Why City are once again the favourites of ‘neutral’ fans

It’s an alien concept to a whole generation of Manchester City supporters to think City were once – by and large – the nation’s favourite ‘second team’, the one for which opposition fans had a bit of a ‘soft spot’.

It stemmed from always being in the shadow of the loathed neighbours from Trafford Borough. City were the antithesis of Fergie’s arrogant, big spenders who dominated English football. The levels of pity for hapless, hopeless City grew exponentially with each piece of silverware picked up by United.

Favourite Son – SWP had to be sold to Chelsea in 2005 amid a financial crisis at City.

Similarly, there was sympathy when City – facing financial ruination – were forced to sell Shaun Wright-Phillips, the only jewel left in the club’s tarnished crown in the summer of 2005. Jose Mourinho had Roman Abramovich pay £21m for the 24-year old winger – so idolised by the City faithful – only to reduce him to a bit-part player at Chelsea.

SWP had wanted to stay at City, but money talks and City were desperate for the dosh, as they struggled to stay in business. No ifs, buts or maybes, City were a selling club.

Three years later, Sheikh Mansour completed his takeover of a City in even greater turmoil, thanks to the ‘exploits’ of wayward owner, Thaksin Shinawatra.

As the so-called ‘oil money’ flooded in, all the affection for City dried up. Those who had previously pitied poor old City were now consumed with envy. Why hadn’t their club been chosen by Sheikh Mansour and been handed this incredible opportunity? Why was it City and not their team?

Game changer – Sheikh Mansour’s investment in 2008 set City on a different path.

From 2008 City were popular, but with an entirely different audience – clubs wanting to ‘relieve’ City of some of their new found wealth.

Whenever City came calling, transfer fees rocketed. The City gravy train rolled in and everybody climbed on board. A case of ‘think of a number and add an extra nought on the end’.

Fees for Kolo Toure (£16m) Roque Santa Cruz (£18m) Emmanuel Adebayor (£25m) and Joleon Lescott (£27m), might not seem exorbitant nowadays, where nobody bats an eyelid at £50m full backs, but they were grossly overinflated back in 2009.

The then City manager, Mark Hughes and the City hierarchy knew they were paying over the odds, but the club was in a hurry to progress, before UEFA’s perversely named ‘Financial Fair Play’ regulations, kicked in.

Of course, the FFP saga rumbles onto this day. City continue to fight the hypocritical, corrupt bureaucrats at UEFA, with potential courtroom battles looming on the horizon.

It’s easy to forget that it was Mark Hughes who had the foresight to sign Vincent Kompany for City, just days before the investment from Abu Dhabi.

In fairness, the much maligned Hughes, must be credited with recruiting Vincent Kompany (£7m) and Pablo Zabaleta (£6.45m) just days before Sheikh Mansour’s sensational takeover. He also oversaw the return of City’s prodigal son, SWP, for £8.5m, and had the foresight to acquire Nigel De Jong for £18m.

Sheikh Mansour’s deep coffers could also buy timeless class and outrageous ability. David Silva (£24m) Yaya Toure (£24m) and Sergio Aguero (£38m) were veritable bargains for Roberto Mancini.

Pellegrini’s main success was Fernandinho (£34m). Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne were acquired on Manuel’s watch, albeit they only truly flourished under Pep Guardiola.

Eliaquim Mangala looked magnificent on his City debut against Chelsea, but sadly it just never worked out for the French defender at the Etihad.

Sadly, Eliaquim Mangala is a £32m or £42m (depending on who you believe) example of when it all goes wrong. Still only 28-years old, his five years at the Etihad have yielded just 71 starts and eight substitute appearances. He looks Valencia bound on a loan/free transfer this month.

Under Pep, City have broken their transfer record three times; Aymeric Laporte (£57m) Riyad Mahrez (£60m) and, most recently, Rodri at £62.5m.

The 23-year old, Spanish defensive midfielder is already looking like a sound investment – something of a trend since Guardiola started calling the shots, with his friend,Txiki Begiristain getting the deals over the line.

New £60m Portuguese right back, Joao Cancelo from Juventus, seems well set to be another sound acquisition.

Start as you mean to go on – Rodri picked up his first bit of English silverware with the Community Shield win over Liverpool.

With back-to-back Premier League titles (198 points amassed in two seasons and records broken left, right and centre), two consecutive League Cups and an FA Cup Final victory (hence the only English club to ever win a domestic treble), this is already arguably THE best team in Premier League history.

It’s likely to improve still further, despite the loss of inspirational leader Vincent Kompany. The Treble was won, ostensibly without long term absentees Benjamin Mendy and KDB. It can only add to any optimism this season, if both are fit and available for the majority of the campaign.

Leroy Sane’s ACL injury is a massive setback for both player and club. Fingers crossed he’ll return next Spring, having committed his future to the club well beyond 2021.

Sad sight as Sane sustains a serious ACL injury – but City fans hope he’ll commit his long term future to Pep Guardiola’s team.

Obviously, City are no longer pitied by ‘neutral’ fans.

No, what we now have from every true football aficionado is admiration and an appreciation of Pep’s mesmerising interpretation of the ‘Beautiful Game’. It also helps when you’re the team going head-to-head with Liverpool for a Premier League title and the overwhelming majority of the nation detests the ‘Dippers’.

City are no longer compelled to sell their best players to predators – much to the annoyance of the arrogant cabbage-munchers from Bayern Munich. I believe the correct term is sauerkraut.

Finally, avaricious owners and chairmen of clubs can no longer rub their grasping, grubby hands with glee, at the prospect of robbing City blind in player transactions.

City landed Joao Cancelo from Juventus in a deal that saw the ever popular Danilo go in the opposite direction.

City now play hard, but fair in the transfer market. Txiki and Pep have a valuation of a player and, if it doesn’t fit with that of the selling club, any potential deal ends, there and then.

According to pernicious elements of the media, City ‘miss out’ on major signings, or are ‘snubbed’ by key targets. The reality is City simply withdraw any interest. Just ask Harry Maguire, Alexis Sanchez, Fred or Jorginho.

City haven’t suffered too much in the past two seasons as a result of these ‘non-transfers’.

Things are looking up for Pep! The sky’s the limit for Guardiola and his exciting team.

Instead of ‘shots fired’ it seems more like a track record of ‘bullets dodged’ from City’s perspective. Long may it continue.

It’s all light years removed from a priceless pearl of wisdom, served up by Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2008 when City splashed £32m on Robinho from Real Madrid:

“City’s deadline day move for Robinho speaks volumes for their club and its new owners. Disorganised, happy to overspend and no regard for the stability of the transfer market. Panic buying is something we never have and never will do at United.”

Oops! Nice one Fergie.


By David Walker



While Pep and his City team set out to battle for the four major prizes in English and European football, this article is dedicated to two incredibly brave and stoical Blues who are fighting for the ultimate prize – life! Read But Never Red has Cliff Perry and Lee Welland in our thoughts and in our hearts as they take on Cancer and Fight Til The End.

Just make sure that ‘End’ is long, long away on a farthermost sky blue horizon on a very very distant day.


www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu



  1. August 12, 2019  1:46 pm by Steve Barker Reply

    Let's hope we have no late slip ups in the Champions League this year Spurs was a sad day when we had the best chance ever to progress all the way.
    The future is bright the future is Sky Blue

    • August 12, 2019  2:42 pm by David Walker Reply

      Pep's right not to speculate about quadruples and the like, but we all know the capabilities of this City squad and, despite the loss of Kompany, the addition of Rodri and Cancelo actually make us stronger. Add in, a hopefully fully fit KDB and Mendy and we will take some beating both domestically and in Europe.

  2. August 12, 2019  1:54 pm by By Reply

    I love it. I have missed you. Good article. Our number one enemy is the fans of our rivals in the sky sport and media. Doing anything to make us sad . By we are the most run club and have the best manager

    • August 12, 2019  2:39 pm by David Walker Reply

      Actions speak louder than words - they certainly have in the past two seasons - so let's hope Pep and City are once again, men of action. Who cares what the muppet pundits have to say? If we keep playing the way we do and always strive to improve - it's Pep's way - then we'll be doing okay come May 2020. Thanks for your comments.

  3. August 12, 2019  2:27 pm by Allan Reply

    Usual good read.
    Funny how when Levy robbed us blind he was financially astute. Now he has having to pay the price, literally as well as metaphorically and it's our fault. We now won't pay inflated prices or let our players go on the cheap and we are skinflints. We can't do right for doing wrong, oh except we have won 7 of the last 8 domestic trophies available. That seems right to me.
    Also I did predict that the press would jump on the bandwagon and they have. I even saw on Sunday Supplement that, is it Custus? (He claims to be a Newcastle supporter but is in ecstasy about the rags) said City are great to watch.

    • August 12, 2019  2:37 pm by David Walker Reply

      Ah yes, Custis The Fat One, Jose Mourinho's Apologist in Chief while he was at The Swamp. He is actually a Newcastle fan. He was just a couple of rows away from me at the Etihad when City won last season. He had his kids with him so I left him alone. I think the media's Merseyside Love In still has a long way to go and there won't be many offering fulsome praise for Pep. It'll all be through gritted teeth as per usual, but who cares if City are simply the best? Thanks Allan.

  4. August 12, 2019  3:11 pm by Bill Glas Reply

    Always a good read, David. Thank you.
    Your point about Mark Hughes is spot on as well. We never did give him the full credit he deserved for recruiting, Vinny, Pablo and NDJ. His managerial abilities did not fit City’s ambition, however, and we saw him shoved unceremoniously through the exit door. I felt at the time that it was not one of the club’s proudest moments, but football management is, as we all know, a merciless business. Another two managers later, and we are now where we want to be. Let’s hope Pep stays with us for a long time.

    • August 12, 2019  3:36 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Bill. Yes, 10+ years of Pep would be rather bloody splendid wouldn't it? We'd be talking dynasties and legacies like never before plus so many trophies and cherished memories. These really are the best of times. We are truly blessed by the football Gods.

  5. August 12, 2019  3:52 pm by Pete lynch Reply

    Top read David. Shared with friends.

    • August 12, 2019  4:20 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks fella - the more the merrier.

  6. August 12, 2019  3:55 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    Very good David.
    The rise of City from the bad old days, even if it was good fun playing at 1500 hours every Saturday and going to Wycombe at al. The progression from MH, RM, MP, and now PEP has been superb, not only for the quantity of trophies but the entertaining and near perfect football we play..
    As you pointed out and I think is very noteworthy - in the transfer market we have a price for a player and stick to it whether we get that player or not.
    Of all red fans we have known and some still know they are now not in the arrogant state they were when they used to high five each other when it was CITY ( Conference In Two Years) jests !!
    As one said last May : we are 5 years behind City !
    The one blip on our progression is the Champs League. Unloved by some blues but a "must" for our owners.
    4 trophies this year ? Maybe not, just keep entertaining us City !

  7. August 12, 2019  8:33 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Nice one Dave 👍. I remember well people saying your City fan, I've always liked City they are my second favourite team. I wish I had a pound for ever time that has been said to me. Now even utd fans like us if we put one over on the bin dippers. Good point about Hughes he bought in some legends for us. Be nice to proceed in C/L this year but we will eventually I'm sure.

    • August 12, 2019  11:33 pm by David Walker Reply

      What's to dislike about Pep? Maybe not a question to put to the Spanish Government with reference to Catalan independence or the vile Dippers, but other than that audience, everybody can see him as a genius, a gentleman, a guy with a sense of honour and integrity, humorous and oozing charisma. The finest ambassador and leader any sports 'franchise' could ever wish for. We are 'so,so' lucky to have him. He has helped make us so many people's second favourite team. Thanks Doug.

  8. August 12, 2019  9:32 pm by Levenshulme-Blue Reply

    You're right to focus on the transfer market, Dave. If I'm honest, I think City have played a blinder. I'm pretty sure that most clubs know who their rivals want and everyone knew that united wanted Maguire, especially as we'd let it be known that we were interested in him. Just as we did with Fred. Just as with Sanchez. Now, we may have had *some* interest but once figures go silly, we walk away, leaving united to pay more money than they needed for s player that they thought they were denying us but isn't necessarily suitable for their needs. We then get to plead financial probity in the face of the howling dogs of FFP.

    Lovin' yer work, City, lovin' it.

    • August 12, 2019  11:35 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yep, Pep, Txiki, Ferran and Khaldoon have things running in sync don't they. Dangle a carrot and the asses from Old Trafford are first out of the enclosure! Cheers fella.

  9. August 16, 2019  4:38 am by Jonathon Whitaker Reply

    Nearly missed this! Good read as usual. Muy bueno amigo

    • August 16, 2019  10:13 am by David Walker Reply

      Muchas gracias por tus palabras mi amigo.

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