Oh, what happened to me, what happened to you? What became of Robinho – and Benjani? If the rise of Manchester City is all it takes to create an era of generations of club football generations, £ 2 billion is the greatest manager of modern times and the feverish dreams of an oil-rich Gulf state. It's a 10-year plan that has moved into a sharper focus this week, pulling the eye both back and forth.
The Sunday Manchester derby at Etihad Stadium has been celebrating its 10th anniversary since the first of these modern Manc games Clásicos in November 2008, 10 years after the birth of City 3.0 among the Emirati owners of the club. Given the sudden focus on the first five years, when a huge investment in stand-up was required to bring the game team to the rank of instant contender, it seems like an even more interesting anniversary.
How do you come from there to here? From a team that probably does not fit the guys, and the current machine with lean technology? It remains a good question, and at the end of a week, a poignant question when phrases such as "Operation Longbow" and "Closed Payment Loop" have been translated into footballing language by the city's ongoing and tasty investigation of the city's finances.
According to the Mirror's reports, the true spend for the team during these first four years was around £ 1.1bn, a number that will either cheer and high fives or hold the pearls down, depending on your assessment the rules of financial fair play and more likely your club colors.
At this point, the screen dissolves, the wind chime rings, and we return to the first of these New Age derbies almost exactly ten years ago. In November 2008, under the ownership of Thaksin Shinawatra, City had taken the first steps that helped fund a period of energetic incongruity recruitment during its year of responsibility. The acquisition of Abu Dhabi was completed on September 1, 2008. This gave Thaksin, currently fleeing the Thai authorities, a profit of £ 120 million.
The first days of possession of Abu Dhabi were dizzy. There was a failed final bid to prevent United from moving for Dimitar Berbatov. Eager to get rid of the terrible burden of disposable income, City rose to £ 32 million for Robinho just as Chelsea was preparing to sell shirts with his name on his back.
Robinho would eventually reach 14 goals in English football, moaning over the cold and a year later leave half of that fee. But in November 2008, in what was still known as Eastlands Stadium, he was next to Benjani and Darius Vassell at the center of an ambitious and frankly quite strange Front Three. Behind him were Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Dietmar Hamann. Vincent Kompany started in central defense and remains the only player in both teams who will probably perform on Sunday afternoon. The city's bench from that day is a mesmerizing memorabilia, reminiscent of the promising Tyro-Kasper flatterer, the wonderful Brazilian Elano and the slightly less wonderful Brazilian Jô.
United were the reigning champions of Europe. They could use Berbatov, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney as front three and keep Carlos Tevez in reserve. In Eastlands, Rooney would score the only goal of the game. He met shortly before the break after Joe Hart could only parry Michael Carrick's parade. United were reasonably comfortable from that point on, although Ronaldo was sent off in a corner in the second half for a bizarre handball, one last significant move before winning his first balloon d & # 39; Or three days later.
The result, Rooney later said, reminded everyone "who are the true kings of Manchester". The BBC agreed, stating that United's dominance "perfectly illustrates the class gap between the two sides, which hopefully the constricting new owners of City, Abu Dhabi United, want to narrow." Sky Sports was a little more forward-looking. The Internet report suggests that "the city's great wealth is that this will be fiercely contested in the future".
You do not say. 10 years ahead and this colick, unadjusted city team seems to be completely independent of the current high-spec model. Sven-Göran Eriksson later noted that Shinawatra "knew absolutely nothing about football" and even in those early months contrasted with the irresistible will of football new regime was noticeable; from the signing of Tevez for £ 47 million seven months later, to the arrival of David Silva and Yaya Touré the following year.
Since then, the City project has become clearer and in contrast to United's staggering progress towards Ferguson. From the first signs of a coherent game system to the carefully staged Pep Guardiola contracts signed a year earlier. The mirror tells us now – this is a team that always seemed to be moving in one direction at any stage compared to the current version.
Given City's strength, even a two-point advantage at the top of the Premier League looks like an ominous small kick from the pack. Chelsea and Liverpool have kept pace so far. But in every metric, the city is still ahead: most points, most goals, most shots, most dribbles, the greatest possession, the best fit. Nobody has more assistants than Raheem Sterling and Benjamin Mendy. Nobody has more goals than Sergio Agüero. Nobody has a higher graduation rate than John Stones, a status that feels less meaningless from the back, given City's tactically vital character.
United has shown strong resilience in recent weeks, not least on Wednesday night in Turin. But ten years after the Golf-State-D-Day, it's the visitors whose players' squads still look a bit piecemeal and are thrown together by a series of separate regimes.
The journey to Sunday at the Theater of Dirhams United has only won once in the last four years of the last four years in the José Mourinho season. This victory was in Etihad in April, when Paul Pogba scored twice and also Kevin De Bruyne was absent. He only came when City lost. However, the shift in the level of play between these two clubs is still the clearest in the central areas where a United squad, full of big square footballers, will come into contact with the fluid, moving midfield of City like a cybermen's turn chase a litter of kittens.
United will try to disturb and sit low, as they have done successfully against Juventus, and to use his own strength in the break and in standard situations. But ten years later, it's a sign of the change in the times and the absurdity of big football finances that winning the world's most profitable football team could almost feel like a blow to the little man.