x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Blue silverware

How sweet it is! Manchester City's FA Cup victory Saturday is a source of joy to the many UAE fans of the team, which is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed. Now, bring on the Uefa Champions League!

The famous banner at Old Trafford, updated every year, was a constant reminder from Manchester United fans about their rivals' enduring failures. This season it had read "35 years", the length of time since the cross-town club Manchester City last won any kind of trophy.

But after winning the FA Cup on Saturday, City's supporters unveiled a banner of their own: "0 years". The clock has been reset.

Significantly, Manchester City's 1-0 victory over Stoke City at Wembley came only hours after United had confirmed their record-breaking 19th league title, finally overtaking Liverpool.

Football fever aside, City has become a local team for many in the UAE. Thanks to the patronage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, who purchased the club in 2008, the Blues stand on the threshold of a new era. For long-suffering fans, nothing could be sweeter than upsetting United's two-decade dominance of English football.

And while the historic FA Cup victory has symbolic significance, perhaps more vital is City's qualification last Tuesday to next season's Uefa Champions League, now arguably the world's biggest club competition. There, they will rub shoulders with Europe's elite, teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan, as well as their local rivals.

After 35 years of hurt, City hope to do some damage of their own.