As the big hand of Big Ben struck midnight and the New Year bells rang out on 31st December 2009, Manchester City fans had absolutely no idea of the drama, derision and delirium the next ten years would bring. The blues had invested heavily in the transfer market following the takeover from ADUG, but despite the influx of new stars to grace the blue shirt, City fans still waited to see silverware lifted at the club.
It was Roberto Mancini at the helm as the new year arrived, having taken over from Mark Hughes just before Christmas. Hughes had used some of the wealth the club possessed, but was struggling to make the team properly click, and a run of seven successive draws had tested the patience of City’s new owners. Despite being fifth in the league, only losing two games all season and reaching the League Cup semi-final for the first time since 1976, Hughes was replaced by the Italian after City beat Sunderland 4-3 after leading 2-0 and 3-2.
But in 2010, Mancini had City playing with confidence and took his blues to title chasers Chelsea in February. Chelsea were unbeaten at home and when Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead three minutes before half-time, it looked like Chelsea would leap-frog United at the top. But City, at their unpredictable best, had other ideas. Carlos Tevez equalised a minute into stoppage time to send the teams in level, before the bleus ran riot. Craig Bellamy scored within six minutes of the restart before Tevez scored again on 76 minutes from the penalty spot. Bellamy send blues fans wild on 87 minutes before a Lampard penalty reduced the deficit, but City went home 4-2 victors.
The manner of the victory left blues fans wondering why on earth they couldn’t have done the same to Stoke three days earlier in an FA Cup replay, which the Potters won 3-1, but the result sent shockwaves through the Premier League as City started to show a bit of their potential.
But that potential was tested the following season and the fans patience was finally rewarded with their first trophy since 1976. City were an outside chance at best to win the league, but it was the FA Cup that Mancini had set his sights on. After edging past Leicester and Notts County with the assistance of replays, City beat Villa and Reading to reach their first semi-final since 1981. On that occasion, solitary goal by Paul Power was enough to see the blues squeeze past favourites Ipswich Town, and thirty years later, it was enough again, this time against United as City sought revenge for last season’s League Cup defeat. A goalless game was finally broken as Yaya Toure pounced on a mistake in the United defence to score the only goal and send the blues back to Wembley, where they beat Stoke City 1-0 to lift the famous old trophy.
But undoubtedly, the match of the year was the Old Trafford Derby. The blues, with just one win in Stretford since 1974, produced a master display to sink the reds and inflict their heaviest home league defeat on them. Mario Balotelli scored in the first half, before adding to it in the second half. Sergio Aguero made it 3-0 and despite United pulling a goal back, Edin Dzeko scored a brace either side of a David Silva goal as City ran out 6-1 winners. While commentators and pundits tried to make sense of what happened, no one fully understood just how important those six goals would be, but as the final table of 2012 was displayed, it was apparent just what it meant.
City went into the new year level on points with United, but top of the able on goal difference. City’s was +38, while United’s was +32…a difference of six goals!
A shock defeat at Sunderland, was followed by City crashing out of both the FA and League Cup. City also lost at Everton, Swansea and Arsenal and drew at Stoke and at home to Sunderland as their title charge faded. City clawed back the points and a 1-0 win over a stuttering United side sent the blues back to the top on goal difference with two games remaining. A 2-0 win at Newcastle meant all City had to do was beat QPR and they were champions.
1-0 to the blues became 2-1 to the visitors as Rangers manager Mark Hughes looked to deny the club that sacked him. Joey Barton’s sending off added valuable time onto the end of the match and when Dzeko headed the blues level, even the QPR fans, happy now their Premier League survival had been assured due to Bolton’s draw at Stoke, roared the blues on to score again. And how that arrived.
Aguero wrote his name into City folklore with that last minute goal that sent blues fans, and all other fans except United, into complete hysteria, a moment that is unlikely to ever be repeated in the Premier League again any time soon.
But City failed to live up to the expectations of champions. Rather than dominating the league, City lost it again with barely a fight. A dismal Champions League campaign saw the blues fail to win any of their six matches, while a 4-2 home defeat to Aston Villa saw City crash out of the League Cup. To add insult to injury, United beat the blues 3-2 to inflict City’s first home league defeat since Everton two years previous.
Despite the troubles in the league, City still made it to the FA Cup Final for the second time in three years, with just lowly Wigan, who were fighting relegation from the Premier League, standing in their way. Another FA Cup would be a nice way to finish a poor league campaign. So it seemed only fitting that City lost in the last minute as their north west rivals claimed the trophy for the first time in their history and left City without silverware again. Days later, Mancini was sacked by the board and Manuel Pellegrini eventually appointed.
The Chilean took a little time to get used to life in the Premier League, but once he settled, it seemed there was no stopping the blues. After a shock defeat at new boys Cardiff, City thrashed champions United 4-1, then Wigan 5-0 as the blues looked hungry for silverware. The blues recorded their biggest ever Premier League win, thrashing Norwich 7-0, then put six past both Spurs and Arsenal. But the biggest result of 2013 came in Germany and the home of Bayern Munich. With City 2-0 down, many were already thinking the blues were about to receive a Champions League hammering, but was transpired was nothing short of amazing. The blues reduced the deficit to 2-1 before half time thanks to David Silva. Aleksander Kolarov then equalised from the penalty spot before James Milner gave the blues the lead. City couldn’t find a fourth though, which would have put them top of the group, but the victory gave blues fans some of the pride following last season’s failures.
The goal machine roared on into 2014, with City putting nine past West Ham on aggregate in the League Cup semi final, to send City back to Wembley. Blackburn were thrashed 5-0 and Spurs hammered 5-1 in the own back yard as City looked to ramp up the pressure at the top. City lost the Barcelona in the Champions League but beat Sunderland 3-1 at Wembley to lift the League Cup. And while they were quietly winning their final games of the season, title challengers Chelsea and Liverpool were falling at the final hurdle and the bleus were crowned champions on the final day of the season after beating West Ham 2-0.
But once again, as reigning champions, City failed to live up to expectations. The free-scoring City had suddenly disappeared, and cracks in the defence had started to show as the blues struggled to keep a clean sheet. But City ended the year strongly, with nine straight wins, the pick of the victories coming at Sunderland, where the blues finally laid to rest the ghost of previous seasons, winning 4-1 in the North East.
2015 saw a return to City’s new ‘normality’ as the blues thrashed Newcastle 5-0, QPR 6-0 and also won 4-1 at Stoke, proving City could win away at Stoke on a miserable winter night! The blues pushed Chelsea hard, but this time, an eight point lead was too much for the blues to claw back, but still finished second, four points ahead of Arsenal and nine ahead of United.
The blues looked in formidable form at the start of the following season, wining the opening five matches without conceding. 3-0 at West Brom was followed by a 3-0 home victory over champions Chelsea and many were tipping the blues for the title. Defeats at home to West Ham and at Spurs threatened to derail the title charge, but City were soon back on track thanks to Newcastle United and Sergio Aguero.
The visitors scored first, but Aguero levelled on 42 minutes, before taking matters fully into his own hands, scoring another four goals in 13 minutes to put the blues 6-1 ahead, Kevin de Bruyne scoring the other. It sparked a return to goal scoring ways, as City put five past Bournemouth and five past Crystal Palace, yet finished the year with a goalless draw at Leicester and in third place in the Premier League.
In late January 2016, manager Pellegrini announced he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, and took the unprecedented step of naming his successor – Pep Guardiola. The Catalan was still in charge at Bayern Munich, but had already announced that he was stepping down with the Bundesliga side and City had moved quickly to get their prime target. Considering City were only three points behind Leicester in the race for the Premier League, it was expected that the blues players would have given their all to give the incoming Guardiola a champions outfit to inherit.
Sadly, it wasn’t the case and a 3-1 home defeat to the Foxes saw City’s title hopes drop. Defeat at home to Spurs, then a 3-0 beating at Liverpool was followed by a goalless draw at Norwich and a 1-0 home loss to United to finally end City’s charge and ensure Pellegrini’s final season ended trophyless again.
Guardiola wasted no time in getting City moving, but his inexperience of the Premier League would prove to be his undoing in his first season. Guardiola’s City won their first ten games in all competitions, scoring 30 goals in one of the most blistering starts to a City campaign in living memory for most fans. But Celtic found a way to stop the winning spree, taking the lead against City three times before being pegged back by the same amount. Spurs went one better, inflicting Guardiola’s first defeat in English football, while Barcelona, United, Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool all got the better of the Catalan in his first season.
2017 began by thrashing West Ham but then taking a 4-0 beating at Everton as City continued to struggle with the Guardiola regime. But City would only lose one more time in the league and reached the FA Cup semi-final, where they lost to Arsenal. City finished the season by sweeping Watford aside 5-0 at Vicarage Road. It was a victory that would set a hallmark for the following season and send a warning to the rest of the Premier League.
Guardiola had arrived.
The blues started the season quietly, with a 2-0 win at Brighton and a 1-1 draw at home to Everton, but what happened next was something remarkable. From the following 29 games in all competitions, City would win 27, drawing 0-0 at Crystal Palace and losing at Shakhtar Donetsk. The blues topped the table by fourteen points and were threatening almost every Premier League record to date.
Despite a 4-3 loss at Liverpool, City marched on, reaching the League Cup final by narrowly beating Bristol City and reaching the FA Cup fifth round. Talk of the treble, or even a quadruple was openly discussed amongst pundits, even after the blues drew Wigan away for a place in the FA Cup quarter final. Surely Guardiola’s City could finally avenge that 2013 final defeat.
Errr…no actually they couldn’t as Wigan produced a remarkable performance to inflict another 1-0 defeat on the blues, as Will Grigg capitalised on Kyle Walker’s error to score the only goal of the game.
Another treble was still on the cards though. The blues had claimed the League Cup in easy style, beating Arsenal 3-0, but lost at Liverpool by the same score in the Champions League. Still, they had a chance to secure the Premier League title and what better team to do that against than United? It was all going so well with the blues 2-0 up at half-time and one hand on the Premier League trophy. But United didn’t want to City to win it in front of their own fans. No, they wanted them to win it in front of the United fans instead. After coming back to beat the blues 3-2. United then lost at home to West Brom to hand City the title, 24 hours after City beat Spurs 3-1 at Wembley.
City marched on, and despite losing the Champions League second leg to Liverpool, the blues became the first team to reach 100 Premier League points by beating Southampton 1-0 on the final day of the season.
The blues set off again at a blistering pace the following season, winning five out of the first seven matches, and were once again banging in the goals. 6-1 at home to Huddersfield, 5-0 at Cardiff, 5-0 and 6-1 at home to Burnley and Southampton and City were threatening more records. But the blues wobbled a little in December, with a 2-0 loss at Chelsea, followed by a shock 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace. A 2-1 loss at Leicester on Boxing Day cast doubt on City’s chances to become the first team in ten years to retain the Premier League title.
The blues ended the year seven points behind leaders Liverpool and the two were to face off in the first game of the New Year for both sides. The match was notable for a few things – Sergio Aguero’s amazing finish from a tight angle, City’s inability to keep a clean sheet and 1.12cm.
On 18 minutes, Sadio Mane’s shot hit the post and, in his efforts to clear, John Stones hit the ball against keeper Ederson. With the rebound trickling towards the goal, somehow Stones cleared it through the legs of the onrushing Salah and away. With Liverpool claiming a goal, goal-line technology declared the while of the ball hadn’t crossed the line by 1.12cm, keeping the score at 0-0. Aguero scored five minutes before half time, Roberto Firmino levelled in the second half, but Leroy Sane won it for City to end Liverpool’s unbeaten run.
The blues reached the League Cup Final again by thrashing Burton Albion 10-0 on aggregate and faced Chelsea at Wembley, while in the Premier League, City decided to make hard work of retaining the title by losing at Newcastle and allowing Liverpool to go five points clear at the top. But something clicked in the blues following that defeat that sent them on the most amazing run. With fourteen games left, the blues knew they had to win them all to keep the pressure on Liverpool and hope the reds slipped up. And slip up they did.
City won all their remaining games, as well as all their FA Cup ties as the blues returned to Wembley and once again, the quadruple was on. Spurs and VAR played their part in stopping City winning all four, but the blues made a clean sweep domestically, becoming the first team ever to win the all three and the Community Shield in one season.
The last day of the season saw the blues at Brighton, and despite the Seagulls taking the lead, the blues hit back to win 4-1 with goals from Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan to win back to back league titles. And just six days later, the blues brought home the treble as Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus scored a brace each as the blues hammered Watford 6-0 at Wembley.
But 2019 wasn’t all plain sailing for the blues and, as we enter a new decade, City find themselves fourteen points off the pace, having lost five games so far this season. The title looks gone and even the best of teams have an off season. It was always going to be difficult to emulate the feats of last season, so while 2019 may end on a bit of a sour note, 2020 may well see a City resurgence.
But it’s amazing to see just how far the club has come in such a short space of time. Twenty years ago we could only dream of winning one trophy, yet last season we had four. What can we achieve in the next ten years?