Man City fans see the jeopardy and feel the fear; don’t pretend to know how we think

David Mooney
Man City fans
Man City fans

You can be bored by Manchester City’s style of play – the methodical patterns that drag opponents around the field into places that create space for City to cause damage. The constant desire to strangle games with an understanding – better than most – of the unquantifiable…the momentum, the flow, that sort of thing. The relentless drip, drip, drip of poison from the fangs into the bloodstream of their pray.

Feel free to be bored, because it’s a perfectly valid opinion. I, and many others, would disagree, but I’m not here to argue the toss about that. A neutral loves a good bit of chaos, an end-to-end spectacle where the football is actually a bit rubbish, but the excitement is ratcheted up the scale by incompetence leading to chances leading to goals or saves or scrambles. That’s something City try not to do.

There’s a brilliance to how they don’t get drawn into that fight. Maybe you see it, maybe you don’t, but it doesn’t really matter.

John Nicholson of this parish does not see it; he finds watching Man City to be like watching maths.

As City stand one win away from an unprecedented fourth top-flight title in a row, a lot is being said about the team, the club, the performances, and the fans. Some of it is fair comment, a lot of it is bullshit. And this serves to address just some of the narrative.

Nobody can speak for an entire fanbase, but can anyone blame City fans for the relentless onslaught telling them how they think, how they feel, and how they should think and how they should feel?

Be it one columnist’s assumption that City fans are bored by the success because the Etihad was a bit anxious at 0-0 against Wolves, to another’s entire re-writing of the 2018/19 run-in as an absolute breeze, all because City didn’t drop a single point. Tottenham (h), Burnley (a), and Leicester (h) – all 1-0 – were not comfortable watches and were not easy wins.

Just because City won the game 2-0 at Tottenham on Tuesday to move two points clear at the top of the table ahead of the final day, does not mean that pre-match presumptions City would stroll it and that there was no jeopardy were accurate. If there was no risk in that game, could somebody have told my stomach – which fell entirely out of my arse – when Heung-Min Son went clean through at 1-0 with three minutes left?

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This isn’t to say, of course, that you – in particular YOU, the non-City fan, reading this – should be excited to see Pep Guardiola lift a fourth title in a row (if that is indeed what happens on Sunday). Again, this is perfectly valid and an annoyance that City have finished top again would be acceptable – as with performances, chaotic seasons are fun for the neutral.

But let’s not pretend that the process of the outcome has been boring. At various points this season, the destination of the title has been in City’s own hands, in Liverpool’s own hands, and in Arsenal’s own hands. There HAVE been twists and turns as people demand – they’ve just not been the twists and turns that people wanted. This season would have been no different had Son slotted past Stefan Ortega on 87 minutes on Tuesday, but Arsenal leading the way heading into Sunday would have made it all more exciting. Apparently.

Just because City have been able to survive the jeopardy doesn’t mean it never existed. They are not too perfect to catch, having been on a run of just four wins in 11 Premier League games back in the winter, worse than any run Arsenal or Liverpool have put together this year. City haven’t crushed the spirit of the league, especially when they still may not win it on the final day and especially when they were the third horse in the race some eight weeks ago.

The charges, the ownership, the amount of money the club had to spend (in the first instance) to raise their level to compete with other top sides…all that has a place in a worthwhile discussion. It’s worth a reminder that City may or may not be guilty of what they are charged with, too, and even in the event of a guilty verdict there is a discussion around sporting achievement that doesn’t come solely from an unfair financial advantage.

And as much as City fans should prepare for a guilty verdict, others should prepare for the opposite. Again, though, I’m not really here to discuss that because everyone has already set out their stall and who can be arsed shouting their opinion that won’t change? You probably disagree with my point of view on sporting merits and, fair enough, I would too if I supported anyone else.

Ultimately, what I’m actually upset about is the way City fans are spoken about by people who have no intention of engaging with them in good faith.

You might be bored by City winning or by their style. But City fans aren’t. You might feel there is no risk to City in any of their games. But City fans don’t.

You might hate what the club is or what it represents in modern football – and nobody should stop you from voicing that opinion (but they should be allowed to disagree).

Just don’t ever profess to know what fans think or feel, certainly not without asking them. We’re far more complex creatures than you give us credit for.