The life of a football manager is such that you have to put aside personal preferences and favourite clubs in order to achieve your professional goals. And that was the case as Bolton Wanderers fan Robí Sebastian Jesús di Lathamé took the reigns at Manchester City.
I put aside my dislike for the club to win 17 of my first 20 games as Man City manager, and leading the club to the top of the Premier League after 14 matches.
The teams we’d built with Sporting, Valencia and Dortmund had been pretty damn good, but the one we’ve walked into and strengthened here is right up there. For starters, we have four players considered elite or world-class central midfielders, two elite wingers, two top class strikers, elite defenders across the back four, and a world-class goalkeeper. How this club hasn’t won the league in 11 years is beyond me!
Anyway, I think we’ve improved the squad we arrived to, and switched up the way that they play to this:
First Winter in England
We somehow only beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 despite having 28shots to their two, thanks to in-form striker Diego Gutiérrez and centre-back Baiano’s late penalty (because of course our centre-back who wants to play as a Libero takes penalties!). Then won 3-1 at Swansea City with a screamer from right-winger Celinho, Gutiérrez and an injury-time goal from substitute midfielder Ljubisa Cula.
And the good form continued as we destroyed West Ham 5-0 but should have scored at least double that! Juan Martín Sancho bagged a first-half hat-trick and Gutiérrez scored twice in an impressive victory.
A draw at Fulham, in which they obviously scored with their first shot, teed up a first Manchester derby as we welcomed United to the Etihad on Boxing Day. United offered very little and we breezed to an easy 2-0 win thanks to Gutiérrez’s awesome header then Sir Phil Foden finishing off a lovely move from a new short free-kick routine I’d just created.
That had us sitting five points clear of Liverpool and nine ahead of United. While Arsenal were way down in 14th and five points above the relegation zone, which prompted them to sack Mikel Arteta after 17 years and 179 days at the club.
We then had two tough away games in which we drew 0-0 at Wolves, in which we dominated by 19 shots to 9 but had zero highlights… righto… then edged a 2-1 win at Arsenal, who were 20th in the form table!
January transfer window
Our second transfer window in England was a relatively quiet one. I sold off some crappy 23-year-old from the Under 23s for a cool £32 million. Then signed a bonafide wonderkid striker Mikael Bak for a mere £10 million.
Moving into 2037
2037 sounds like a long, long time away at the time of writing, but that’s where we’ve just moved to in the second half of our first season in England. The year began with a couple of decent looking home games, in which we beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 then really opened up for the first time in a league match by thumping Norwich City 6-0.
And that teed us up nicely for a second Manchester derby, this time at Old Trafford. We managed to soak up their massive pressure and gave them a real FM-ing as Sir Foden lofted a ball over the top for Gutiérrez to race home and smash home the winner. Liverpool drew two in a row, which moved us a huge ten points clear!
Another clean sheet followed as we won 1-0 at Chelsea, with Simon Roger Makengo banging an absolute screamer for just his second league goal of the season, which is pretty shocking.
But that result kicked us into a strong run of form with seven wins out of the next eight games with goals being shared all around the team, and the only blip being a 1-0 loss at West Ham. Then, when Liverpool bizarrely lost 1-0 at bottom of the league Derby, who’d only taken 14 points before that, it set up a chance for us to claim the title at home to Watford.
Makengo stepped up to smash a home a fantastic free-kick then Dean Martin ran from the halfway line through the entire Watford defence to score from close range to send us 2-0 up at the break. Any fears of a comeback were stopped as Baiano stooped to head home his 10th of the season just after the break and doubled his tally from the penalty spot.
Manchester City were Champions of England for the first time in 12 years!
It was lucky we wrapped things up early as we faced away games at Spurs, Everton and Liverpool in our last five games. We lost the first two then earned a good 0-0 at Anfield, then a 3-0 win at home to Derby saw us stroll to the title with 94 points, a huge 13 ahead of United and 15 clear of Liverpool.
EFL Cup Final
City had won the EFL Cup the previous season, and we continued that cup form by breezing through to the semi-finals where we got a decent draw against Norwich. And it was basically over at half-time of the first leg as we led 3-0, then continued to win 5-0. I rotated for the away leg and we won 1-0 to reach the final, which is an all-Manchester affair!
And the Manchester derby final turned out to be a bit of a classic, albeit a slow burner. Baiano scored a penalty after four minutes, and it stayed 1-0 through a half-time with a total of just three shots. And it stayed that way until the 93rd minute, when United scored a last-gasp equaliser.
They then went ahead in extra-time, only to undo their comeback with a 114th-minute own goal. And that took us to penalties, in which they missed their third, then Celinho missed our next kick, but Betinho stepped up to save their last penalty and win us the EFL Cup! And that was the first leg in completing a double in our first season in England.
We dished out a 7-0 thumping to Yeovil Town in the FA Cup third round then my 900th match as a manager came in the fourth round at Aston Villa, who are doing brilliantly in 5th in the Premier League after finishing 17th in the last two seasons. And they have Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager. I threw in a totally rotated team as all our players were knackered and we lost 1-0 to a wondergoal.
Despite winning our group at a canter we got a tough second round draw against Bayern and lost the away leg 2-0. We looked to be out until Ljubisa Cula came off the bench to score in the 89th minute then Celinho scored a 96th minute equaliser! We went to penalties, both teams missed their first kick, Martin missed our fourth and Betinho saved their final penalty to keep us in it. It went all the way to nine kicks each, when Betinho made his third save of the shootout to send us through.
But it didn’t get much easier as we drew Liverpool in the quarter-final. We lost the away leg 1-0 then won the return 1-0 but penalties went against us as we missed our fourth and fifth spot-kicks – with Gutiérrez, who’s been terrible in the second half of the season, missing the vital penalty.
Join us next time as we recap on a successful first season in our homeland of England with Manchester City!