Upbeat Man City
MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Flashing rarely sighted smiles, unruffled by the prospect of taking on Barcelona, Manuel Pellegrini personified the calm and confidence at Manchester City where chaos once reigned.
Even a declaration that City are now the dominant power in Manchester didn’t seem so farfetched, albeit unusually eye-catching from a manager renowned for his intentionally bland public comments.
Rather than attempting to set off a verbal skirmish with Manchester United, this was just a statement of fact yesterday by a manager with a spring in his step ahead of the biggest European game in the club’s long, but not so illustrious, history.
Well, not compared with United’s.
That could all be changing, Pellegrini predicts. Barcelona’s previous trips to Manchester for competitive games have always been to Old Trafford, failing to win on four visits against United.
But the Spanish champions will play a first competitive game against City today, in the Champions League round of 16, facing a team third in the Premier League while United are fading in seventh and unlikely to qualify for European soccer’s elite competition next season.
“If we only consider this season, there is just one club in Manchester and it’s ours,” Pellegrini said in Spanish. “But you cannot forget what United has done in the previous years. We are aiming to keep growing by winning many trophies – not just national but international trophies. We are fighting for four titles this year.”
Just 15 years ago, though, City were in the depths of the third tier of English soccer before embarking on an uneasy ascent back from the wilderness.
After returning to the Premier League in 2002 and staying in business when they faced oblivion, the wealth of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family has enabled City to become the biggest spenders in world soccer since 2008.
The takeover had City supporters start to dream about knocking United off their pedestal, but despite winning the Premier League in 2012, only since Alex Ferguson’s retirement from United last year has the balance of power looked as if it was seriously shifting.
“We have to be patient because you cannot change the team from one day to another,” Pellegrini said. “We have to keep the philosophy of the style and for that you need time.”