x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Yaya Toure's duty: Make history with Manchester City

The Ivorian midfielder admires United and Barcelona blueprint, and wants to help Manchester's 'other' team scale those heights, says Richard Jolly.

Yaya Toure has proven to be trouble for Manchester United, first with Barcelona and now with crosstown rivals Manchester City.
Yaya Toure has proven to be trouble for Manchester United, first with Barcelona and now with crosstown rivals Manchester City.

Manchester City are accustomed to having a demanding taskmaster.

Just not this particular one.

Yaya Toure conforms to the ste-reotype of the gentle giant, but there is a quiet intensity to him. Top of the table, plundering goals galore and arriving at Old Trafford able to look down on Manchester United, the Ivorian is anything but complacent.

His target, rather than the draw that will enable City to retain their lead at the top of the Premier League, is nothing less than the most significant derby triumph on enemy territory since Denis Law backheeled United to relegation in 1974.

"We can stay top for a long time, until the Premier League finishes, but we know it will be difficult because we have to go to Stoke, to Stamford Bridge [Chelsea], to Old Trafford, to Emirates Stadium [Arsenal]," he said. "To win the title we know we have to go there and win there."

Even the perfectionist, Roberto Mancini, would struggle to set a tougher target.

Yet a major test on their travels was passed emphatically, with a 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in August highlighting City's credentials.

Sunday, comes one of the most eagerly awaited derbies of all, the meeting of the neighbours that is already shaping up as a possible title decider. Should City realise the midfielder's ambitions, they will lead United by five points.

"This kind of derby now is unbelievable," Toure added. "It is fantastic for the city. If you win it is fantastic; if you lose, you go mad. It is massive, because we are almost at the same point." Almost because, while City have the advantage this season, United possess the pedigree trophies offer.

Enemies are also examples to Toure, who admires United's indefatigable spirit and their enduring ability to stage dramatic comebacks.

"United with [Sir Alex] Ferguson is a great example, because Ferguson makes this club. In football, when you score two goals, a game is finished. But when you play Man United, like in the Community Shield, we scored two goals [and led 2-0] and we lost 3-2, not because we are bad - we have a fantastic squad - but United did not step down ... they continued to fight until the last minute."

United's trophy cabinet would nevertheless need to be larger still but for Toure. He has served as their nemesis, helping snuff out Cristiano Ronaldo as an emergency centre-back in Barcelona's 2009 Champions League final triumph and scoring City's goal in last season's FA Cup semi-final victory.

"The semi-final was amazing, incredible," said Toure who staged a repeat by scoring another Wembley winner in the final against Stoke City.

That secured a first trophy in 35 years. The reaction overwhelmed Toure, whose three seasons at Barcelona equipped him with an understanding of a club where silverware is not so much celebrated as expected.

"When we won the FA Cup, all the people around the club were happy," he said. "It is incredible. It's not like Barcelona. When they win the league, it is normal."

Yet the quest is to become like his former employers. Barcelona are the blueprint, not just in their idiosyncratic style of play, but in their ethos. "The way Barcelona play, they play like that a long time," said Toure. "At Man City we try to find a way. That's why it's very important when your manager does well that you have to keep him for a long time, to let him make his mark on the club, because the first team, the second team, the third team, they have to all play the same way. That's the way Ferguson did it and that's the way Barcelona did it." It is why he is keen for Mancini, the City manager, to be rewarded with an extended contract.

"I think it is important to have stability because he is doing a fantastic job," siad the Ivorian. Theirs is a mutual admiration society.

In a side of stars, Mancini tailored his tactics against Villarreal in the Champions League on Tuesday to get Toure into positions of influence, first using him as a central midfielder and then in a more advanced role, where he helped power the City fightback.

"I prefer midfield," he said. "But for me the most important thing is contributing to the team." City have plenty of players capable of doing that. Tuesday's win against Villarreal, secured by Sergio Aguero deep into added time, also serves as a barometer for how far City have come. Taken in isolation, it gave City an extra two points in the Champions League.

When repeated, however, it is the stuff of champions as Toure, who has won titles in his native Ivory Coast and Greece, as well as Spain, recognises.

For him, however, City is the project that offers the chance of sporting immortality. It is why, he says, that bringing the Premier League trophy to Etihad Stadium would, rather than returning the Champions League to Barcelona, be a career-defining achievement.

"The first time I met Nasri or Silva or Aguero, they said to me 'Yaya, we have come here to make history', and we are excited to be part of this history," said Toure.

"When you go to Madrid or Barcelona, you don't go there to make history because they already have it, but this is special. In 2011, you have a big chance to make history for one club. If we win the Premier League this year, all the fans will go crazy about it.

"You can make history and for the rest of your life or after you die, people will continue to talk about what you did for the club.

"That's what I want."

sports@thenational.ae

Yaya Toure plays in PUMA V1.11 Speed boots, the lightest football boot PUMA has ever made


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