Deep Pocket Style Revolution

Some questions that have been looming large in the minds of football followers across the world: “Will the beautiful game continue to speak Español in future? Or will we witness a counter revolution in the way the game will be played?

La Rojas have been flying high in international and club football for quite some time now and there seems to be no stopping them. The Catalan crusade to purify the sport is quite clichéd by now. With hardly any success to show, the resurgent Merengues challenge can be categorised as “still taking shape”. Add to that, football followers across the world are desperately seeking a strong opponent for L’equip blaugrana, for the sake of healthy comparison.

Allow me to look beyond Spain as I switch my focus to the English game, and the direction it is heading towards. To talk about the English game, one has to start with Manchester United because of their sheer consistency with silverware. Any English club which has its eyes set on the Barclay’s Premier League glory has to perforce adapt to a life with United in topflight.

But what did we see a few weeks back? The Noisy Neighbours making The Red Devils appear like strangers in Old Trafford. Manchester United’s home form until that match was something the fans would brag about. Yet, the 6-1 drubbing was achieved with consummate ease and oomph. Mario Balotelli even took off his shirt to ask a very rhetorical question to the crowd in the Theatre of Dreams.

Mario Balotelli showing off a t-shirt saying ‘Why always me?’ after scoring against Manchester United

And since that weekend, while everyone was talking about it, the thought definitely crossed my skeptical mind:
Is this a shock win?
Is the club following in the footsteps of its deep-pocket peers like Chelsea and the more recent addition, Anzhi Makhachkala?”
“Is money doing all the talking here?
For me, the answer is, “No.
Manchester City may have the money but their game is not shaped by it. They have achieved handsome victories since this season began. All this time I had been holding my judgement, saying it could be the bank that was the source of their proficiency. But half-a-dozen goals against Manchester United are proofs of a much greater determination. Mercenaries, that is, footballers hired for huge sums, are experts at what they do and they do it with élan. But it would take more than a pack of mercenaries to ram in three goals in the last 5 minutes. Though Manchester United did not help themselves with a so-called gung-ho approach, the killer instinct and sheer professionalism showed by City cannot be ignored. The desire to establish themselves was clearly visible. The coup de grace that Roberto Mancini’s men delivered on that fateful Sunday will be spoken of for a long time in the history of football in Manchester.
Sir Alex Ferguson believed that what cannot be obtained with money, can be more than made up for with desire. The Manchester United eleven, irrespective of who features in it, are driven by that desire to win. But the Manchester United determination astonishingly went missing in a derby match. Wayne Rooney was there to orchestrate the attack, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra to marshal the defence and Anderson, Nani, Darren Fletcher all raring to go – what was on the cards was a routine Manchester derby. The game unfolded kindly for Manchester United – more shots on goal, a wee bit more possession and definitely more purpose in their sallying forth. Manchester United had to deal with Jonny Evans getting sent off though. It appeared Manchester City was struggling to cope with Manchester United’s pressure early on but what it actually turned out to be was that they were soaking up the early pressure and biding their time. This, football lovers, is the counter revolution I was talking about. The men in blue patiently built up their game.

Manchester City Routs Manchester United 6-1

The Counter Revolution

A club founded on money is trying to make good on philosophy. Although it is the riches of the owners that is the wind in City’s sails, Mancini seems to be trying to mould their game with astuteness, adroitness and assiduousness. And there can be no doubt that the former Internazionale coach has the sense and understanding to achieve something like what he did for Inter. An example of it is the way he has gone about handling the mercurial Balotelli.
The enfant terrible of Italian football has the reputation of being something of a rake but Mancini appears to have impressed upon him the fact that when you are paid to play the game you better deliver on the money. No less astounding was his way of handling Carlos Tevez. He has portrayed the strict disciplinarian in him and everyone around knows who’s the boss.
And for those who have always sneered at money as an important tool for team building, this result is a worrisome sign. The theory that money cannot buy you a prize-winning team is fast turning out to be a myth that needs reappraising. But it’s still early days as far as City’s rise to glory is concerned. Sure, they are yet to win the laurels in England and in Europe but it is their approach to football that seems to me to be a new vocabulary of style – “Rich kids sweating it out, earning it.” If this marriage of money and desire is consummated, then clubs which rely on power, determination and/or panache, will have a serious bogey to reckon with.

History of football is, however, full of episodes of rich clubs squandering away their capital and culture, and eventually turning out to be a bad investment for their owners and a sad excuse for a football team. But there is everything to be said for this revolution, that is, if it is one.

Name: Swaraj Mir
Game: Journalist
Age: 27
Location: Hyderabad
Sports: Football, Soccer, Futsal
Soundtrack: Take a Look Around (Limp Bizkit)
Possibilities: Explorer