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Monday 21 January 2019

Comment: Manchester City may always be viewed as impostors on a football landscape that will never accept them as giants

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and United boss Jose Mourinho set to clash again on Saturday
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and United boss Jose Mourinho set to clash again on Saturday
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Manchester City are set be crowned as Premier League champions in the most glorious fashion imaginable on Saturday, but a harsh reality has long since bitten their manager Pep Guardiola and the club's owners.

Victory against local rivals Manchester United will confirm City's long-since inevitable coronation as the kings of English football, with the symbolism of United being the side beaten to seal the title not lost on anyone in the soccer-mad city of Manchester.

Guardiola's comprehensive domination of United boss Jose Mourinho can only be viewed as embarrassing for the Old Trafford club that has viewed the local foes with jovial pity down the years, with the style divide that separates these two sides arguably more damaging to the United manager than the huge points gap City establish before Christmas.

City have humiliated United this season and Saturday will be their chance to rub their noses into the Etihad Stadium turf on a day City fans who have followed the club during their less glorious years have every right to relish, yet the reality is that whatever success City may have under Guardiola's watch in the next few years, their desire to be recognised as one of the truly big clubs of the world club may never come to pass.

Football's hierarchy was established long before Sheikh Mansour bought City a decade ago and transformed them from being the paupers of Manchester football into one of the world's wealthiest clubs overnight.

The vast investment from his Abu Dhabi-based consortium may have propelled City to previously unimaginable success, but history suggests their trophy triumphs will not give them the credibility their owners crave.

Yet as Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have discovered after similarly lavish investment from oil-rich investors in recent years, glories on the field do not automatically translate into an offer to join the teams that have dined at the game's top table for a century and more.

Pep Guardiola won his first trophy as Man City boss as he lifted the Carabao Cup in February

City are playing football few have seen from an English football in recent football history and have been installed as the bookies favourites to win this seasons Champions League - could have dreamed of that scenario when they were in the third tier of English football not so long ago - and yet the adulation that should be coming their way is absent. Many football fans resent their fabricated success and the long term damage to the Premier League adds to their annoyance.

Statistics suggest that TV viewing figures, newspapers sales and website hits are still being dominated by the Premier League's enduringly big clubs, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal still boasting a deeper long-term fan base, while Everton, Newcastle and Championship sides such as Leeds and Aston Villa benefiting from long-established and historic support that is not affected by their lack of succes. In truth, Manchester City don't

Traditional football fans who support the club their fathers and grandfathers followed display a bitter animosity towards what they view as the 'fabricated' gate-crashers trampling on their parade, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger coining the phrase 'financial doping' to describe the methods used by Chelsea and Manchester City to buy their way to success.

Of course, Wenger has more reason than most to despise the cash injections from oil-rich owners as his Arsenal team were the kings of English football before Roman Abramovich changed the rules of the game when he bought Chelsea in 2003, with City's fortune in finding another benefactor promoting an agenda way beyond sport adding to the woes of English football's traditional giants.

Yet despite a succession of trophy wins and sustained success for a decade and more, Chelsea's failure to realise their stated aim of becoming the 'Manchester United of the south of England' - as mapped out by their former chief executive Peter Kenyon - and that chastening acceptance may have contributed to Abramovich's reluctance to continue his spending policy as he has reverted to a more prudent transfer plan in recent years.

01Soccer _ Roman Ab.jpg
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Photo: PA

What happens if Abramovich loses interest in his sporting play-thing and decides to sell it on, demanding back the £1billion debt the club owe him in the process?

Where will Man City turn if their owners decide they have done enough to promote tourism in Abu Dhabi and sell on their investment for a huge profit in years to come to new owners who are not prepared to share their bottomless reservoir of cash?

They are questions that will be answered a some point in the coming years and at that point, it is possible that Chelsea and Manchester City will be exposed for what their 'big-name' rivals will always want them to be - brief impostors on a football landscape that will never accept them as giants.

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