Top Manchester teams face off
With just one swish of his right foot, Sergio Aguero’s stoppage-time goal against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the Premier League season in May clinched Manchester City’s first league title in 44 years and confirmed Manchester United was no longer the only soccer superpower in the northwest of England.
United’s players and manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, thought they had done enough to avoid such a fate. After they won their game at Sunderland, news filtered through that City was losing, 2-1, with just minutes to play, enough to give United the championship. Its fans were celebrating a record 20th title.
Then Edin Dzeko scored the equalizer, and Aguero provided the defining moment. City finished on top of the table on goal difference.
United and City will face off again Sunday, this time on the same field. And once again, they hold the top two spots in the league, with United three points ahead of City 15 games into the 38-game season.
Historically, the rivalry between City and United has been similar to that of the Mets and the Yankees. While one team strutted like rock stars, the other could only watch with envy.
Those days are gone. The Abu Dhabi United Group has pumped around $900 million into Manchester City since taking over in 2008. Many say City’s Premier League title has a price tag hung on it, but supporters say the money spent is irrelevant.
It was the team’s dramatic snatching of the league crown from its rival in May that was the most powerful statement.
One place City cannot yet claim to compete with United is the Champions League, where it was eliminated at the group stage for the second successive year.
In fact, City’s display this season was the worst ever recorded by an English team in the competition.
Ryan Giggs insisted this week that United’s biggest rivalry remains with Liverpool — the club it toppled as England’s most successful last year — but given the current shape of the Premier League, it is hard to believe him.
With Chelsea in transition — some might say disarray — Arsenal struggling with a transfer policy that almost habitually lets its best players leave every summer, and Liverpool embarking on reconstruction, the arrival of a compelling narrative in Manchester has been a welcome one. Manchester is undoubtedly England’s soccer capital, maybe the world’s.