By Greg Stobart at Etihad Stadium
Sat in front of his television in the Abu Dhabi Royal Palace was Sheikh Mansour, the man who spent the best part of £1 billion to make it all possible.
So busy is his diary that he was unable to fly over to witness Manchester City being crowned Premier League champions on Sunday in the most thrilling of circumstances. It was a day that ended the 44-year wait for the title, more than four decades of hurt; a day that confirmed the club’s transformation from mid-table mediocrity to a genuine force.
For Sheikh Mansour, it is the first return on his eye-watering investment, a step towards domination of European football in ‘the project’ to make City the biggest and best club on the continent.
As Sergio Aguero struck the goal deep in added time to win City the title with a 3-2 victory over QPR, there was pandemonium. On the pitch, in the stands and in the directors box. All hell broke loose. What an advert for the Premier League and for Abu Dhabi.
But while, in the end, it felt that City ‘snatched’ the title from Manchester United’s grasp, it was a triumph Roberto Mancini’s side fully deserved over the course of the 38-game campaign.
"We played the best football, conceded less goals, scored more goals and we beat United two times," said Mancini. "When you beat United twice, score more goals and concede less goals, you deserve to win the title."
Few could argue otherwise. Guided by Mancini’s strong but fair hand, City amassed an impressive points total of 89 and throughout the season have shown an ability to hold their nerve, not least at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
City undoubtedly have the best squad in the country. From Joe Hart through captain Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, the spine is there in a group of players in their mid-twenties and reaching their peak.
The message after the game was clear. A year after City won the FA Cup to end a 35-year trophy drought, the seeds have been planted for world domination.
The first use of the word ‘dynasty’ came from City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak barely two weeks after the Abu Dhabi billionaires bought the club in August 2008.
The last four years have proved that nothing can happen overnight in football, even with unlimited wealth, but this City side have now got that dreaded ‘first’ title under their belts. At key moments in the final weeks of the season - against QPR, Newcastle and Manchester United - star players kept their heads under pressure to secure vital victories.
Now, City want to build an empire, to create a history to challenge that of their bitter rivals United.
Mancini is the man to do it, having proved since his appointment in December 2009 his ability to handle erratic and explosive players, the likes of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, and to build a team spirit within the camp. The Italian has brought together all of the egos and got them pulling in the right direction, fighting for each other.
The next target for City is the Champions League, where they floundered at the group stage this season. Chelsea and Bayern Munich - this year’s two finalists - have both lost to City this season. As the best team in the self-proclaimed best league in the world, they will fancy their chances of a pushing for European honours in the next two years.
They face enough of a challenge domestically to fend off the likes of United, while Chelsea and Arsenal will surely improve.
But the core of the squad is in place, and there will be improvements over the summer. Sunday’s substitutes’ bench included Nigel De Jong, Edin Dzeko, Balotelli and Micah Richards - players that would all walk in to most top six starting line-ups.
It was fitting that the likes of Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee - members of the 1968 title-winning side - were on the pitch to take part in the presentation of the trophy. It was a nod towards the club’s famous past, but you sense this current group of players is going to create its own history.
Joe Royle, the former City manager, coined the phrase “Cityitis” for their habit of shooting themselves in the foot and having to watch on enviously as the red half of Manchester indugled in year after year of trophy-laden success.
That seemed to be happening again until Aguero and his cohorts proved that they are different. A new team. A new dawn. A new era.
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