The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

Contact Us

[contact-form 1 'Contact form 1']

Manchester City, A Club Where Everything Is Going Completely According to Plan

Remember earlier this season, when the main activity performed by anyone associated with the takeover of Manchester City by the royal family of Abu Dhabi was to peer into a television camera and just mercilessly shock the world by stating large amounts of money? And how it turned out that maybe some of those amounts were exaggerated, but then, it didn’t really matter, because they were going to fill the streets of Asia with Man City-branded motorbikes and change football forever by spending one heptillion dollars on Kaká? And how their spokesperson (who originally posed as their owner) publicly described himself as a “bulldozer” and stated that the club’s goal was the finish in the top four this season and win the title next year?

No, you don’t remember that, because Manchester City are a reasonable club with achievable expectations. That’s the message put forward by Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak on the club’s website today, under circumstances that have nothing to do with City’s resolutely mid-table finish or its failure to sign any high-profile players apart from one mercurial Brazilian who spent most of the season feuding with the manager and the rest of it under arrest. Manchester City’s new owners haven’t learned any lessons, Khaldoon Al Mubarak wants you to know, because they remain squarely committed to the same values of moderation and prudence that they brought with them to the club:

I think people see me as a reasonable and realistic man, and I think given what we have done this year and the ambitions we have this summer, a top-six finish next year should be a reasonable and achievable target.

We all know we are not going to splash money around, because that model, that formula, doesn’t work. You’re not going to buy 22 new players and then the next year you win the Premier League.

So the goal now is to finish in the top six next year with expenditures somewhere south of £850 billion. We all know this! And I mean, good for them, but either there’s something kind of adorably reckless about this swerve into tentative rhetoric or this club has more negative capability than any poet in the world. This is how this “reasonable and realistic man” was introduced in a Fortune profile two years ago:

Khaldoon Khalifa al Mubarak is a man in a hurry. The 31-year-old, American-educated developer steps on the gas of his silver Audi and zooms past a hole in the ground crawling with construction workers – the future home of a $1.3 billion complex featuring three skyscrapers, two five-star hotels, and a souk. The car zips by a new $3 billion hotel that boasts 1,002 Swarovski crystal chandeliers and a gold-leaf dome larger than the one atop St. Paul’s Cathedral in London….

“We move fast,” Khaldoon says, his crisp, white headscarf whipping in the wind. “Think about it: How many places in the world can you say, ‘I’m going to establish an airline,’ and boom, two years later you have 21 planes and 37 destinations? How many places in the world can you say, ‘I need 15,000 hotel rooms,’ and boom, you have 100 new hotels in the works? How many places can you say, ‘I want world-class hospitals, universities, and museums,’ and boom, the Sorbonne, Cleveland Clinic, Guggenheim, and Louvre are on the way?”

Caution. Reticence. Sound conservative thinking. These are Manchester City’s watchwords. I look forward to watching them succeed over the next 10 years, slowly and patiently, through intelligent infrastructure management and investment in the youth academy. Why are you laughing? Stop laughing.


Manchester City, A Club Where Everything Is Going Completely According to Plan

by Brian Phillips · May 19, 2009

[contact-form 5 'Email form']