After two Champions League campaigns and only three wins from 12 played, Manchester City remain trapped in the gates having failed to make an impression on the European stage. In fact, it could be a fair assessment that Manchester City have regressed over the past 18-months in Champions League competition.
For City, the 2011/12 season was filled with uncharted excitement, the prospect of a real European adventure and plenty of dreams fuelled by a seemingly bottomless pit of cash. Manchester City, more than anything, were filled with naivety. Two failed group stages later and the team still haven’t found a way to exert their quality on European pitches, rather curling up into a shell and very much looking like a team well out of their depth.
For all Manchester City’s money, the high-profile stars and the desire to take the next step immediately following their Premier League title win, the club simply aren’t ready to be champions of Europe, let alone making an impression deep in the competition.
The confidence from City’s camp has never since reached the height it did when they travelled to Munich on September 27th to face Bayern. That day, it was the assumption—although not totally from within the club—that one of England’s finest would travel to Germany and knock the stuffing out of the Bavarians. That particular game is remembered largely for start of Carlos Tevez’s war with Roberto Mancini, where the striker refused to come on as a substitute and subsequently retreated to Argentina for the majority of the season.
But City simply don’t have the know how to travel away in Europe and find a win. They didn’t know then and they don’t know now. The Premier League champions have been fast-tracked to the top of the English game that they never had the opportunity to discover what it means to be a big club. And while that may seem like a spiteful attack on a club who are equipped to do as they please in the transfer market, there’s no greater evidence than their lack of fight in European competition.
Manchester City need to find an identity before they can land the biggest prize in club football. City have bought some of the finest players in Europe, players who are well versed in the demands of the Champions League. But as a club, they still need to find their feet among the big boys.
It was naïve for the club to think one Premier League title behind them would be enough to push them on to greater things on the European stage. The English media were even more foolish to assume money and an impressive domestic campaign were the only things needed for success in the Champions League. Even then, City weren’t impressive enough to call them imperious champions. It’s certainly a strong argument to make that City only won the league title last season because Manchester United squandered their lead at the top. Up until United’s home game against Everton on April 22nd, it seemed as good as done that the title would be returning to Old Trafford.
It’s probably a step too far to say the big clubs on the continent aren’t greatly concerned for City and their proposed threat, the team are still capable of a very good performance. But the Champions League needs more than just increased spending in the transfer market and the flashiest manager in the dugout. Until Manchester City learn how to be a big team outside of England, failure in Uefa’s biggest club competition will remain a regular disappointment.