by Ahsan Naeem
I love my brother. He might be a United supporter, but he’s alright with me. If you’re reading this brother, I wanted to get all the niceties out of the way at the start so we can get down to business.
So, yesterday I did something I never do, I actually read something which an ex United player had written. Generally I avoid them like the plague, which is difficult to do when it seems like every corner of the media planet is covered by some former Fergie pupil dishing out monosyllabic platitudes to the ‘biggest club in the world’. Paul Scholes’ column in the Independent ran with the headline “I’m worried that City have moved ahead of the game at youth level”. Frankly it would’ve been remiss of me to not read something that came under such an enticing banner.
Sadly, as I suspected, it turned out to be another flaccid attempt by the worst tackler the premier league has ever seen to paint his former club as one in crisis. I’ve got no problem with that in the main, but with Scholes you can’t help but feel there’s a simmering resentment that he hasn’t managed to blag a wage out of the Glazers like the family man Ryan Giggs. The ‘shy and retiring’ Scholes has certainly found his voice (shame it’s like a stupider less articulate version of Michael Owen’s drone) and can now be found shifting uncomfortably as he watches Manchester City playing in the Champions League for ITV, or doing his weekly column for some newspaper.
But what of the comparison between City and United?
As comparisons go, there is literally no comparison to be made between today’s Manchester City and today’s Manchester United. City are on every level far ahead of their counterparts from Salford. But this isn’t something new, this is something that has been building since Sheikh Mansour bought the club.
Manchester United and Manchester City have one thing in common: They’re both trophy assets for their owners. However that’s where the comparisons begin and end. The Glazers care not one bit about Manchester, and probably even less about United as a football club. What they care about is money, value, share issues, etc. In Ed Woodward they have the perfect front man for their operation. A kind of Oxbridge educated version of Sulaiman Al Fahim (Google him).
The United way, whatever that myth was about, has long been consigned to the history bins over at $old Trafford as agents queue up to sell their overpriced wares to Woodward, who in turn is the master of the grip and grin photograph in a way which would put even Garry Cook to shame. Between the agents and Woodward United have set about eradicating any semblance of identity from the club and instead are building some kind of poor mans’ version of Real Madrid’s great Galacticos team. Whilst United supporters puff out their chests and walk around the internet shouting to all and sundry that they’re “back”, that sniggering you hear in the background is us City supporters.
You see Woodward and the Glazers defecate all over the “United way”, fleece their supporters, serve up the kind of expensively assembled footballing dross which if it were an actual person would resemble a Beverly Hillbilly wearing everything she’s just bought with the price tag hanging out the back to show us she is indeed now rich. It’s a deep and rich irony that everything they accused City of being during the early post takeover days, is exactly what they have become. Only whilst Mansour and company had a plan to build something sustainable and lasting and leave some kind of legacy not just on Manchester City the football club, but Manchester the City, the new United are all about themselves.
So I referenced my brother at the start of this piece, primarily because it was his reaction to the notion of Manchester City signing Ross Barkley that got me thinking about how different the reality and perception of both Mancunian clubs currently is. In my brother’s head United is still the pre-eminent destination in England for any footballer. He lives in a world where having the most supporters in Singapore, having more sponsors than everyone else, having more match day tourists than lined the streets for Diana’s funeral, makes them somehow more desirable to footballers.
Sadly for him and all United supporters, the truth is United are being left behind. Only it’s not just in their youth academy, but every aspect of their football club from the first team downwards. United are now a second rate City, with poorer footballers, a poorer infrastructure, poorer owners, a more embarrassing CEO, a higher probability of implosion. For the foreseeable future they will only be signing players that City don’t want, whatever the age group. Yes, that includes English players.
Next week: Sterling and Barkley, City are coming for Liverpool’s crown footballing jewels.