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Why Manchester United are still the team to beat
As Vincent Kompany lifted Manchester City’s first English league title for 44 years there was a feeling that the pendulum of power had swung to the blue half of Manchester with Mancini himself predicting a ‘big future’ for City.
Undoubtedly City are going to be a major force in the next couple of seasons with the array of talent they have and the resources afforded to them by Sheikh Mansour, but with six weeks until the new season has the pendulum really swung? Or is it just a temporary blip for United?
In reality last season there was little to choose between the two Manchester clubs. United, up until City’s dramatic comeback in injury time against Q.P.R looked destined to lift their twentieth league title. Even after the Citizens late comeback both teams finished with a total of 83 points. Also, United uncharacteristically threw away an eight point lead with six games to go, and were without the pivotal Nemanja Vidic who missed the season through injury. Add to this Uefa’s financial fair play regulations that should subdue City’s spending power and suddenly the so called swing of power could be seen as a temporary shift, one that Ferguson has seen many times before.
The Scot has become the master of seeing off clubs that have risen quickly with the help of a rich benefactor, from Jack Walker and Blackburn in the nineties to Abramovich’s billions at Chelsea. Sheikh Mansour and City’s endless pool of resources is the Scot’s latest challenge.
Every so often a team challenges United’s dominance, Ferguson’s response has always been to assemble another title winning team. The signs are there that a new team is beginning to emerge.
Although criticized, United’s transfer policy has been aimed at acquiring young talented players, many of them English. Considerable amounts have been invested in the purchases of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Anderson, Javier Hernandez, David De Gea and more recently Crewe’s wonder kid Nick Powell. Alongside these players are academy products such as Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverly that the club has developed.
Although many of these players are not the finished article, last season they showed glimpses of the talent that is only going to grow over the coming seasons. The ability is there for this group to develop in to one of Ferguson’s infamous teams that could dominate English football for years to come which means City’s stay at the top may be short lived.
Another argument for the shift in power is that City have the edge in the transfer market being able to offer bigger transfer sums and considerably more in wages. However, with the introduction of the financial fair play regulations starting to come in to effect from next season City’s spending will have to be curved, they simply do not produce enough turnover to sustain the fees and wages they are paying. In the financial year of 2010-2011 they announced losses of a staggering £197 million. The new regulations state that the maximum losses over a three-year period will be £45 million pounds therefore City can not carry on to pay over inflated wages. The guardian quotes City’s chief operating office Graham Wallace as stating with reference to the clubs finances:
‘Our losses which we predicted are part of accelerated investment strategy, which will not be repeated on this scale in the future.’
The Citizens seem to be recognizing that their spending needs to be curbed if they are to escape UEAF’s sanctions. With this and United’s superior turnover they will be able to challenge City in terms of fees and wages.
Both teams will be challenging for major honors in the future but to say that the power has shifted to the blue half of Manchester is premature. With six weeks to go to the season the title will more than likely be decided between the two giants of Manchester.
William Hill offers odds of 5/4 for Manchester City for the title and United just outside that at 5/2. This season City as champions are rightly favorites but in the long term United have the framework, young players and manager to dominate English football for a little longer yet.