Manchester City conjures up contrasting thoughts. Firstly, there is 90s City who were the downtrodden underdogs to their illustrious city neighbours. Secondly there is modern day City, the European super power. I saw them thrash West Ham at the London Stadium twice last season.
I was impressed but also slightly annoyed. I remember, in my youth, how we’d taunt ‘glory hunting’ United fans by telling them that real Mancunians all supported City. The insult would also suggest that Reds fans were entirely people from the Home Counties.
City were near the top of my groundhopping to-do-list nevertheless. The Stadium is an attractive proposition in its own right, regardless of how good its residents are. As it happens City are currently enjoying an extraordinary run of form, and there was a good chance they would add to the nine goals I’ve already see them score this year.
Competition: Premier League
Refreshments: £9.50 (pie and beer)
Star Player: Kevin De Bruyne
A brief history of Manchester City
The club was founded in 1880, originally known as St Mark’s (West Gorton). It later became Ardwick Association FC in 1887 and then Manchester City in 1894. The Citizens claimed their first major honour in 1904 beating Bolton to win the FA Cup.
The most successful period in City’s history, until now, came in the late 60s and early 70s. During this era they won the League (67-68), the FA Cup (68-69), the UEFA Cup Winners Cup (69-70) and the League Cup (69-70). The club also won the League title and FA Cup during the 30s.
City spent several season outside of the top flight around the turn of the century and fell as low as the third tier of English football. They eventually returned to the Premier League in 2002. Since then the club has moved to the City of Manchester stadium, originally built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and become one of the wealthiest clubs in the World.
Five interesting Manchester City facts
- Manchester City was the first of the Manchester clubs to win a major trophy, the 1904 FA Cup.
- The record for the highest attendance for an English club was 84,569 at a Maine Road FA Cup tie between City and Stoke.
- City goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, played on during the 1956 FA Cup Final despite knowingly breaking his neck. They beat Birmingham 3-1 to lift the cup.
- City became the second ever European Trophy winners to be relegated to their nation’s third tier in 1998. The first was FC Magdeburg of Germany.
- City needed two goals in the final two minutes of their 1999 Division Two Play-Off final against Gillingham to get out of the third tier. It went to penalties and they won the shoot-out 3-1.
The Manchester City experience
The day started on a high. As I arrived at Euston Station and positioned myself under the timetables I looked up to see I was stood next to Phil Neville. He was accompanied by a pigeon and lovely piece of personalised luggage, decorated with his initials. I was meeting a friend in Manchester for the game, who happens to be a United fan. I used a sneakily take photo to inform him of my blog’s first celebrity appearance.
The walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station took us away from the hustle and bustle of the city as soon as we turned right onto Ducie Street. We passed canals and re-purposed industrial era buildings before reaching the A665. We then followed the light blue crowds through the New Islington area of the city.
The stadium’s masts and cables were visible for much of the journey and served as an enticing beacon in the grey autumnal sky. When we arrived we immediately saw the Colin Bell Stand, and the crowds of eager children adorning its entrance. It was clearly nearly time for the players’ arrival, so we stayed to get a look.
The bus pulled in and the squad, one-by-one, strolled off and skipped through the crowds and into the stadium. We followed suit and headed for the East Stand on the other side of what’s known as Etihad Campus. We made it through security quickly and headed up the spiral walk-way to the upper tier.
Getting to Manchester City
Train: The City of Manchester Stadium is a 25 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station, and it can also be reached via Metrolink from the City Centre. It has its own Metrolink stop, Etihad Campus.
Car: There is some parking at the stadium (for £10) and a few cheaper car parks nearby. Most of the local streets require resident’s permits.
Glimpses of the stunning stadium were offered from the concourse via small rectangular entry ways into the seating area. We quickly dashed through one to get a look and a couple of photos of the vast swathes of sky blue seats. We headed back to the concourse to sample the food and drink. It was expensive, low quality and a bit of a let-down at such a grand arena.
We took our seats in the East Stand, one block in from the end. We were close to the three tiers worth of away fans and the most vocal Manchester City supporters. Three quarters of the stadium have three tiers, and there are plans to add a third to the North Stand, the only section to still have two tiers.
Most of the atmosphere was led by the Burnley fans, who enjoyed the early exchanges. When City scored, however, the away support were silenced, and the Blues’ fans began to assume the role of chief noise creators. The atmosphere ebbed and flowed along with the game, and there were lulls when the action on the pitch was limited.
There was a friendly and welcoming atmosphere around the stadium. My attempts to subtly ‘out’ my United supporting companion by pointing out their deficit at Huddersfield failed to raise an eyebrow. We were high up in the third tier, but the sightlines were good. Each row was significantly lower than the one behind it, so views have no obstructions and there is plenty of leg-room.
Moving around the stadium was easy and the facilities are great. I even managed to make a half-time toilet stop without having to queue or miss any of the match. The digital wrap on the North Stand regularly kept us up-to-date with the other scores in the Premier League, and there was Wi-Fi. Yes, glorious Wi-Fi. Finally I could sit in a big stadium and keep an eye on my weekly accumulator, not that it helped me win any money.
Manchester City’s form has been scintillating recently, winning all of their last six games. This has included a 7-2 win over Stoke and a 2-1 defeat of Serie A leaders Napoli in the Champions League. Burnley were also unbeaten in their previous six games but had only won twice, drawing the other four.
Three of City’s players had already scored six league goals this season; Aguero, Jesus and Sterling. Silva and De Bruyne were also the top two goal creators in the league prior to kick-off. Burnley had the best defensive record outside of the top three but had been struggling to score many goals.
Burnley started well and successfully kept the talented home side at bay. Chris Wood was giving the City defenders a few headaches and proving to be a good ‘out-ball’ for the Clarets. Unfortunately, the powerful Kiwi picked up an injury and City began to take control of the game.
The home side only had a couple of chances but were dominating the game. They managed to find the breakthrough when Bernardo Silva was felled by the Burnley keeper. He clearly made a meal of it, but even from our view at the opposite end it looked like there was some contact. Aguero scored from the spot to equal the City goal scoring record.
Burnley started the second half well and looked to put some pressure on City. They were unable, however, to create any clear-cut chances. Just like in the first half City then began to take control. De Bruyne was causing havoc with his energy and incisive passing.
City added the second from a set-play, however, as Otamendi headed home from a corner. Seconds later De Bruyne’s through-ball found Sane who made it 3-0. The game was now over and the Burnley faithful had finally been silenced. City didn’t look as impressive as they had in recent games but still did enough to break down a well organised Burnley defence.
Final thoughts and ratings
The game was a slight disappointment considering the standard City had set in the previous weeks. The overall experience of the stadium was good, although the atmosphere could have been better. Noise levels were high after the goals and key incidents but there were also a few lulls.
Ticket availability – Tickets were bought a month or so in advance and easy to get hold of. There were some empty seats on the day, but ‘officially’ the stadium was 98% full. 7/10
Website/social media – The Manchester City website was informative and their digital channels complement each other well. I was sent an email a few days before with all the key information. 9/10
Travel – The stadium is a 25 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station, and a tram service is also available from the city centre. There are some £10 parking spots available at the stadium and a few cheaper options nearby, most of the local streets require permits. 7/10
Ground – The Stadium is stunning and very impressive to look at. There is lots of food and drink stands and ample toilet facilities. 9/10
Food and drink – Food and drink is easy to get hold of in and around the stadium but the price and quality let the stadium down a bit. The larger in particular was poor. 4/10
Programme – A solid, if unspectacular, programme but it did survive a 25 minute walk in a drenched pocket. An extra point added for the cool programme stands. 8/10
Atmosphere – The atmosphere was largely created by the away fans. The City fans joined in from time to time when their side scored, to silence the visitors. 6/10
Football quality – Some of the best players in Europe at the moment, but City failed to hit the heights they had in previous games, despite flashes of brilliance. 8/10
Cost - £46 for the ticket, which I think could have been a little lower for a game against a weaker side. Train was £43 return from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. Food and drink in the stadium was expensive. 6/10
Matchday experience extras – The pre-game entertainment outside the stadium prior to the players arrival was fun, but there wasn’t much extra during the game. 7/10