The rise of Manchester City: From 93:20 to Pep’s dynasty

Sunday May 13, 2012. They needed a miracle.

It came via the right foot of an Argentinian.

“Manchester City are still alive here. Balotelli… AGUEROOOOOOOO!”

Commentator Martin Tyler’s voice was drowned out by an explosion of noise at the Etihad Stadium, as Man City snatched the Premier League crown from bitter rivals Manchester United with two injury-time goals.

It was an event which the top tier of English football hadn’t seen anything close to since 1989 – the famous Michael Thomas goal at Anfield for Arsenal – and proved to be a launch pad for the blue half of Manchester.

The decade since that goal has seen highs that fans could only have dreamt of before the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 – numerous trophies, high-profile signings, financial growth, academy development, and more.

Jordan Barrett – writer for CBBC’s ‘The Dumping Ground’ – grew up in Manchester with his brother as City fans, despite his family being from Newcastle.

He said: “I remember being quite nervous – it felt like typical City.

“We just made it hard for ourselves, that was always what we did.”

He recalled his brother going out for a smoke and a walk at 2-1 down to QPR that day, before Edin Dzeko equalised.

He said: “I ran downstairs, sprinted out the house and shouted [his brother] back in.

“We went mad when Aguero scored – the wardrobe broke! “I couldn’t believe it – suddenly, we’d reached the mountaintop.”

That famous goal capped off a momentous season for the Citizens, who had done the double over their neighbours in the league on their way to the title.

Their first meeting that year was the now-famous 6-1 demolition at Old Trafford, as Barrett remembered all too well.

He said: “The way we beat them that day, I couldn’t believe the dominance.”

Despite a stunning setback against unfancied Wigan Athletic in the following season’s FA Cup final, City bounced back to win the Premier League again in 2014.

As the decade went on, the team added more and more domestic honours to their trophy cabinet.

Pep Guardiola arrived in 2016, ushering in a new era of dominance in English football.

City have expanded throughout the world for decades, gaining many international fans.

Norwegian Ole Fuglestad is one such example – he has supported the club since 1985 and says his first game was the trigger for him.

He said: “Before that, I didn’t really have a team as such.

“From then, the club was mine and I’ve never looked back.”

Fuglestad is the press officer of the Scandinavian branch of the Official Supporters Club, which he joined in the late 1980s after seeing an advert in a Norwegian football magazine.

He said: “The Norway branch – now the Scandinavian branch – was founded in 1974.

“It was the first officially recognised supporters’ group outside of the British Isles, for any British team, and we are very proud of this.”

The Official Supporters Club has over 300 branches, in all corners of the globe.

Fuglestad attended his first City match in 1993, during the first Premier League season.

He believes the club is now more easily recognisable outside of Manchester, in part because of the exposure of the Premier League.

And the club have reaped the rewards of this, with revenue increasing each season until 2019.

Man City’s overall revenue total for the seasons 2011/12-2018/19 inclusive.

Their matchday intake was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a drop in overall revenue for the first time since the Abu Dhabi takeover.

One rare misstep in the last ten years was the attempted formation of the European Super League.

City were part of the English ‘Big Six’, who joined three Spanish and three Italian clubs in a bid to form a rival competition to the Champions League in April 2021.

Fuglestad was annoyed that the club had not checked with the fans before the announcement.

He said: “I was surprised by how these clubs could actually make such big plans and all of them were shocked by the reaction of the fans.

“None of the City fans wanted it – when [City] realised that, they turned around as quickly as possible.”

It is well known that the fans have a particular dislike of UEFA, and have not been as attached to the Champions League as other English sides.

The origins of this go back to their Europa League days – in the same season as the final-day drama against QPR.

In a match against Porto, Mario Balotelli was racially abused by the opposing fans, for which the Portuguese club received a 20,000 euro fine.

But City received a 30,000 euro fine the following month against Sporting Lisbon for being 30 seconds late for the second half.

This left a bad taste in the mouth before Financial Fair Play fractured trust further in 2014.

And later that same year, a match at CSKA Moscow became a battleground when the hosts were ordered the game played behind closed doors because of racial abuse.

This was no fault of City fans, who had already booked flights and accommodation.

To make matters worse, some CSKA supporters were allowed in to watch the game, and no sanction was passed on the Russian club.

Because of these incidents – and many more – City supporters tend to value domestic success over European conquest.

Jordan is one of those, but admits European success would be the cherry on top.

He said: “It’s almost like you know the club wants that [Champions League] – that’s what Pep wants, that’s what the owners want, so I almost want it for them!

“We’re already a juggernaut, one of the big hitters because we can bring players [to us] that want to go to Real Madrid and Barc[elona].”

Perhaps Aguero himself put it best, when a statue of him was unveiled outside the Etihad on the ten-year anniversary of his famous goal.

He said: “In those 10 years I was able to win a lot of trophies and was able to help the Club become one of the most important in the world.”

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