Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Does the Manchester City 3-1 win over Barcelona change anything?

It was a great night for Manchester City fans last night. They finally arrived at the top table of a Champions League match against one of the top teams and really took them on. Although the scoreline looks fantastic it was the way that they went about their gameplan that really stood out as what might well define Pep Guardiola's reign as Manchester City manager. Previous managers had gone into games like this with a defensive mindset and hoped to nick a goal. This Man City team took them on, not quite at their own game, but not too far off it.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't the all-conquering Barcelona side of the last ten years. Without the influence of Iniesta, Zavi, Dani Alves and Gerard Pique they looked not wuite up to the stanbdard of former glories. It is an evolving team. In the modern game all managers have to live up to the standards that Sir Alex Ferguson set when it comes to reinventing a team when the old guard become too old to perform to the highest standards week after week. Barcelona started with Umtiti, Sergi Roberto, Digne and Andre Gomes and I don't think any will go down in the club's history as famous players. They are good playes but not the level that Barcelona need. They will get away with it in their domestic league of La Liga Santander most of the time but the Champions league will show this team up. Even the amazing front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar won't be good enough to save this lot.

I spent time in Manchester last week as part of a series of blogs on the current state of football in the city. It felt a little depressing last week after the 4-0 defeat for United at Chelsea and the EFL Cup game being Pep's sixth game in a row without a win. While things haven't really got much better for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, City have had a brilliant few days. I spoke to John, a City supporter that is excited about what Pep can bring to the club but is a little cautious over what it might mean to the players that have brought the club success over the last few years. I spoke to him at the Etihad stadium.

"This club needs a manager to get us on an even keel. Roberto Mancini did great for the club. The first league title in my lifetime is something that we will never forget but he didn't seem as though he had a stable character. He went off at the deep end too many times and it was too much about his ego. Pellegrinio was the antidote to that. He calmed everyone down when the club looked like it was reaching boiling point.But it looked like he was dictated to by the star players. People like Yaya were far too strong for him.Pep brings his record of success as a player and a manager with him so they have ti stand up and take notice. He will get it right but I can see little or no future for Yaya Toure, for Vincent Kompany and diminishing roles for Sergio Aguero and David Silva. These are the heroes of this club over the last few years. It will be sad to see them go."

But the club have to buy into their manager lock stock and barrel, especially when he comes with almost a guarantee of success and a reputation for getting his own way. Manchester City have to bottle the feeling that the fans had last night and uncork it for every Champions League match. If they want to win the competition then they will have to repeat this performance.

And what a year it would be to win it, while their neighbours watch from afar. Manchester United have the Europa League to contend with this year but it is a million miles from the main draw of the Champions League. It is a painful watch for the red half of the city, as I found out when speaking to Sally while walking along the river in Salford.

"I don;t really want to talk about it. This is our competition. We have been the dominant English team in it for a long time but things have slipped away since Sir Alex left. Hopefully Mourinho is the answer. He has always had success."

But there was less hope in her vice than conviction. Manchester United are now seven points away from the last Champions League spot and sit behind Watford and Everton in the BPL. They need more than hope. What doesn't help is the fact that the manager doesn't seem to know his best team. Apart from the goalkeeper, Eric Bailly and Zlatan there have been changes as he tries to find a winning formula.The only thing that is obvious is the players that he really doesn't fancy. Things need to change drastically from here tosee them competing with the likes of City and Barcelona in next years Champions League.

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