It is the 16th of April 1894 and Ardwick A.F.C., previously St Mark’s of West Gorton, have decided on a name. Since playing their first recorded match in 1880, those who had first come to east Manchester to serve their faith had found a new religion. Word had spread far and wide. Now, the Mancunian pilgrimmage would be to the football pitch instead.
On that day in 1894, Manchester City Football Club was born. Looking back 125 years on, City Xtra takes a look at Manchester City in moments…
1904 – The Original Mancunian Winners
Ten years since its reincarnation and Manchester City became the first side in Manchester collect silverware, beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 in the 1904 FA Cup final at Crystal Palace. Winning England’s premier cup competition saw City narrowly miss out on a domestic double, as they finished runners-up in the top flight First Division.
Though those in red might have you believe that City don’t have any history, you can rest assured that the Blues have been doing Manchester proud since before their grandparents had even kicked a ball.
1923 – Maine Road, Moss Side
With City firmly established in the English top flight, the years surrounding World War One proved tricky for the Blues. Having suffered from a financial scandal and harsh treatment by the Football Association in the years after their FA Cup win, it certainly didn’t help that 1920 destroyed the main stand at City’s then-home at Hyde Road.
The event caused plans for a new ground to take shape and on the 5th August 1923, almost 60,000 people gathered to watch Manchester City beat Sheffield United 2-1 at the newly-costructed Maine Road. With the ground’s completion, a love affair started that would live long in the hearts of those who bleed blue.
1934 – The FA Cup Specialists
Speaking of Maine Road, the purported 85,000 capacity at the old ground was the site of a still-standing record for attendence at a club ground when City played Stoke City in the quarter-finals of the 1934 FA Cup.
Having reached semi-finals in 1932 and then the final in 1933, City were gaining a well-earned reputation as cup specialists. Come the 3rd of March 1934, and 84,569 people clearly thought the Blues were onto something. To this day, this remains a record attendence for an English home ground.
With Eric Brook scoring a wonder goal to secure a 1-0 win, the record crowd that day surely gave City the momentum they needed to go all the way, making it to Wembley to face Portsmouth in the 1934 FA Cup final. A young Frank Swift would be the hero that day, keeping City in the game as they won 2-1 to lift the FA Cup once more, thirty years after their first and only previous victory.
1937 – Champions of England
In the years after their second FA Cup win, City were able to find their feet, building a strong core with the legendary Frank Swift establishing himself as one of the best in the country between the sticks. With a good foundation, the 1936/37 season saw the Blues score over 100 goals, go on a 22 game unbeaten streak and, eventually, lift their first English First Division title.
Just for laughs, the same season saw United relegated alongside Sheffield Wednesday. Oh, what a time.
1938 – Typical City is Born
Maybe this is where a lot of modern league trouble have spawned from. With a first English league title under their belts, many would have expected City to establish themselves at the top of the football table, but the Blues had other ideas. For 1938 would prove to be the maiden case of City-itis, with the Blues being relegated to the second tier despite being reigning champions.
They might have scored a league-high 80 goals, but the City team of 1938 are the only side to be relegated from England’s top flight with a positive goal difference!
1956 – Bert Trautmann Risks It All
After World War Two had been and gone, City took a while to find their feet again. Yet with legendary Frank Swift on the edge of retirement, few would have expected the Blues to place their faith in Bernhard Carl Trautmann, a former Nazi paratrooper.
Though the mass protests and widespread controversy have become the stuff of legend, it is testament to Bert’s phenomenal character that the once prisoner of war was able to win over City and English hearts with his amazing shot-stopping and unbelievable spirit.
There is no greater testament to this than the German’s heroics in the 1956 FA Cup Final. Having brought new life to the goalkeeper’s position with a previously unheard of desire to come off his line, Trautmann would become immortalised in English football history as he valiantly played the last 15 minutes of the match with a broken neck, keeping City in the game to win the cup with a 3-1 victory.
As we have told in Bert’s story on our site, the German had a career few could comprehend. From 20,000 protesting his signing to 47,000 people attending his final testimonial match, Bert Trautmann will forever be close to blue hearts.
1966 – Division Two with Mercer and Allison
City swept aside all competition in the 1965-66 season, where they won the second division by four points under new manager Joe Mercer. Along the way, they scored 76 goals in 42 games, beating Leyton Orient 5-0, Wolves 2-4 and Bolton Wanderers 4-1. Mercer would become one of the most successful City managers of all time, winning the first division, FA Cup and European Cup Winner’s Cup over the next five seasons (see below).
The relationship between Mercer and his assistant Malcom Allison disintegrated at the end of this period of success. In a nasty turn of events, Allison forced his way into the role of manager after a lengthy power struggle. However, under Allison the team struggled and he resigned shortly after taking the job. If Mercer had stayed, or left under different circumstances, City’s trajectory over the next decades may have turned out very differently indeed.
1968 – First Division winners
With Mercer at the helm, City began their brief era of English dominance as they triumphed to win the English First Division in 1968. With new captain Tony Book marshalling the backline, Colin Bell charging through the midfield and Mike Summerbee bursting forwards, the Blues were only further strengthened as they signed Francis Lee from Bolton Wanderers for a then-club record of £600,000. Manager Mercer would famously tell Lee that he was the player to complete his side, and it proved to be the case as the Blues enjoyed an 11 match unbeaten run following his signing.
In a manner that many modern Blues will find familiar, City were level on points with Manchester United going into the final day of the season. Additionally, there was the added threat of Liverpool, who were three points behind with a game in hand, and could win the title if either of the Manchester sides slipped up. City faced tenth-placed Newcastle and remarkably entered half time drawing 2-2. Yet in the second half, goals from Neil Young and Francis Lee secured what would be a 4-3 win, allowing City to hold on and begin a remarkble few years at the peak of English football.
1969 – FA Cup with Bell, Summerbee and Lee
The following year, City would abadon their trademark sky blue in a match that would immortalise red and black as perhaps the iconic away strip in the club’s history. Making the FA Cup final against Leicester City, Mercer’s men would win 1-0 thanks to a thunderous hit from Neil Young, as the lifelong Blue fired his effort into the top of the net past England legend Peter Shilton.
1970 – The European and League Cup Double
That FA Cup win would qualify City for Europe, competing in the now-defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup. Before they could do that though, they would compete and win the League Cup in a 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion. Goals from Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe saw the Blues recover from a 1-0 defecit to bring the trophy back to Manchester.
A month later, City would play in the final of the aforementioned European Cup Winners’ Cup. They had a gruelling course to the final, as Athletic Bilbao, Lierse, Académica, and Schalke 04 would test the team’s mettle in their sophmore European season. Having exited in the first round in their very first continental campaign the previous season, the Blues were able to use their previous experience to eventually meet Polish side Górnik Zabrze in the cup final hosted in Austria. Though the weather was infamously dreadful, Neil Young and Francis Lee scored as City won 2-1 to win their only European trophy.
1974 – Denis Law relegates United
Among the most infamous moments of 20th Century Manchester City was Denis Law’s derby day delight in 1974. The former United player, who’d also turned out for Torino and even City themselves before, took to the field in the final game of the season against the Red Devils knowing that a win for City would almost certainly relegate their rivals.
Law, ever the professional, didn’t let that knowledge stop him from scoring the only goal of the game, backheeling into the net with under ten minutes to go as City won 1-0. He refused to celebrate, understandably, but this derby winner made Law an instant hero – one of the few to play on both sides of the Manchester divide – and saw the birth of one of City’s most iconic goals ever. Denis has done it.
1987 – Manchester City 10-1 Huddersfield
Though dark days would come more often than not in the years to come, there were still plenty of memorable moments as City morphed into a more dogged side. In fact, one of the most famous wins in City history came when the Blues were in Division Two, as the Mel Machin’s Maine Road squad managed a one-of-a-kind 10-1 win over a dismal Huddersfield Town side. On paper, there was nothing remarkable about a game that would turn out to be one of the most remarkable City games of either past or future.
Paul Stewart, Tony Adcock and David White grabbed a hat-trick each (how did they split the match ball?) after cult hero Neil McNabb opened the rout, with a rampant City putting goal after goal past the unfortunate goalkeeper Brian Cox. This sensational demolition of a fellow professional side saw Terriers manager Malcom MacDonald fired months later, and he hasn’t managed since.
The Huddersfield Examiner called it a ‘Maine Road Massacre’. Huddersfield fans may want to forget that day, but no City fan who was there ever will…
1988 – ‘Ave a Banana
Though not a concrete moment, a defining part in City’s history remains the presence of a plastic piece of fruit. Inflatable bananas, to be precise.
As the news report below will highlight, English football was at one of its lowest points in the aftermath of the Heysel disaster and tainted by hooliganism. Still in Division Two, City would put the fun back into football as one by one, clusters of yellow made themselves known on terraces up and down the country, wherever City went.
Whether the cause or the effect, City’s love affair with inflatable bananas is tied to Imre Varadi. Playing West Brom in November of 1988, the Maine Road faithful were eager to see the Englishman come off the bench. However, rather than call for his actual name, ‘Imre Banana‘ would echo around the ground instead.
From there on out, there was no splitting the club from their inflatable fruit (though they are a scarcity these days).
1989 – From Bradford to the Big Time
The 1987/88 season was a mercurial one, principally because it brought joy in a host of ways. First came then the bananas, then came a then-best ever derby result for City as they thrashed United 5-1, despite the Red Devils playing in Division One.
However, the crowning moment was actually a 1-1 draw away to Bradford, as once again, City sealed the deal on the final day as Trevor Morley turned the ball home to cap off his solo season in sky blue. Though not quite champions, City came second in Division Two behind Chelsea to rise back into England’s top tier.
1999 – Wembley Wonderland
Whilst more modern fans might have a firm favourite for City’s greatest moment (more on that later), there is equal case to suggest that the 1998/99 Second Division playoff final is the very best for the Blues.
The 90s might have been alright for some, but for Manchester City supporters, they are some of the darkest days. Having flirted with relegated from the newly-formed Premier League for most of the decade, time would finally catch up with the Blues as they suffered consequtive relegations from 1996, finding themselves in England’s third tier come 1998 (then called the Second Division).
As a consequence of their hard times, the club was facing financial disarray and a long stay in the doldrums should Joe Royle’s team not get their act together quickly. Luckily, City would fight until the end as ever, with Kevin Horlock and Paul Dickov both scoring to turn around a two goal defecit and take the match to penalties.
Dickov would not have the same luck in the shootout, missing his spot-kick, but thanks to the heroics of Nicky Weaver, City would perform the most important turnound of in their history.
2000 – Back in the Big Time
The momentum from the Playoff Final would spur City onto further success, as the Blues would go from consequtive relegations to consequetive promotions following their 4-1 hiding of Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
They might have been 1-0 down at first but all would soon be forgotten as four City second half goals (from Shaun Goater, Mark Kennedy, Paul Dickov and a Blackburn own goal) would trigger a colossal pitch invasion as City returned triumphantly to the Premier League once more.
2003 – Feed the Goat at Maine Road
It was always going to be a big moment. With City finally leaving Maine Road to move into the City of Manchester Stadium, the final Manchester derby for City was already packed full with narrative galore. That was of course, before Shaun Goater decided to end Gary Neville’s season and score a brace to give City a historic 3-1 victory as they wove goodbye to Maine Road for the final time.
What else is there to say but ‘Feed the Goat and he will score…’
2004 – A Historic Tottenham Comeback
More than most, Manchester City is a club that has enjoyed a fair few infamous comebacks over the years. This one, against Tottenham, may not be the most well-known – but it’s arguably the most impressive to date, and one of the best in the history of the FA Cup.
3-0 down away from home, City’s problems got worse just before half-time as Joey Barton saw a second yellow card for dissent. But Kevin Keegan’s side refused to give up and, despite their numerical disadvantage, were given hope as Sylvain Distin headed in Michael Tarnat’s free kick. A deflected Paul Bosvelt effort swung momentum in City’s favour before club icon Shaun Wright-Phillips scored an unlikely leveler ten minutes from time. It was down to Jonathan Macken to score a breathtaking stoppage-time winner to complete one of the most unforgettable comebacks of the decade and, indeed, one of the greatest games in Manchester City history as City won 4-3.
2008 – Abu Dhabi Takeover and Robinho Arrives
This is it. Arguably the key moment in these 125 years, the turning point, the defining day. After years of mid-table mediocrity (or stability, depending on your point of view), the club was changed forever by the takeover of the Abu Dhabi Group, headed by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, one of the world’s richest men. The takeover was agreed on September 1st, 2008. The same day, Robinho arrived from Real Madrid for a club-record fee surpassing £30m.
Robinho may have flopped but the takeover certainly did not. Over ten years later, the club has won eight major trophies and signed some of the finest players in the world. Led by captain Vincent Kompany and three world-class managers, Manchester City is well on the way to achieving Sheikh Mansour’s dream of becoming the most powerful club in the world.
2009 – The Invisible Berti
Glauber Berti holds the unique honour of being one of City’s most memorable and most forgettable players all at the same time.
The Brazilian only spent one season in Manchester, having arrived in the summer of 2008 as a sigining from Germany’s FC Nürnberg. Yet if that brevity wasn’t enough, Berti would sit on the bench a remarkable 20 times during his solo season under Mark Hughes.
This unwanted run became so bizarre that it caused many City fans to question reality itself. It was highly likely that Mark Hughes was a tad odd and maybe even had a stick up his arse about Berti’s involvement, but just as likely that the Brazilian didn’t actually exist. As a result, he was nicknamed ‘The Invisible Man’, in honour of one of City’s most iconic chants.
A fire had been started in City hearts. No, the Brazilian might not have been a match-winning player, but Blues were adament that Berti must get on the pitch.
Like many a day for City, the time would come in the final game of the season. With the City faithful screaming for his involvement, the 85th minute saw him subbed on, where each touch was cheered and songs echoed around the Etihad.
2009 – Welcome to Manchester…
How do you begin to compete with one of the most powerful dynasties in English football history? Simple. Sign one of their best players, then recruit one of the coolest managers in the world.
The first was the definition of a statement of intent. Having been a star of Manchester United’s front line, Carlos Tevez was one of the most prolific strikers in world football. That didn’t stop City from signing the Argentinian though, and then announcing it in one of the greatest PR moves the game has ever seen. It was enough to show that United were no longer inpregnable, but to parade it on a billboard? It was an instant powerplay.
Next came the arrival of Bobby Manc himself. In securing the services of Italian maestro Roberto Mancini, City leapt lightyears beyond the managerial talents of Mark Hughes, all whislt oozing panache out of their backsides.
No one could predict the footballing history that was to follow, but Tevez and Mancini’s arrivals already confirmed one fact. The “Noisy Neighbours” were here to stay.
2010 – Let’s All Do The Poznan
One of the finer prints of Manchester City’s history is the inception of an unforgettable piece of fan culture. When the Blues met Polish side Lech Poznan in the 2010 Europa League, many were fascinated by a craze that seemed to sweep across the Etihad Stadium. Althought Mancini’s men won the match 3-1 with Emmanuel Adebayor scoring a hat-trick, the passion of Polish away fans captivated all those present, particularly when they turned to face away from the pitch to jump up and down as they all helds each other’s shoulders.
From there on, mild interest became an ardent craze. Though it resembled ‘a messy waterfall’, the celebration would become a focal point of many of City’s best matches in the years following that Europa League campaign, particularly on momentous occasions the following year.
2011 – Yaya the Cup Conquerer
Manchester City’s first trophy in over three decades came in the spring of 2011, when they won the FA Cup at Wembley stadium. Yaya Touré scored the only goal in both the semi-final against Manchester United and the final against Stoke City to give City the trophy, firing home in the 52nd and 74th minutes respectively.
These goals set an early precedent for Touré’s status as a club legend and, more importantly, were crucial in installing a winning mentality in City’s squad. Without these goals and these games, it’s possible that City’s future success would have turned out differently…
2011 – The Demolition Derby
In what is possibly the single most revered game of many City fans today, Manchester City announced their arrival as the best team in Manchester by destroying Sir Alex Ferguson’s United by six goals to one on their own turf. The Citizens inflicted United’s worst defeat at Old Trafford for almost sixty years by running riot against their title rivals.
Two goals apiece from Mario Balotelli – who marked the occasion by revealing his now-infamous ‘Why Always Me?’ shirt – and Edin Dzeko were added to by Sergio Aguero and the magnificent David Silva as ten-man United crumbled before them. Come the end of the season, it even became clear that Manchester City may not have won the league on goal difference had this scoreline been narrower. There’s a reason they call it the demolition derby.
2012 – Agüerooooo and 93:20
Here we reach the single most famous moment in the lifetime of the club- in fact, in the entire history of the Premier League. Manchester City had never won the competition (since the rebrand in the early 1990s, that is) and had never come closer than they were in May 2012, when a late run of wins dragged the blues within touching distance of snatching the title from United’s grip. A home game against QPR to finish the season, and only a win would be enough to win the league- what could possibly go wrong?
Well, quite a lot, it turns out. Somehow, City were 1-2 down going into injury time and the title dream seemed to be dead. Impossibly, they had failed to seize this opportunity despite thirty-seven games of hard work and champion-worthy form. Then, out of nowhere, hope. Edin Dzeko headed in a David Silva corner, sprinted to the centre circle, and the rest is history.
“Manchester City are still alive here. Balotelli… Aguerooooooo!”
These are the infamous words of Martin Tyler, commentating on what just might be the most spectacular finish to a league season anywhere across the world. Sergio Aguero rifled in the winner in the ninety-fourth minute, sending the Etihad into raptures unlike any noise heard there before or since. City won the Premier League for the first time, and have done it twice more since then – but for sheer glory, for overwhelming joy, this moment may never be matched.
So watch it. Drink it in. Cheers, Sergio.
2014 – Charmingly Engineered Double
After a disappointing campaign led to the sacking of Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini was hired in an attempt to get City back on track. The former Real Madrid manager did exactly that, employing a positive style of play which the Telegraph described as ‘death by beautiful geometry’. He signed landmark player Fernandinho, who would go on to be the last member of City’s icons of that era, as well as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
Pellegrini’s first season at City was an unqualified success, winning the Premier League over Liverpool after beating Manchester United 4-1 and 3-0, Tottenham Hotspur 6-0 and 5-1 and Arsenal 6-3, among other high scorelines. To add to the matter, City beat Sunderland to win the League Cup final and complete a double. Pellegrini would go on to take City to their first ever Champions League semi-final before departing amicably (and with the respect of millions of City fans) after three years at the club.
2016 – Big Willy Wins It For City
Manchester City gained a new cult hero on the 28th of February 2016, when Willy Caballero saved three consecutive penalties to win Manuel Pellegrini’s second Capital One Cup against Liverpool. After Fernandinho’s opener was cancelled out by Philippe Coutinho late on, the game went to spot-kicks. The Argentine Caballero, who many declared should be dropped for the final after an error-strewn season, stood firm; he saved penalties from Lucas Leiva, Coutinho and Adam Lallana.
Meanwhile, Jesus Navas and Sergio Aguero put their kicks away before Yaya Touré stepped up to score the winner. Caballero was the hero though, and this game was something of a turning point as he proved a reliable first-choice for much of the next season under new management.
2016 – All Hail Pep
Few moments define the recent history of this club like the appointment of Pep Guardiola, who was widely considered one of the best managers of all time when he arrived in the summer of 2016. Replacing Manuel Pellegrini, Guardiola had made his name with giants Barcelona and Bayern Munich before joining the blues. He arrived with a big reputation and big expectations.
Guardiola would go on to win three trophies in his first two and a half years at the club, as well as masterminding the sensational Centurion season (see below). His appointment has also been credited with the signings and growth of several key City players, as well as having a significant influence over the style and line-up of the England national team. Despite being present for just three of the one-hundred and twenty-five years, Guardiola is certainly one of the most important people to ever touch this club.
2018 – Pass Us The Carabao
The newly rebranded League Cup was City’s once more in 2018, albeit in less dramatic fashion as the Citizens wiped the floor with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. It was a night in which three of the most important men in this 125-year odyssey got on the scoresheet at Wembley, as Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva struck to win the trophy for their team.
Special mention must be given to Claudio Bravo, who saved penalties against Wolves and Leicester on City’s path to the final and got an assist at Wembley for Aguero’s opener. Just like Caballero two years before, it was a much-criticised goalkeeper who got the plaudits in yet another cup run.
2018 – The Centurions
Later on in the same season, City completed a double with arguably the most impressive Premier League season of all time. They became the first ever team to accumulate one hundred points in the division’s history thanks to an astonishing finale at St. Mary’s Stadium, where Gabriel Jesus scored a late winner to ensure his side hit the unprecedented total.
The campaign was a whirlwind of stoppage-time goals and unforgettable wins, with highlights including Kevin De Bruyne’s decisive screamer at Stamford Bridge, Nicolas Otamendi’s winner away to Manchester United and Raheem Sterling’s beautiful curler at the death to make it 2-1 against Southampton.
Not only had the feat never been accomplished before, but there’s a good chance it never will again. That’s what makes this title win one of the best moments in Manchester City history.
2019 – Pass Us Some More Carabao
What makes this particular League Cup win so significant is that it marked the first time in the history of the football club that the team retained a trophy. City’s second Carabao Cup in as many years may not have been the most memorable affair, with the match won on penalties after a goalless draw remembered only for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s astonishing insubordination.
Pep Guardiola’s side beat Oxford United, Fulham and Leicester City to reach the semi-finals, where a ridiculous 10-0 aggregate victory saw the team through to Wembley. On the night it was Raheem Sterling who scored the winning penalty, after Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Aguero scored from the spot.
2019 – History Awaits…
With somewhere between seven and ten games left of the season, Manchester City still have three more trophies left to win. The coveted quadruple has never been completed before, but there’s a first time for everything, and City now are closer than anyone has gotten in the past.
A second leg against Tottenham awaits in the Champions League, as well as an FA Cup final against Watford and five remaining games in the Premier League title race against Liverpool. Whether Guardiola’s side will come out of this campaign with one, two, three or four trophies is yet to be seen – but it could be the difference between excellency and immortality…
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