Manchester City in Europe: Why the failure?


Since Sheikh Mansour took over at Manchester City in 2008 they have slowly become a powerhouse in English football. With, what seems like an almost unlimited transfer budget and first pick of the world hottest talents, they have the strongest squad and first team in the Premier League; this was compounded by their first title last season. Despite these facts Manchester City have never been able to cut it at the top level of European football, last season they went out at the first stage in a group, in which, they should have comfortably come second to Bayern Munich and this season they sit 5 points off of qualification after a very disappointing 3-1 defeat to Ajax, so why do Manchester City fail in Europe? It is worth noting that, although qualification will be very difficult from here, they still can qualify for the first knockout stage but it is looking more and more unlikely, especially after Dortmund’s win over Real Madrid. 

The first point I would like to make concerns the tactics of Roberto Mancini and how they are not suited to City’s style of play or European football. After almost every game in the two previous Champions league campaigns, Mancini has come out with an almost identical quote: 

“I didn’t prepare the players well for this game and I take the fault for this defeat.”

So why has he not learned from his mistakes and set his team up well enough to go out and perform like we all know they can. If the players are not sent out in the right frame of mind, with clear instructions of how to tactically approach the game then of course they are not going to perform to optimum level. Take the match against Dortmund 3 weeks ago as a prime example of this, there were 3 or 4 occasions where Mancini changed his formation, during the game, from 4 at the back to a more unconventional and unstable 3 at the back, which historically, Manchester City cannot play. Yet their manager, maybe through arrogance, insists on making them play this way and they leak goals. European teams like to play with pacey wingers and quick passes that a team playing 3 at the back will struggle to cope with. 

It is not all the mangers fault though, Manchester City have too many individuals in their squad and sometimes forget how to play as a team, especially when they come up against a side that do play as a team. Last night was a prime example of this, Ajax, who in recent times have not been the force the once were, played brilliantly as a team, out-passing City who just didn’t have an answer. This was compounded by a tantrum from Mario Balotelli because he didn’t get to take a free kick. I’m afraid until Manchester City learn how to play for each other and not for themselves, like Balotelli and Tevez then they will never be successful in Europe.

Maybe in a few years, after a few more European setbacks and a willingness to learn from their mistakes, Manchester City will reach the levels of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Unfortunately, for now they are just not good enough to be a real force in the Champions League. 


Kieran Milward