FK Qarabag
Atletico Madrid
Game Details
Manchester United
6:45 PM UTC
Game Details
6:45 PM UTC
Game Details
Sporting CP
Game Details
Paris Saint-Germain
Game Details
Bayern Munich
Game Details
CSKA Moscow
FC Basel
Game Details
Ghana U17
Niger U17
LIVE 90'
Game Details
Brazil U17
Honduras U17
2:30 PM UTC
Game Details
Urawa Red DiamondsUrawa Red Diamonds
Shanghai SIPGShanghai SIPG
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details

Transfer Rater: Rashford to Real Madrid


Why so serious, City?

Someone always ruins the fun. Whether it's an appalling pedant whose main critique of your essay appears to be based on one line of one paragraph, or whether it's the person on reception who calls the police rather than answering a few simple questions about the university's complaints procedure.

The Premier League's leading light in this respect happens to be Manchester City, a club so intent on being grim that it appears to have hired an exclusively grey-haired coaching staff to prove the point.

The story of the serious club began in the summer, when Roberto Mancini substituted his substitute, Mario Balotelli, for not taking a money-spinning friendly in the USA seriously enough. "If you are serious, you can play 90 minutes. If not, you can come and sit by me on the bench," Mancini said after the game.

Balotelli's crime was attempting to score with a backheel where a tap-in would have done; Mancini's crime was in not seeing that Balotelli is best as a clown, and that pre-season friendlies are an hilarious joke, which should really be laughed at as loudly and obnoxiously as possible.

Admittedly, not having any kind of sense of humour is common enough. The famous scouse sense of humour doesn't seem keen to take in Andy Carroll, a £35 million joke, and Chelsea's management and fans have not yet begun to join in the Fernando Torres joke-fest, despite the gold that can be found in there. It's entirely normal that City can't laugh at themselves because their best player has refused to play for them for six months, even if the absurdity of the situation really should have provoked more laughs.

Where the blue ones in Manchester have become real mood-killing specialists is in chewing up any previous ability to talk about football without actually provoking misery. The money skews it all to hell.

There's the extreme efficiency. Three wins in a row was once gold dust for a team hoping to win the title – think Tottenham this season: an excellent side, but not capable of the kind of consistency which avoids disappointing draws with Wolves. Now that City have accumulated more than 50 points that all feels a bit silly, like turning up to a fancy dress party to find not only that it wasn't fancy dress, but that there was no party, because you have no friends.

Then there's that City have systematically transformed the terms of football debate into blandisms. A striker crisis used to mean that you were playing your third-choice goalkeeper up-front (a real false nine?) This week it means having only Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero to stand around looking handsome because Balotelli is suspended for being an unbearable fool. It's never been fun to talk about football, but City are helping to kill whatever it was before. The graph is too far skewed for the words to mean anything anymore.

They aren't the first club with huge wealth, but they are the first to have made everything around them seem so bleak. When Manchester United had the most money they were at least a little reckless on the pitch: they won a Champions League in 1999 with the words "four-four-two" etched into their eyelids, and had Roy Keane to throw a punch and make things interesting whenever the goals weren't going in. City's midfielder destroyer is Gareth Barry, and whilst they have scored goals like they just don't care all season, their attacks resemble drawn-out smutherings rather than American Psycho action.

Whilst Chelsea were spending Russian oil money they had Jose Mourinho as their manager: a man who throws out conspiracy theories and means them, a man who threw his Premier League medal into the crowd because he doesn't need shiny things to know that he's a winner. City have Roberto Mancini in charge: a man who won two Serie A titles by default and whose greatest discrepancy to date has been waving imaginary red cards.

Something should probably be done. Although, there aren't too many options: the spending will continue because UEFA's rules are made for breaking and the football will stay the same because the team will win the league with room to spare.

What City needs thrown at them is a dose of self-awareness. Ask anyone who has been through self-awareness, once you see yourself as anything close to what you are, it's impossible to either take yourself seriously or generate a positive enough image of yourself to do anything pro-active. Any self-awareness sufferer will tell you that there is nothing more debilitating. In Manchester City's particular case, self-awareness might well eliminate the ability to sign any player for any kind of outrageous fee and would almost certainly require a re-branding process, with a new tagline: "Why don't you like us? Please like us."

The club can be got there, but it will take time. Initially, there should be a gentle yet concerted effort to spread chants such as "Nobody likes you. You're completely alone in the world." From there, we wait.

Obviously, there are risks. Self-awareness theory is tricky. Having Manchester City see that they are the Premier League's fun-spoilers could create another Liverpool: whereby the realisation that you are not well-liked creates a defensive reflex that is the opposite to self-awareness. We cannot have City go mad, declare that they are always right and the world against them. It is imperative that we are careful.

• Ethan Dean-Richards is an editor of Surreal Football


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.