Man City have fulfilled potential of takeover, now time to push on
When their club was taken over by Sheikh Mansour in September 2008, Manchester City fans dreamt about rising out of the doldrums. For decades they had suffered the humiliation of relegations and underperformance, while their closest rivals won titles and acclaim.
When United toured Manchester's streets showing off their trophies after winning the treble in 1999, City turned down an open-top bus tour having won the Division Two Playoff final to successfully escape English football's third tier. Few could have imagined they'd parade through the streets just 13 years later, having pipped their rivals to the top-flight title.
Starved of success for so long, supporters knew the takeover was an opportunity that few teams get. By that stage of the Premier League era, the money involved in the game was sealing off the top of the table but Sheikh Mansour's billions earned City a place.
The biggest headlines came from the money pumped into the first team, as Mark Hughes splashed the cash on the likes of Robinho, Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Some of the signings weren't greatly effective -- Roque Santa Cruz or Wayne Bridge, for instance -- and most didn't have a long shelf life, but they were necessary in helping the club transition from mid-table obscurity into Champions League qualifiers. Hughes wasn't the man to manage that, though, and progress only really occurred when Roberto Mancini replaced him.
The Italian ended City's 35-year wait for a major trophy in his first full season, winning the 2011 FA Cup, and then the 44-year wait for the title in 2012. At the time, it felt like the beginning of something colossal, though progress was put on hold for a year as City finished second in the Premier League and lost the FA Cup final in 2013 to Wigan.
With Mancini sacked, more for relationship breakdowns behind the scenes than anything else, Manuel Pellegrini's tenure began with more progress as he led the club to a Premier League and League Cup double in 2014.
But City fans haven't had it so good since. 2014-15 and 2015-16 were underwhelming and saw the club as far from winning the title as when Hughes was in charge. Meanwhile, last season's League Cup was nothing something to sniff at, but it was still fourth priority at the start of the year.
A raft of poor signings sum up Pellegrini's era. The likes of Wilfried Bony, Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando didn't have the impact the club were hoping for and have left Pep Guardiola with far more rebuilding work than he would have expected.
Since the title win in 2012, how many incoming signings can honestly be regarded as successes? There's only been Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne who have truly strengthened the team on a long-term basis in the last five years.
It's left City treading water in the Premier League, while rivals like Tottenham and Chelsea have improved considerably. There was an opportunity for City to take a stranglehold of the top flight, but they didn't take advantage.
On top of that, Champions League progress has been steady, if slow. City have qualified from the group stage for the last four seasons, though have been eliminated in the first knockout round three times. A jaunt to the semifinals last season was exciting, but there was something of an inferiority complex in the 1-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid.
However, take the focus away from what's happening on the pitch and no other club in the top flight gets near to what City have been doing since 2008. The investment into the Etihad campus has seen acres of East Manchester land regenerated.
City have one of the best youth setups the country has ever seen and fans should reasonably expect it to start producing first-team-ready players soon, after the new incarnation of the academy was opened in December 2014.
Commercially, the club is continuing to grow, regularly introducing links with major partners to boost revenue. The parent company, the City Football Group, is a body the like of which has never been seen before and there are a growing number of franchises under than umbrella worldwide.
In terms of stature, City have never been bigger.
Guardiola has a wonderful platform on which to build something special. Too many will be eyeing his first season in Manchester with suspicion because he's proven not to be a magic bullet to all of the club's on-the-pitch problems, but it's impossible to deny that there are clear signs of improvement.
Fans may be disappointed with the title challenges of the last three seasons, but the wider picture is still just as exciting as it's always been since Mancini led the club to it's first Mansour-era trophy.
The first generation of that team is now coming to a close and favourite players will be moved on to make way for the second generation. At the helm, Guardiola could build an incredible dynasty.
So far, City have only fulfilled their potential of the 2008 takeover. They could be on the cusp of doing so much more.
David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney