Debate: Even with Premier League title win, how successful will Manchester City or United’s season really have been?

By Sean-Paul Doran

Manchester is bracing itself for the thrilling conclusion of the 2011/12 Premier League title race, arguably the most intriguing in recent times.

By 5pm on Sunday the much sought-after trophy will be decked in either blue or red ribbons, and the battle-weary players of both sides can take a well-earned rest and reflect on the season gone by.

Only one set of players will have fond memories of the 2011/12 season years from now, but can the winners truly be pleased with their accomplishments?

Not even Sky Sports’ best advertising whizzes will be able to claim this has been anything other than an absolute failure for the runners-up of this season’s title race, and the winners can’t be completely happy with their efforts.

Don’t let the thrill and excitement of Sunday’s king-making ceremony hide the fact that this has been a relatively poor season for both of Manchester’s flagship clubs, especially with the resources available to both.

This week has seen Manchester City and Manchester United players, past and present, speak of the imminent Mancunian domination of football.

However, the bare, shameful fact of the matter is that you will be able to count the number of new trophies residing in Manchester come Sunday evening on one finger, excluding the irrelevant Community Shield of course.

For all the hundreds of millions of pounds poured into the playing side of both clubs in recent years, that’s an embarrassing figure and no amount of predictable spin doctoring in the media can change that fact.

Of course, a first Premier League title for the Blues will be a fantastic achievement, especially given the circumstances Mancini’s side have contended with all season.

It will be a great starting point for Sheikh Mansour’s vision for the club and given the heavy investment into all aspects of the club, the future certainly looks bright for their previously success-starved fans.

Whether a club with the resources available to them should be winning more is a question that has been more than covered in the media, but all the accusations of lack of team spirit and cohesion on the field have proved incorrect and Blues fans have reason to be hopeful for the next campaign.

The red side of Manchester have become accustomed to shiny new trophies taking pride of place in the first-to-burst Old Trafford trophy cabinet, but it looks likely that this season will go down in history as their worst since 2004/05.

The fact that it is their noisy neighbours who look set to pip them at the post of the title race will not go unappreciated either.

This season saw an FA Cup exit to old rivals Liverpool, a Carling Cup defeat to unfancied Crystal Palace, a group stage farewell in the Champions League and a shock exit at the hands of Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League.

Not good enough for a club with the proud history and tradition the Reds have.

Manchester City fared little better in the cups – bowing out of their debut Champions League season at the first hurdle, albeit with a tougher group than their neighbours.

The media circus around Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli didn’t help, nor did the Toure brother’s – Yaya and Kolo – jaunt to the African Cup of Nations in January.

Despite being able to name two different starting XI’s that could strike fear into the hearts of any other club in the world, they have failed to build on the early promise of the season.

One thing is for certain, however, the Premier League trophy will remain in the geographic boundaries of Greater Manchester regardless of how Sunday pans out.

A winnable game against QPR should see the Etihad revelling in celebration come Sunday tea-time as the club join the elite group of clubs to have their name engraved on the famous trophy.

However, as the dust settles on another captivating Premier League season, there will be plenty for Messrs Mancini and Ferguson to ponder upon as they plan their preparations for another assault on the title next season.

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