Posted: 1/16/2014


     There seems to be a changing of the guard in Manchester these days.

      The joke used to be that the best two teams in the city were Manchester United and Manchester United reserves. NOT ANY MORE!.  United are suffering after a change in managers from Sir Alex Ferguson to fellow Scot David Moyes, and their value took a 200 million drop in value on the stock exchange recently.

      Yesterday I was in Manchester, where I visit a dozen times a year, and went from their Platt Lane Academy, to Etihad Stadium Campus and then one stop on the metrolink to Velodrome and their new 80 acre site which will open in the next few weeks to house all the players, staff and offices.

      Over 450 million has been spent since new ownership 5 years ago. The new owner is MEGA wealthy 43ear old Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyn of ABU DHABI, one of 7 Emirates in the United Arab Emirates. He has only visited ONCE ! 1n 1958 oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi- FATHER OF THE GAZELLE, and it has mushroomed from 80,000 to over a million, although over 80% are guest workers and not citizens, many earning no more than 8.00 a day.The Sheik was one of 17 brothers but he only has two wives and four children. His education included a year at Santa Barbara Community College.  He is also an owner,  along with the NY Yankees, of the new MLS franchise New York City Soccer Club.

      The City of Manchester Stadium was used for the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and then converted to a purely football stadium for City in 2003. City moved from Maine Road in Moss Side where they had played for 80 years. In 2008 it hosted the UEFA FINAL between Zenit St. Petersburg and Glasgow Rangers. With a sponsorship reputed to be 350 million for 10 years from the national airline, the name was changed in 2011.

      In a few months the Carrington facility where senior players will be closed, as will Platt Lane for youth teams, and all players and coaches and offices at The Etihad move to the new facilty, and a walkway over the road will link the stadium.

     I took photos of the construction site including the 7,000 seat stadium, covered on all four sides. It should be complete by this June, along with 17 grass football pitches, the administrative building, gymnasiums, classrooms, restaurant, medical centre and accommodation for residential youth players. Altogether 400 players from 8 years and up will train there.  The stadium and some facilities will be available for community use, and a local college is being built and given to the local education authority.

     85% of materials are locally sourced and most of the work force are locals, unlike The UAE where most workers are low paid South East Asians.  shows plans, photos and further details of the project. Also

     Patrick Viera is the Academy Director and believes that England must change.

    " The gap between the U 21s and the first team is massive... that is why so many boys have failed to make the leap to the first team.  I think England has to change the way they are teachng football, because football is changing and the method isn't changing so much."

     The former French star was educated at FC Druais and Tours(which I have visited). "You train more in France than in England. Here we still see football as a sport. Football is a job".

      The Etihad is also being upgraded and will increase from a 47,800 capacity to 61,000 shortly now that plans have been approved.

       Take a look at a previous from 7/20/2012 when I reviewed RICHER THAN GOD, award winning financial and sports journalist DAVID CONN's book. David is a lifelong City fan who was given a choice when he was very young. The United badge with the Red Devil was frightening, whereas the gentler City one with a ship going along the Manchester Ship Canal was more appealing.