Mansour’s millions mean City can never match United

At the end of that game, the friend with whom I’d watched the game asked who I’d rather won the league if it was to be one of the Manchester sides. “United,” was the instant response, and it surprised me.

The reality is that as the two sides sit on top of the league, winning the championships would only be a noteworthy achievement for Sir Alex Ferguson, continuing as it would a remarkable legacy. For Roberto Mancini’s side, gifted and impressive as they are, if they won the league it would not be a sporting achievement.

Having spent £433 million on transfers since arriving in 2008, the Sheikh Mansour has also poured in considerable wealth to pay the wages of those players. Some £1 billion has been spent by the club in its bid to become the best in England.

Money can’t buy success on its own of course, but in City’s case, it is plan A, B, C, D, E, F etc. If a signing doesn’t work out, flog him and buy someone else. If the manager doesn’t work, do likewise. Keep spending until you finally get the right blend. To their credit, City managed to get the right manager rather quickly; Mancini is an excellent manager, and is proving that despite the initial doubters in England who derided him and though he was no better than Mark Hughes. Those pig headed pundits have had to eat those words.

And the talent on the pitch is remarkable now. Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Samir Nasri form a potent quadrant ahead of the superb Yaya Toure and the reliable Nigel de Jong. The victory against Tottenham at the weekend was a consequence as much of skill and intelligence as of money. But there is no doubt that without the money, City would not be where they are now. The same cannot be said for Manchester United, for Arsenal, for Liverpool. And even if the same is true of Chelsea, you could expect them to be up there at the very least even without the wealth of Roman Abramovich – they did qualify for the Champions League before he bought the club after all.

But is there any meaning to what City, or even Chelsea, have done since their takeovers? No. With Chelsea, there was some thought, justifiably, that they were due success given how close they’d come in the years previously, but City were nowhere to be seen until the Sheikh came and bought the club. But there can be no meaning when anything can be bought. All City have done is proven that if you spend ridiculous sums of money you can get anywhere. They attracted the players they could for a club of their stature in 2008, and then when they had a good season, they bought most of a new team. And then again they bought half a new squad this season now that they can attract a higher calibre of players. What has this proven? That 11 world class players with a world class manager will eventually play world class football and compete for trophies? Well done, it didn’t take a genius to work that out. What City have done, could be achieved by almost anyone. What Manchester United have done, could be achieved by very very few. And though Arsenal are struggling at this moment, only a handful of people could do what Arsene Wenger has done. Many more could replicate Mancini’s achievement at City with the same backing.

Conversely, look across to Old Trafford and there is a team whose success is entirely sporting, and purely achievement. United’s success is reinforced by their huge global appeal, which is as high as it is because of their success in the past. In United’s case, success has led to their wealth. In City’s, it is the opposite way around. And that is why regardless of what Sheikh Mansour and his team do this season, next or the year after, they will never be able to rival their city rivals.