‘Champions League is different level’: Europe success crucial for Man City, says football historian

Manchester football historian Dr Gary James believes Manchester City’s success in the Champions League will negatively impact their rivals Manchester United.

Despite United still being in with a chance of winning the FA Cup and securing a top four Premier League finish, Dr James says even a good season could be underwhelming for the Red Devils in the shadow of City’s Champion League success.

The Manchester Metropolitan lecturer wrote Manchester – A Football History, and says history suggests the fortunes of the Manchester rivals’ are always alternating.

“Historically when one team has success it tends to impact on the other,” he told MM.

“You often find there are managerial changes, protests or demonstrations, like when United first won the league in 1992/93 there were protests against City’s chairman Peter Swales and within a year he was gone.

“United could see City experience their greatest ever success by winning the Champions League, maybe not this year but it seems likely at some point, and the rivalry between the clubs means that would negatively affect United.

“United could still finish in the top four and they might win the FA Cup so it could be a successful season for them but it won’t feel like one.

“It would be great for both United and City to be competing in the Champions League and in top four, that would help Manchester so much but it’s rare that both teams experience success at the same time.”

Dr James, who is a life-long City fan, says despite winning the Premier League in 2011/12 and 2013/14, success in the Champions League holds extra significance for the Etihad residents.

“In the 70s Manchester City competed in European football quite often and they had some great nights but football has changed so much since then,” he said.

“Winning the Premier League is a fantastic achievement but the Champions League is at a different level, it’s incredible.

“You’re in the company of Real Madrid and Barcelona and it makes you noticed around the world, and that’s fantastic for City.”

Pellegrini’s side found Madrid one hurdle too far, losing 1-0 over the two legs last week in the semi-finals.

But Dr James said that the strides taken this year bode well for the future.

“What matters more than anything else is that City have progressed and the confidence that comes from that,” he said.

“But there has been a lot of development in this team and when players have been out someone has always stepped up and it means people now look at Manchester City and don’t want to come up against them.”

Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal means that City’s qualification for next season’s premier European competition is no longer in their own hands.

If United beat West Ham away on Tuesday and Bournemouth at home on the final fixture of the season, and Arsenal overcome Aston Villa at the Emirates, then new manager Pep Guardiola will have to settle for a tilt at the Europa League.

Balancing the Premier League and Europe will be a challenge for Guardiola regardless of the competition, but Dr James believes the 45-year-old is up to the task.

“Pep has to eclipse City’s performance this season,” he said.

“There needs to be a serious challenge for the Premier League title and the Champions League is something that needs to be built on year after year.

“Teams change managers after successes, Chelsea have done it in the past, and I’m sure Pep can cope.”

Links to Dr James’ football research can be found on the Manchester Metropolitan website here.

Image couresy of Old El Paso, via Wikipedia, with thanks

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