LONDON–Manchester City are determined to usher in a new era for English football on Sunday by clinching their first title for 44 years as the curtain comes down on a thrilling Premier League campaign.
Four years after the serial under-achievers from the blue half of Manchester were bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, the club’s fabulously wealthy owners are poised to see the biggest return yet on their substantial investment
Victory over Queens Park Rangers at Eastlands on Sunday will – barring a miraculous scoreline for Manchester United at Sunderland – be enough to see Roberto Mancini’s side claim the league crown.
Yet City, whose owners have spent nearly £1 billion on the club according to some estimates, are determined to ensure that victory in this year’s league campaign is only a stepping stone to greater glory.
Yaya Toure, the Ivory Coast international who has been one of the cornerstones of City’s success this season, is convinced that the club can achieve global dominance in the years ahead.
City are already reported to be planning summer transfer moves for Lille winger Eden Hazard, as well as Napoli’s highly rated Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani.
“That’s why I came here, to help the team, give my experience to the young guys and to help the club go forward and make it bigger than any club in the world,” Toure said.
“But now we are at a good step. To make history, we have to win something and follow the example of what we did last year,” added Toure, reflecting on the 2011 FA Cup triumph that ended City’s long trophy drought.
Bitter cross-town rivals United, meanwhile, are left clinging to the hope that City’s historical reputation as masters of shooting themselves in the foot will re-emerge against QPR.
While Rangers are fighting for Premier League survival, needing a win to be sure of avoiding relegation, City head into the game on the back of a remarkable home record that has seen them drop just two points at Eastlands all season.
QPR, by contrast, have one of the worst away records in the league, winning three, drawing twice and losing 13 on the road.
Yet the possibility of one last twist to a roller-coaster season in English football cannot be discounted, and denying City the title on the last day of the season would be particularly sweet for QPR manager Mark Hughes, who was sacked by City in acrimonious circumstances in December 2009.
No revenge for Hughes
Former Manchester United striker Hughes insists, however, that revenge is the last thing on his mind as he attempts to steer Rangers to safety.
“People keep throwing that word (revenge) up but it is not in my mind at all,” Hughes said. “From my point of view, I am completely focused on what we have to do, as you would expect.”
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he expects City to seal the deal on Sunday, but could not resist one final attempt to play on his rivals’ nerves by warning that failure at Eastlands could leave lasting scars on the club’s psyche.
“On the face of it you expect City to win and so do I. But City have got to win. It’s an enormous challenge for them because the disappointment of losing the game would be unbelievable,” said Ferguson.
“It’s the last game of the season. It’s fantastic for the neutral, fantastic for the media but agony for both clubs, although it will be more so for City if they lose it.”
Another side keeping a close eye on QPR’s match will be third-bottom Bolton Wanderers, who must win at Stoke City and hope Hughes’ side are beaten by City if they are to stand any chance of avoiding relegation.
While attention focuses on events at Eastlands and the Stadium of Light, the other major issue to be settled on Sunday is the race for Champions League qualification.
Arsenal will guarantee themselves automatic qualification for the group phase if they win at West Bromwich Albion, while Newcastle United, who travel to Everton, will be hoping that Tottenham Hotspur stumble at home to Fulham as they seek to leapfrog Harry Redknapp’s side into fourth place.