Climax: What Climax?

The sheer drama of the last day of the season contest between the two Manchester teams provoked a flood of misguided, sentimental, obsequious effusion from Press and Television. But the undoubted last day drama obscured the fact that the Premiership has been anything but truly distinguished. Over to Brian Glanville.

A sensational climax or a massive anticlimax? This ultimate Mancunian outcome of what I still call ‘The Greed Is Good League' was trumpeted far beyond its true significance. For the embarrassing fact remains that both Manchester City, the victors, and Manchester United have dismally failed the true test of excellence: success in the European Champions League. How ironic it is that in Munich it was Chelsea — who finished so hopelessly far below City and United after managerial muddle — that won the European final.

As City won the Premiership title, it might be accurate to say not that they won it, but that they bought it. Thanks to the unlimited funds pouring out from Sheikh Mansour, City have distorted the transfer market and the balance of forces still more radically than even Chelsea, with the millions supplied by the oligarch, Roman Abramovich.

Over the years, City's fans have sung a taunting chorus at those of United, “Do you come from Manchester?” But while it is true that City's support is largely Manchester based while United's comes from the four corners of these islands, at least United have developed several of their locally born players. Look down City's list and you find not a Mancunian in sight.

Money is indeed no object. Carlos Tevez, restored to the fold after sulking in Argentina, reportedly earns £190,000 a week, the majestic Yaya Toure £200,000. Then there are such stars as David Silva, Edin Dzeko, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta; while Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri were whisked away from a consequently weakened Arsenal last summer.

Yet in Europe, these Manchester Mountains have parturated mice. Roberto Mancini, City's manager, recklessly dropped Joleon Lescott and stuck an unfit Kolo Toure into central defence to lose at Bayern Munich and fail to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League, a competition in which United stumbled against Basel and Benfica and also failed to make the cut. In due course the iconic Alex Ferguson was obliged to haul Paul Scholes out of mothballs yet even in the dimly secondary Europa League, Platini's folly, United succumbed away to Ajax and went down twice to Bilbao; who were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Atletico Madrid in the final.

City were narrowly knocked out by Sporting Lisbon in that second elimination round.

And to give City their due, when they recently met United in a potential “crunch” match, having thrashed them by an amazing 6-1 at Old Trafford, they met a United team which shamefully made hardly any real attempt to win the match and deservedly went down to Yaya Toure's spectacular goal.

Long, long ago, when City had just won the English Championship, their exuberant manager Malcolm Allison declared, “We will frighten the cowards of Europe.” Whereupon City were quickly eliminated. But then, they weren't subsidised by billionaires.

That in 1968 was glorious City team superbly coached by Malcom Allison, with wise Joe Mercer, once the soccer star that Malcom to his bitter dismay could never be — he succumbed as a young West Ham centre half to tuberculosis — keeping the ebullient and flamboyant Allison on the right track. When in 1950 a Macolm besotted group bribed a greedy director with £11,000 for shares he was never meant to see, Malcom became manager and Joe, once such a star wing half for Everton, England and Arsenal, departed and things gradually and sadly fell apart.

A team which could look mesmerically effective and entertaining, with a host of players developed at the club — Doyle and Oakes at wing half, Neil Young on the flank or in the middle — were a delight to watch. The present City team hasn't a single Mancunian player in sight, being instead full of massively expensive and highly rewarded foreign players.

And the manner of their ultimate last day last gasp home victory against 10-man Queens Park Rangers was perhaps almost fittingly breathless and uninspiring, obtained against those 10 men only in the last moments of added time.

The sheer drama of this last day of the season contest between the two Manchester teams provoked a flood of misguided, sentimental, obsequious effusion from Press and Television. But the undoubted last day drama obscured the fact that the Premiership has been anything but truly distinguished, with Arsenal taking so long to make any kind of a challenge and Chelsea, despite their splendid run to the Champions League triumph and all their oligarch money, paying the penalty for the inadequacies of their young immature manager, Andres Villas-Boas. Even the admirable Roberto Di Matteo could not pick up all those pieces.

Money, they say isn't everything. And if Joey Barton hadn't got himself sent off, it may well not have been enough.