Steven McInerney from the impressive City blog, In Esteemed Kompany, has had a chat with us about his aspirations for the season ahead, as well as looking back at the success of last season.
Scott the Red: Were you happy with your team’s performance last season?
Steven McInerney: Of course – it was a fantastic year for us. We reached the champions league, gaining automatic qualification at the expense of Arsenal, and we finally have something tangible to symbolise our progress. A first trophy in 35 years.
STR: Who were your most important players in helping you achieve this success?
SM: Fortunately we witnessed the striking development of numerous players this season, most notably Nigel De Jong, Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany. All grew immensely into their roles and became almost as indispensable as Carlos Tevez. Vincent Kompany in particular – our player of the season, and deservedly so. He’s a natural born leader and hopefully our next captain. David Silva was magnificent on occasions too, as was Yaya Toure.
STR: You skipped past captain Tevez there. He has scored/assisted 42% of your goals over the past two seasons. Can City improve on last season if he leaves?
SM: I have to believe it’s possible, yes, but it would undoubtedly be a huge blow if he does leave. There was very much an over-reliance on Carlos Tevez last season – one that lead to an almost ‘just give to the ball to Tevez’-esque approach. Understandable really, seeing as it invariably worked, but playing to Carlos’ strengths never really encouraged the rest of the team to express themselves as much as they should have. Him leaving could actually encourage more fluidity from the team – we have players who can influence a game to a greater extent than they already are doing if they are given the freedom to do just that. In Sergio Aguero we have a player who can replace much of the dynamism lost through a Tevez departure, and he also has an equally impressive eye for the spectacular. Bearing that in mind, if players such as Balotelli, Silva, Yaya Toure and Dzeko all further improve on last season, which is fairly plausible given they’ll have a first full pre-season together and adequate bedding-in time, then we should be okay. It won’t be easy, but we don’t tend to do things the easy way, do we?
STR: Less of players going out. What about those that have come in?
SM: I’m very happy with our transfers. Sergio Aguero is our first truly world class signing. He is a special, special talent and I expect an impact as strong, if not better, than Fernando Torres’ at Liverpool when he first arrived. Elsewhere, Savic is a good addition to the squad, and if Gaël Clichy can find his form of a couple of years ago then he’ll do a job for us.
STR: How on earth are City going to function when FFP comes in to play, with the salaries as much as the transfer fees?
SM: With great difficulty! I’m no financial expert but I think it’s possible. Logically you’d have to presume our owners think it is too, otherwise they wouldn’t have invested so heavily on transfers and so on. We should be okay if success is sustained. Despite their apparent naivety at times, step forward Garry Cook, there is no doubting that the marketing team we have are highly competent at the business side of things. They’ll continue to secure lucrative sponsorship deals and partnerships as long as our profile keeps rising, and the only way to do this as we all know is through footballing success. The investment in east Manchester is wonderful, and I expect it’ll open up a world of opportunity for the club, in both a footballing and a marketing sense.
Transfer wise, I do expect the spending to slow. The club are very aware of the situation, and there will be a more ruthless culling of fringe players from the squad. If Tevez leaves, and even if we sign someone else (Nasri is muted, for example), our net spend on transfers this summer will probably be around £35m, which by our standards is considerably lower than normal. We’ve clearly got one eye on FFP. We all know that a complete over-haul of the team each summer is no longer plausible, but fortunately we seem to have a squad in place that means that it’s no longer necessary to do that anyway.
STR: What are your aspirations for this season?
SM: Further improvement. A sustained shot at winning the league, possibly another trophy, and a fun foray into the Champions League’s latter stages.
STR: How do you rate Mancini’s ability to take the club to these great heights?
SM: I’m a big fan of Roberto Mancini. He is very much an authoritarian; his way or the highway, and I respect that. With the egos we have in our dressing room a more relaxed approach would prove disastrous. He means business this year, evident in his stern reaction to Balotelli’s back-heel. He seems to be moulding the team and our playing style towards a very clearly defined vision and it’s starting to take effect. The squad is youthful, strong, technically excellent and full of potential match-winners. And contrary to what the press would have you believe, pretty tight-knit. I expect he will continue to weed out the weaker links, mainly the best-forgotten remnants of the Hughes era, and before long he’ll be under control of a squad almost solely with his blessing – one with the ability to lead us into a pretty successful era. Naturally, this depends on a million and one factors, but I’m feeling uncharacteristically confident.
STR: I think this is what United fans refer to as “giddy” mate. So, with your tight-knit, excellent squad, where do you think you will finish this season?
SM: I have absolutely no idea. My head says third, but the optimist in me believes we can win it. So bearing that in mind we’ll probably get relegated. In all seriousness I expect a very close 1, 2, 3 this year – closer than ever before between ourselves, United and Chelsea. Sky will probably love it. A lack of ‘know-how’ may prevent us from truly pipping Manchester United this season, but all the tools are in place if we want it enough. It’s going to be fun regardless of the outcome, isn’t it?
STR: Which player do you think will most important in helping you achieve this?
SM: David Silva. Our spark. Without him our clock does not tick. I fully expect him to take over the mantle of our most important player even if Carlos Tevez stays.
STR: Which two current United players would you most want at City?
SM: Nemanja Vidic. Can you imagine Nemanja Vidic and Vincent Kompany as a partnership? Monstrous. As for the second player I’ll go for Hernandez. Despite having Aguero to fawn over, I’d love Hernandez at City. His attitude is great, he scores goals and he understands the that you can’t always start every game. It’s refreshing. I also liked that backwards header thing he did. It was fun.
STR: Anything else you want to tell us?
SM: Look out for Denis Suarez this year. A fantastic young prospect that we secured from Celta Vigo. He reminds me of a young David Silva, which is never a bad thing. In a similar vein I’m interested to see how Paul Pogba does for United too. I’ve heard very good things.
STR: Cheers mate.