It has been 10 years since Abu Dhabi United Group, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, took over the reins at Manchester City and transformed the once struggling outfit into a world power.
City are now the established heavyweights of the Premier League and have access to the best talent on the planet with finances no longer a constraint. But 10 years ago, the scenario was drastically different.
Around this time in 2008, the club was in dire straits with serious question marks over their future. But how grim was the situation?
In a new book by Daniel Slack-Smith that reveals the inside story behind Manchester City’s transformation, club icon Vincent Kompany and other important figures talk about how bad things were and how far the club has come.
“I remember going to the toilet for the first time, and it was two cubicles. One had a door and the other one had the door hanging off, almost,” says Kompany about the Carrington training ground in the book, the excerpts of which were published by the Daily Mail. The 32-year-old Belgian had arrived at City in August 2008, just a week before Sheikh Mansour bought the club from ex-Thailand president Thaksin Shinawatra.
“There was a machine with weights where you couldn’t really lift it because there was so much rust on it. There was a punching bag that was half cut through the middle as if someone came in with a samurai sword. You had one glove to punch it, so you could develop an anomaly on one side from working out that way. And it was cold,” he said.
Pete Bradshaw, City’s director of infrastructure and estates, revealed the club’s finances were a total mess. “We had gone through periods where it was challenging to pay the staff. We could not order stationery. We’d bring pens and pencils from home for a while,” he says in the book.
However once the takeover was complete, Manchester City transformed almost overnight.
“We came back and they’d done one of those things you’d see on Extreme Makeovers or something,” says Kompany. “They’d changed the whole training facility. It was all short-term, makeshift, but it looked a million dollars and it was literally two weeks, which was incredible.”
Mourinho’s United have suffered defeats in two of their opening three games this season, losing 3-2 at Brighton and then 3-0 to Tottenham at Old Trafford on Monday.
It is the first time the club have lost two of their first three matches of a Premier League campaign since 1992-93, and the Spurs result was Mourinho’s heaviest home loss in management.
It has left United 13th in the table, six points behind Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea and Watford, and four points behind defending champions City.
After the Tottenham game, Mourinho concluded a spiky post-match press conference by pointing out he had won the division three times, then demanding “respect, respect, respect” as he walked out.
And on Friday, speaking ahead of United’s match at Burnley on Sunday, the Portuguese described himself as “one of the greatest managers in the world”.
Guardiola, whose side host Newcastle on Saturday, said of Mourinho: “The history, and the way Jose did in all the places he was – it’s hats off.
“There’s no doubts about his quality. I never have in the past, and never now.”
Guardiola added: “Our position is results. But every manager, what he believes, what he likes, tries to get results in his own style.
“We are judged for the results we get.
“Only the players know exactly how you are as a manager because they know you and see you every day. They have more information than the rest of the world – the fans, the media, everybody.
“And normally, even (by) the players, we are judged – if they play, the manager is good, if they don’t play, the manager is not good.”
When Guardiola was asked if he was surprised about the amount of pressure Mourinho had come under so early in the season, he said: “(It’s) our job unfortunately.
“It’s happened to me in the past. All the managers – our job depends on results. When we win we are good, when we don’t win we are not good, it is simple like that.
“The important (thing) is to know the quality and always I believe when you get (to) that level in the Premier League, all the managers are here because they are top, top managers.”
Guardiola was also asked if he was surprised about United’s position in the table, and said: “(They) remain a great team, a top team.
“We’re just in August. It’s just August, so a lot of points to play (for), and after the international break starts the real season.”
Burnley boss Sean Dyche has no shortage of respect for Mourinho, who, as well as triumphing in the Premier League three times with Chelsea, has also won the top flight in Spain, Italy and Portugal, and the Champions League twice.
Dyche said: “My respect for people like Jose is because I am a young manager, learning the game, and these people have done enormous amounts in the game, for the game.
“People forget that. In this job you get questioned for what is happening now – people soon forget your history and what you’ve done.
“He’s done massive things for the game – for him, for the clubs, and for the game.
“I have respect for all those people, and all managers. But I think you’ve got to have a bit more respect for when they (people like Mourinho) have done the things they have done in the game.”
Dyche added: “I’m certainly not going to question his conduct because he knows what he is doing, I’m pretty sure of that, whatever everyone else thinks.”
With Saturday marking the 10-year anniversary of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s purchase of the club for £210 million, City’s aspirations over the past decade have grown significantly.
After witnessing City win three Premier League titles in that span, including last season’s triumph, Al Mubarak believes the next step for the club will be a European crown.
“The short answer is, yes we should win it [Champions League] in the next 10 years, and obviously sooner rather than later,” Al Mubarak told ESPN FC. “But it’s hard.
“It took Barcelona almost 50 years to win their first Champions League – it’s a very difficult competition and what makes it even more difficult for English teams is the competition in the Premier League. We have the disadvantage of having to play an incredibly difficult game every weekend. Not all the competition we face in the Champions League has that.
“Every game [in the Premier League] is absolutely difficult, home or away. That’s a fact. It’s real. You can go to any of last season’s bottom three and they are very difficult games. That’s the beauty of this league, but also puts a huge toll – physically and mentally – on those teams competing for the Champions League.”
City have reached the Round of 16 in the Champions League five straight years, including a semi-final exit in 2016 and a quarter-final loss this year.
While they’ve yet to break through in the competition, they’ve fared much better domestically. However, Al Mubarak has a hard time seeing the club reach similar heights as Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in that regard.
“The dominance that United had, of 13 titles in 20 years, is almost impossible to do in the modern game,” he said. “It is too competitive, too difficult, and that’s the beauty of the Premier League.
“Italy is different, with one team dominating, and it is unfortunate for that league. Germany is the same. You have two or three competitors in each league, but a very dominant No1.
“The Spanish league has three teams competing, but in reality two who can win it year in and year out, but the Premier League – just look at the past three champions.
“But the beauty of what we have today, with Guardiola, is what I believe is the beginning of a period that this club is going to go through, of sustained success in quite a beautiful way.
“Last year was wonderful, and we are very excited about this season, and the years ahead with Pep, this organisation and the group of players we have put together.”