Describing something as “typical City” is a reference to the club shooting itself in the foot. Previously, it was brought up when discussing Jamie Pollock beating two men before heading the ball over his own goalkeeper to almost certainly doom the club to relegation to the third tier. Twenty-two years on it now seems to be a euphemism for financial doping.
The situation the club now finds itself in was an inevitability. Financial Fair Play was announced in 2009 and 11 years later it should not come as a surprise that someone would be found guilty of abusing it. City have done nothing illegal but few at the club seem to remember that they agreed to abide by Uefa’s rules and have been found to have broken them, which means they deserve to be punished. There is little to debate on that front.
Whether you agree with the rules is another question but the simple one for City fans at the moment is: has it all been worth it? Manchester City travel to Real Madrid in the knockout stages of the Champions League next week. When the two last met in the competition it was for a place in the final, which ended with the Spaniards progressing thanks to a single deflected goal over two legs. I left the Etihad Stadium after the goalless first leg disappointed, but by the time I was home I was laughing it off and reminiscing about away days at Grimsby and Port Vale, a sign of the surreal perspective change.
The away end at the Santiago Bernabéu will include many who were at Blundell Park and Vale Park, too. The Fondo Norte will be full of vitriol towards Uefa but also plenty of gallows humour but that is what City fans do best. Tens of thousands have witnessed the revolution which has taken place at Manchester City under Sheikh Mansour, a level of change which left us bewildered, taking the club from Darius Vassell to Sergio Agüero in the blink of an eye.
The City of Manchester Stadium, as the landlords christened it, was used to relegation battles and pointless Joey Barton corners before the investment arrived. In more recent times Kevin De Bruyne’s through balls and David Silva’s own brand of magic have been the order of the day. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has redefined the football in England thanks to his side’s all-action style, the most dramatic Premier League title finish ever was settled in injury-time by the club’s record goalscorer and, most importantly, Manchester United were put in their place with consistent thrashings.
When Agüero thrashed home the 93rd minute winner against QPR, the feeling of euphoria within the Etihad was priceless and no punishment can ever take that memory away from those who were there. Yaya Touré settling an FA Cup semi-final against United will not fade into the background either, with many ranking it above beating Stoke in the final to lift the club’s first meaningful silverware in 37 years, a feat unthinkable without the Sheikh’s money.
My morals have been loosened by chasing success across the continent from Dortmund to Barcelona. I have seen City fall short in the Champions League, having never even dreamed such fixtures would be possible growing up suffocating amid United’s consistent success. All football fans are extremely loyal to the club but City have helped themselves with a slick public relations operation to whip up the fans, with social media a hotbed of ire.
The supporters’ and the club’s relationship with Uefa and Champions League has been toxic for years. The club’s fans perform a live remix of the Champions League anthem at every game, adding a layer of boos, something which undoubtedly does not impress Uefa.
From the invention of FFP to CSKA Moscow’s stadium ban for racism being very loosely enforced, City fans have felt victimised by Uefa.
Fines for racism are paltry on all occasions and Uefa’s own president was forced out for his inappropriate dealings. City’s main crime, which has resulted in the punishment, is the deception of Uefa itself, something they required a hacker to prove, the only illegal activity to take place in this whole affair. There will be an appeal and City will fight the claims to the bitter end, adding to the Abu Dhabi rollercoaster, one the fans will ride to the bitter end.
The fans will be the forgotten victims within the scandal. City supporters are generally only remembered when they leave empty seats. The bond between a fan and club is hard to break and being guilty of deceiving an organisation you have little time for will not change the passion and feeling for City supporters who have witnessed success beyond their imagination.
If the punishment is upheld, players will almost certainly need to be sold in the summer and the club’s ambitions will immediately suffer a 10-year setback.
City fans are happy to reminisce about Colin Bell and Georgi Kinkladze, so should not worry too much about speaking about De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling in the past tense.
Not being in the Champions League for a couple of years, a potential points deduction and selling star players sound bad but Aleksander Ceferin and co have never witnessed losing at York or Craig Russell playing at left-back, so not seeing Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo rock up at the Etihad for a while is a small price to pay for the joy we have had.