LONDON // Tens of thousands of Manchester City fans rocked Eastlands Stadium as they roared a welcome for their new sporting hero. But this was not a new team signing - it was Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed making his first appearance in the directors' box at City's ground since his Abu Dhabi United Group bought the Premier League club almost two years ago.
The reception as he took his seat amounted to "adulation", the BBC said, as all but the few Liverpool supporters in the 47,000 crowd shouted their approval before the start of Monday's first home match of the season. Sheikh Mansour, smiling at the warmth of his reception, raised a right hand to wave as he acknowledged the applause ringing round the ground. On the field, his team did not disappoint, beating Liverpool 3-0 in their biggest win over the Merseyside club for more than 70 years.
"Sheikh Mansour proved an instant good luck charm as Manchester City brushed aside Liverpool last night to offer an early indication of their title credentials," The Times commented yesterday. The Daily Express added that the presence of Sheikh Mansour had a "galvanising effect on the team". It added: "It has taken him two years to find time in his busy schedule to actually watch Manchester City in the flesh, but his smile at the end indicated he felt it was well worth the wait. "Sheikh Mansour, dressed in a sober suit rather than his usual Arab thawb and flanked by chief executive Garry Cook and his chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, looked slightly embarrassed as his image was flashed up on the big screen to raucous applause from City fans just before kick-off." The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, said: "Sheikh Mansour watched a performance fit for a king," while even The New York Times carried a story headlined: "Manchester City Makes Big Showing for Owner." Roberto Mancini, the City manager, said after the victory that he wished Sheikh Mansour could be around every week to act as the team's lucky charm. "I spoke to him after the game and he was very happy," Mancini said. "It was the first time he saw City and we beat Liverpool so it was a good night. "We don't have time to celebrate with him because we have another match to prepare for in two days, but I hope the sheikh can come every week." Mancini also revealed that Sheikh Mansour had spoken to the team captain, Carlos Tevez, after the game and congratulated him on the win and, perhaps, on scoring two goals, although defender Micah Richards is claiming the first of them. The fans had their say yesterday in comments to the Manchester Evening News website. "I was just so happy I don't know what to say," Rita Fitton wrote. A fan going by the name Heavy Riff added: "It was great to see Sheikh Mansour at the game, he was grinning like a child throughout and obviously loves his football. Sheikh, we thank you." John Marah, another supporter, shared such sentiments. "Thank you Sheikh Mansour - the lads did you proud. Good to see you at the game. If you bring us this luck - can you come every week?" Phil McNulty, the BBC's chief football writer, wrote on the broadcaster's website yesterday: "Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan may have taken two years to visit his Eastlands empire - but Manchester City ensured the wait was worthwhile. "Sheikh Mansour's presence lifted spirits inside Eastlands even before a City side containing six England internationals delivered a performance fit for their affluent ruler. "And as he took the adulation of City's adoring fans, there was bitter irony for their Liverpool counterparts as they suffer the current power vacuum created by Tom Hicks and George Gillett [Liverpool's US owners who are trying to sell the club] and looked every inch the poor relations on and off the pitch." email@example.com