International Soccer
City takes a big step at Wembley

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If Manchester City has taught us anything it is that a lot of money can turn a mediocre club into a competitive one in a short period of time.

But another lesson that the Citizens have learned over the past two-and-a-half years is that it takes more than a deep-pocketed owner for a club to join the ranks of the elite.

Sheik Mansour made Manchester City one of the richest clubs in the world overnight when he completed a takeover of the team, and his heavy investment in the club, which includes nearly $500 million spent in transfers, instantly raised expectations.

City was snapping up high-priced players in the transfer window at a rapid rate, but the results were not as quick to follow. And when City missed out on a place in the top four last season, doing so became an instant requirement for manager Roberto Mancini this time around.

Roberto Mancini has the
ability to turn City into a
perennial power in England.
The Italian responded by spending $200 million in the offseason to upgrade the team, and although a place in the Champions League for next season has yet to be secured, City still took a big step forward on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the semifinals of the FA Cup.

The showdown at Wembley not only provided City with another crack at its more heralded neighbors, but it also put the club in position to claim its first trophy in 35 years.

United started off as the better side with Dimitar Berbatov missing two good chances to put the Red Devils in front. But City began to settle into the game and seized control over the final 45 minutes, with midfielder Yaya Toure scoring the game's lone goal.

"I think this is going to be the year for Manchester City," Toure told the club's official website following the match. "But it is not finished. We have to take a second step in the final. We know that. We know we have not won anything yet."

The final will take place on May 14 against Stoke City, and while actually lifting the trophy will be huge for the Citizens, Saturday's win should not be overlooked.

The dynamic between City and United in the city of Manchester has always had kind of a big brother, little brother feel to it.

City might jump up and grab a win against United in a regular season contest, but in the end it was always about Sir Alex Ferguson's men and their huge trophy haul, while City was left to toil in the bottom half of the English Premier League.

But now both clubs are operating with similar bank accounts, and so it is time for City to take the next step and actually start to claim some silverware for the blue half of the city.

It's true that City has spent a ton of money on players, but the tough part is trying to find a place for all of them to play and developing some kind of chemistry.

Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz were two high-priced strikers that were signed by former boss Mark Hughes, who both found it tough to crack the lineup under Mancini.

Both were moved in the January window in an effort to cut down on the grumbling over playing time, but another striker was brought in as Eden Dzeko moved to Eastlands from Wolfsburg.

The squabbling has appeared to have died down a bit, but it still doesn't change the fact that this is a team still trying to find cohesion and consistency.

Less than a week before Saturday's semifinal, City looked dreadful in a 3-0 loss at Liverpool in the league. But as we saw on Saturday and at other times throughout the season, City is still capable of beating any of England's top teams on a given day.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was the only player in City's starting 11 on Saturday that has spent more than three years at the club, illustrating the fact that despite the huge sums of money at its disposal, City is still a club in transition.

If given time, Mancini has the ability to turn City into a perennial power in England, but he has a more immediate goal in mind.

At Old Trafford, United fans have a banner to mark every year that City goes without a title, and just recently, it was updated to show 35 years.

In a few weeks time, Mancini and City will have the opportunity to put an end to that streak, with the win over United in the semifinals making it even more enjoyable.

If they do, it won't put them in the same class as United, but it will at least move them a step closer.

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Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com.

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