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Still No. 2? City plays for Premier League title

Source : AP
Last Updated: Fri, May 11, 2012 04:02 hrs

Manchester City always seems to be second best in its own backyard, like a little brother overshadowed by his bigger and stronger sibling.

He's already done the things you want to do, and has done them better anyway. And when you finally do something he hasn't done? Well, he'd probably beat that, too.

In England's third biggest city, Manchester United always seems to one-up Manchester City.

What happened when City won its most recent English league title in 1968? United won the European Cup, the most prestigious trophy in club soccer.

The season City was promoted to the Premier League after four years away? United won it, for the 13th of its 19 league titles.

That time City convinced Argentina striker Carlos Tevez to ditch United and move across town? United still beat City in the League Cup semifinals, and went on to win the trophy.

United's dominance over its neighbor was even on display at Old Trafford, the stadium nicknamed the "Theatre of Dreams." Hanging from the stands was an annually updated banner counting the years — it had reached 34 when it was finally brought down last season — since City last won a trophy of any kind.

But little brother looks set to come out on top Sunday in the world's most popular league. After decades of watching its biggest rival lift trophy after trophy, City can win the English Premier League title in its final match of the season with a victory against struggling Queens Park Rangers.

"I came to City to make history," said Yaya Toure, the driving force in City's midfield. "I want to win it for our fans."

Satisfyingly for those fans, there is almost no chance of being upstaged this time because of United's failure to win the Champions League or either of England's domestic cup competitions. Instead, City can become English champion for the first time in 44 years and leave United empty-handed for the first time in seven seasons — a remarkable reversal in a city where red has been the color of success for more than a generation.

"Forty-four years is unbelievable," Toure said. "It is too many years."

The difference these days, of course, is money. City's abundance of it and United's lack of it.

While United is still paying interest on debt incurred in the 2005 takeover by the Glazer family that also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, City has spent about $635 million on new players since being bought by in 2008 by Sheik Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.

"No one can match their financial resources. No one," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We have to accept that and try to do things in a different way."

City, however, knows all too well that money doesn't necessarily bring success. After all, in 1979 the club paid a British record at the time of about $3 million for Steve Daley. The midfielder buckled under the pressure of the giant fee and left for the Seattle Sounders in the NASL 20 months later, his European career in ruins.

What matters this time around is that City has spent money well.

Despite the flop of Brazil striker Robinho after a British-record $60 million transfer from Real Madrid, the Abu Dhabi United owners were undeterred.

Tevez and Argentina teammate Sergio Aguero were brought in, backed up in attack by Italy firebrand Mario Balotelli. And even Edin Dzeko, a Bosnian who is the least known and least trumpeted member of City's forward quartet, has 13 Premier League goals this season — more than any United player other than Wayne Rooney.

Under manager Roberto Mancini, City brought in Ivory Coast's Toure, Aguero, Dzeko, Spain midfielder David Silva and France forward Samir Nasri. That depth helped City when Tevez stormed off in September, apparently the only player unable to accept a place on the bench.

Tevez is back, and is likely to start Sunday when City walks onto the field looking for only its third league title in 132 years.

It's a head-spinning turnaround for fans who watched as United won two Champions League titles, 12 Premier League trophies, eight FA Cups and four League Cups since City was last champion of England.

Even then, years before anyone on the current squad was born, George Best and Bobby Charlton were doing their best to upstage their neighbors. With Best and Charlton leading the way, United beat Benfica 4-1 to win the European Cup — two weeks after City completed its last championship season.

But City's spell as a contender didn't last long, and the club spent much of the 1980s and '90s bouncing like a yo-yo between the top two divisions. Only 14 years ago, City became the first former winner of a European competition to fall into its country's third-tier league.

United fans were almost too busy to stop and laugh, with Ferguson on his way to making the Red Devils the most successful club England has ever seen. Ferguson has regarded Liverpool, Leeds, Arsenal and even Chelsea as more important rivals to United and only recently upgraded City from "noisy neighbors" to "direct opponents."

At the moment, both City and United have 83 points, but City has the advantage on goal difference. So if City fails to beat QPR on Sunday, United can outdo its hometown rivals once more if it beats Sunderland.

"We have one match left to play at home and we have to deliver in this game," Toure said.

This may not be the last laugh, but little brother is definitely growing up.




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