x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Man City score six and mark new era

The takeover of Manchester City football club was sealed with an emphatic 6-0 home victory in front of ecstatic fans.

Shaun Wright-Phillips celebrates scoring Manchester City's fourth goal with team mate Robinho.
Shaun Wright-Phillips celebrates scoring Manchester City's fourth goal with team mate Robinho.

ABU DHABI // The takeover of Manchester City football club was sealed yesterday with an emphatic 6-0 home victory in front of ecstatic fans and a direct pledge from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed that the new owners would "act always in the best interests of the club". Announcing the formal completion tomorrow of the sale to Sheikh Mansour's private equity holding, Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG), the club also revealed that Khaldoon al Mubarak, the head of Mubadala Development Company, had been appointed chairman. Mr Mubarak is a close friend of Sheikh Mansour.

Calling the supporters of Manchester City "the greatest fans in the world", Sheikh Mansour's open letter, posted on a club website, also offered the first detailed insights into the new board's plans for the first English Premier League club to come under Middle Eastern ownership. In contrast to initial promises of major trophies within three years, Sheikh Mansour played down short-term expectations, saying: "We are ambitious for the club, like you, but not unreasonably so and we understand it takes time to build a team capable of sustaining a presence in the top four of the Premier League and winning European honours."

Describing himself as "a football fan", Sheikh Mansour said fans would "soon see that I am now also a Manchester City fan". He reassured supporters he was "a long-term investor and that is probably more important to the club and to you because it means we are here for the long haul and that we will act always in the best interests of the club and all of its stakeholders, but especially you the fans".

There was also full support for the club's current manager, Mark Hughes, who was described as "absolutely integral to our plans" and "the best young British manager; someone who has been successful on the global stage, the Premier League and of course as a player". The letter also cooled down initial reports of a massive spending spree on new players such as Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal, instead stressing the importance of home-grown talent.

While the club would seek to "bring in the best players in the world", the new owners would "also want to see the academy continue to develop talent and give Mark Hughes the chance to bring home-grown players into the team", Sheikh Mansour said. With some media reports in Britain wrongly claiming the club had been bought from the previous owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, former prime minister of Thailand, by the Government of Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, Sheikh Mansour also made it clear that the purchase was his alone "as part of my personal business strategy to hold a wide portfolio of business investments".

Explaining his business strategy, Sheikh Mansour said: "In cold business terms, Premiership football is one of the best entertainment products in the world and we see this as a sound business investment. That being said, we understand that we need to put money in to get the club to where we believe it can be - and where we think you the fans want it to be." He also promised to protect the club's traditions and role in the local community saying: "We will make sincere efforts to back these initiatives and ensure that Manchester City loses none of its role in Manchester beyond football and we want the club to continue to contribute to the community it represents."

The new chairman of the club had been asked, he said, to "put together a board and executive team that is worthy of the heritage and potential of Manchester City". Sheikh Mansour expressed regret at not being able to attend yesterday's home game with Portsmouth, but said he would be "glued to the screen and cheering the team on". He urged supporters to welcome the new chairman, who watched the comprehensive victory over Premier League rivals Portsmouth from the stands at Eastlands and joined the applause as the team left the field.

In a separate statement, Mr Mubarak said: "We are looking towards the long-term development of Manchester City. The club boasts three foundation assets that are hard to ignore - its unique and passionate fan base, a strong management team and an academy that is arguably the best in the country. There is a huge potential to build on these assets to ensure the club achieves the ultimate levels of success."