|Man City - 7 times Champions|
Back in 2003, Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and boldly claimed he would make them the premiere team in the UK. As an oligarch with billions in the bank, the world of English football gasped. Many people claimed that it wasn't right that Chelsea should be allowed to buy the title. As my team, Manchester City were languishing mid table in the Premier League, having had two decades of being a badly run yo yo team, I was actually secretly pleased. To me it meant that maybe we'd be spared the crowing of Manchester United, who were the Kings supreme of the Premiership, richer, more powerful and more arrogant than the rest of the league put together.
Lets have a look at who won the Premier League in the decade before Abramovich. Manchester United won the title seven times, Arsenal won it twice and Blackburn won it once. The Premier League was set up to make the rich clubs richer. United had a hegemony on the title and apart from the season where Blackburn, bankrolled by Jack Walkers largess, ruined the party, won every year apart from a couple of seasons, where Arsenal snuck in as United rebuilt ageing teams.
In 2008, Abu Dhabi group bought Manchester City. Like Chelsea, huge investments were made. It took three years for City to win the Premiership, as a bunch of also rans were transformed into serious contenders. Whilst you wouldn't need to be a genius to expect City to do well, winning five of the ten titles in the ten year period, the league has become more competetive. Chelsea, perhaps usurprisingly won two titles, but we saw Liverpool and Leicester also win titles, without any of the largess of a huge benefactor. Even United managed a title in the period, for the swansong of Sir Alex Fergusson.
Back in 2003, before Abramovich, the fans of City, Chelsea and Leicester would have laughed the prospect of a decade where their teams outperformed the once mighty United. But football is about dreams. The club which seems to have suffered most has been Arsenal. They have slipped from being the team that were the natural challengers to Manchester United, to being a very mediocre mid table team. As Leicester a likely to qualify for the Champions league for the second time in five years, having won the title in 2016 and having reached the Champions League Semi Final in 2017, no fair analysis would conclude that the woes of Arsenal are anything but the result of mismanagement.
This season, Manchester United are likely to have one of their best post Ferguson campaigns. The club are likely to finish as runners up and win the Europa League. They have a hugely expensive squad, despite the owners taking a billion pounds out of the club for dividends and racking up huge debts. Every reasonable person recognises that United have been asset stripped. Would all of the United fans who scream about how unfair it is that the owners of City and Chelsea have invested their billions really believe that a bunch of asset strippers with no care for the club, its fans or traditions, really want to see the approach of the Glazers succeed?
I personally wouldn't mind seeing an end to the practice of billionaires buying clubs, but ending the ability of foreign owners to asset strip is surely far more important. The owners of Chelsea and City were never more than luke warm about the ESL. They don't need it and just wanted to be left behind. The owners that were up for it, were the debt ridden Spanish clubs and the toppled English clubs, who have failed to face up to their own failure. I'd be more than happy to see compulsory fan representation on the board, it would end the ESL type fiasco's. But it won't happen any time soon. United fans should recognise that if the Oligarchs and the Oil money went it wouldn't make the Glazers disappear, it would just make it easier for them to mine the pockets of the ordinary United fans. Is that really what they want? I don't think so.