What a difference a year makes. Just 366 days ago, Manchester City were an also-ran in English football. Their last real success, the League Cup, was more than 30 years ago. For the last league title, the old First Division championship, one would have to go back to 1968. Among its loyal fans, a common response to its failings was a weary "Typical City."
A year ago today, everything changed. The team has been revitalised with about Dh1.2 billion (US$326.7 million) supplied by its new owner, Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed. Emmanuel Adebayor, Gareth Barry, Robinho, Carlos Tévez and Joleon Lescott grace the team sheet, and City fans are giddy with hope and excitement. They may soon get reinforcements. Their shirt sponsor Etihad Airways is offering deals to take UAE fans to Manchester to watch their new favourite team. The deals are backed by a "Support Your City" advertising campaign that will be stepped up when City play the UAE national team in November.
The City project has its critics. Michel Platini, the president of the European football governing body UEFA, thinks City are spending far too much money. But the club's chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak responds that he is not saddling the club with debt. He has also spoken out against what he believes is the established order not wanting City to join the top table. The club's executive chairman, Garry Cook, says the way for that to change is to earn respect, by winning.
The manager, Mark Hughes, is familiar with success. He won two Premier League titles playing with Manchester United and played for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea. "We are still at the start of an incredible ride for Manchester City," he said.