Viet Nam News
by Paul Kennedy
I don’t really know that much about Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan although it’s safe to say he has far more money than I can ever dream of. And believe me, I can dream of a lot.
Ten years ago, Sheik Mansour bought Manchester City football club for a reported £210 million (VNĐ6.5 trillion).
The season before the member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi decided to splash the cash, they finished ninth in the Premier League but since his investment, the only way has been up.
They have won the Premier League three times, the FA Cup and last weekend for the fourth time they won the Football League Cup.
Money well spent or success bought? City fans don’t care either way as long as the side is winning trophies.
And right now, that’s exactly what they are doing.
For many years, generations in fact, Manchester City lived in the shadows of their wealthier and far more successful rivals, Manchester United but in the last five or six seasons the tide has turned.
That said, despite their wealth, talent, and success, City are still a small club.
A report earlier this year revealed that on average, there are nearly 10,000 empty seats whenever they play at home.
Their stadium may be called the Etihad but it’s more commonly known by rival supporters as the Empty-had.
It must be pointed out that as a spectator sport, Premier League football certainly doesn’t come cheap.
The so-called ‘real supporters’ who were brought up in the shadows of Maine Road have effectively been priced out of modern day football.
Once you factor in a couple of beers before or after the game, a match day programme, tickets for you and your two kids plus burgers at half time, the price of supporting your team adds up.
Multiply that by the 20-odd games a season plus domestic and European cup ties home and abroad, then you’d need a bank balance akin to that of the Sheik himself to be able to comfortably afford to follow your favourite team.
On the pitch, there’s no doubt Manchester City are one of, if not the, greatest teams in England. And with Pep Guardiola pulling the strings, they also possess probably the best manager in Europe.
Factor all this in and those supporters who do go to the matches have probably gotten a little too used to their team winning each week. It’s almost expected when City play at home.
And this sort of complacency can have dangerous consequences.
When the score is 0-0 with 10 minutes to go, no matter how good the players are, they need that ‘12th man’ to dig deep and help suck the ball into the net.
Manchester United have that, Liverpool too, but not City.
Although I’m watching from thousands of miles away from the comfort of my Hà Nội home, it’s still plain to see how flat the atmosphere is when City play at home.
Liverpool and United are often mocked for being a ‘day-trippers’ club. Ask any Everton supporter where most Liverpool fans come from and you’ll probably be told in a pretty poor Scandinavian accent, “Norway”.
And that’s true to an extent, but also exactly the reason why Liverpool and United are far bigger clubs than Manchester City.
Take a look around Việt Nam.
You’ll see plenty of Grab bikes here in Hà Nội with stickers of the Manchester United crest on the petrol tanks and lots of people wearing the football strips of Liverpool, Chelsea and even Arsenal. But not that many (I’ve seen one in a year) in City shirts.
This season City are joint favourites to win the Premier League, and have already chalked off one trophy in their quest for a historic quadruple.
But for this to happen they need something extra, something that right now, they don’t have, and that’s the 12th man.
Money can buy you diamond players and make you feel alright, but it can’t always buy you love. — VNS