milner penalty gave City a 3-0 win. The blues were drawn at home to United in the FA Cup. United were looking for revenge for their 6-1 drubbing at Old Trafford and took a 3-0 lead at Etihad. In the second half, Aleksander Kolarov and Aguero scored but United held on in the face of a City onslaught and the holders exited at the third round stage.
City faced Liverpool again in the League Cup semi-final with the first leg at the Etihad, where a Steven Gerrard penalty in the 13th minute gave the reds a first leg advantage. City recorded a second win at Wigan when Edin Dzeko’s first half goal was enough to give the blues the points. The blues once again threw away a two goal lead, this time at home to Spurs and it looked like City’s winning streak at home would finally come to an end. But in the fifth minute of injury time, City won a penalty which Mario Balotelli stayed calm to convert and seal another three home points for City. The second leg of the League Cup saw City needing to do something they hadn’t done since 2002 – win at Anfield. Nigel de Jong gave the blues the lead, but another Gerrard penalty levelled the score. Edin Dzeko gave the blues the lead for the second time to leave the fans dreaming of Wembley, but again the blues couldn’t hold on and Craig Bellamy equalised for the second time to send Liverpool to Wembley. January ended with another defeat, this time 1-0 at Everton, which gave United an opportunity to go level on points at the top, which they took.
At home to Fulham, City again took a two goal lead, but this time there was no comeback as the blues added a third to win 3-0. Joleon Lescott scored the winner at Villa Park as City beat Villa 1-0. The blues faced Porto in the Europa League and came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in Portugal. With no games in between, Porto arrived for the second leg and were beaten 4-0, but the blues had to wait to increase their first minute lead, scoring three goals in ten minutes. Back in the league, Balotelli, Aguero and Dzeko were all on target as Blackburn became the latest to lose at Etihad.
City were now two points clear of United at the top and March started with a 2-0 home win over Bolton, before a return trip to Portugal in the Europa League to face Sporting as the blues attempted to reach the quarter final of the Europa League. However a goal six minutes after the break condemned City to a 1-0 defeat. That loss was followed by a visit to Swansea saw the blues lose their top slot status. A 1-0 defeat saw United leapfrog them and now it was City’s turn to play catch-up, but first they would have to overturn the first leg deficit against Sporting. Two goals would do it and in the first half, two goals went in. Sadly they were both for Sporting as they took a 3-0 aggregate lead. The blues fought back to lead 3-2 on the night, but couldn’t find the fourth goal that would send City through.
Chelsea looked like the team that would beat City at Etihad and were 1-0 up after 60 minutes. An Aguero penalty 12 minutes from time levelled the scores, before Samir Nasri scored the winner with five minutes remaining to keep the pressure on United. City briefly returned to the top following a 1-1 draw at Stoke, but it was a 3-3 home draw with Sunderland that City’s title nerves began. The blues were 3-1 down to the Black Cats at half time before fighting back to level with four minutes remaining. That result gave United another chance to go top, which again they took and before City played at Arsenal, United were five points clear. The blues ended a miserable run with another defeat, which some were prematurely claiming gave United the title, who now held a seemingly unassailable eight point lead.
On 11th April, Carlos Tevez, who hadn’t started for City since September after he went on strike, scored his first goal in 11 months as City beat West Brom 4-0 and that, coupled with United’s surprise 1-0 defeat at Wigan pulled the deficit back to five points. But surely the bleus couldn’t do it? Surely it was a step too far? Tevez scored a hat-trick at Norwich as the blues recorded another 6-1 away win and a week later the blues faced an away game at Wolves. The previous day, United had thrown away a 4-2 lead at home to Everton to draw 4-4. That left the blues six points behind with a game in hand, so victory at Wolves was absolutely vital if City were to pull off a now unlikely looking title win. Aguero gave City a first half lead which was doubled by Toure 11 minutes after the interval to put City within three points of United. Next up…United at home.
It was a match that was even more eagerly awaited than the 6-1 in October. If City won, they would go top of the league on goal difference. If United won, it would put them six points clear and practically secure the title. A tense match with few chances, the deadlock was broken in first half injury time as Vincent Kompany rose highest to power home a header to put City in front. Over the course of the match, the blues were the better team and fully deserved their 1-0 win. The blues were now just two games from winning the title. The first being at Newcastle.
When City last won the league in 1968, it was courtesy of a 4-3 win at St James’s Park and ironically enough, United were the team they beat to the title. 0-0 at half time, Yaya Toure broke the deadlock on 70 minutes, curling in a low shot from the edge of the area. The blues were almost home and dry and sealed the win on 89 minutes when Toure found himself unmarked in the penalty area to thump home his and City’s second. The blues were one match from winning the title. Only relegation threatened QPR stood between them and their first ever Premier League title.
13th May 2012. A packed Etihad Stadium looked out at the luscious green pitch, hoping and praying that the blues would turn in one final performance to deliver the league title from the clutches of United, who were waiting in the wings for City to slip up. There was a huge air of anticipation, of expectancy, but also of dread. Which City would turn up? The swashbuckling side that had swept all but one league visitors aside, or the unpredictable ‘Typical City,’ who would make the fans suffer right to the end? By half time, the fans thought it was the former as QPR keeper Paddy Kenny failed to hold Pablo Zabaleta’s shot and the ball dropped into the net to give City the lead six minutes before the break. It was just what the fans needed, knowing United were leading at Sunderland and City went in 1-0 up at half time.
A half time change saw Typical City come out for the second half and they did everything possible to completely mess everything up. Joleon Lescott’s mistake allowed Cisse to equalise and ever former blue Joey Barton getting himself sent off didn’t help City’s cause. 11 minutes after that red card, QPR went in front. As the match approached the final whistle, City seemed to run out of ideas. On the touchline, former City boss Mark Hughes, now in charge of QPR after he was replaced by Mancini, must have inwardly smiled to himself. His team were about to hand the title to his old club United.
Five minutes of injury time were announced and no one noticed when Typical City were suddenly replaced by the other City. The blues won a corner in the second minute if injury time and Edin Dzeko rose to meet Silva’s inswinger to power home the equaliser. Blues fans roared their team forward, Mancini urged them from the touchline not to give it up. Meanwhile, QPR had been confirmed safe as Bolton’s result at Stoke confirmed the Trotters relegation. But the ball was in City’s half and the clock was ticking. Kompany brought it forward and passed to Aguero. The Argentine knocked it to the edge of the area to Balotelli and continued his run forward. The Italian was falling but managed to get his toe on a pass to the onrushing Aguero, who skipped past the challenge from the defender and kept his cool to slam the ball past Kenny and send the fans into wild scenes of delirium. Aguero was mobbed, the City bench went wild and the fans went mental in the stands. Even sections of QPR fans celebrated, although that was more to do with the fact United had lost the title than City winning it. As the final whistle went, the crowd invaded the pitch to celebrate with the players. 44 years after City last won it, the blues were champions again.
Never had the Premier League seen such drama at the end of the season. That’s what happens when you invite City to the party.