What Premier League fans think of Manchester City: The charges, the football, the future

Manchester City have now won five of the last six Premier League titles, and are two games away from the treble.

They wrapped up a third straight Premier League with three games to spare and lifted the trophy last weekend following their final home game of the season.

After Sunday’s season finale away to Brentford, Pep Guardiola’s side will play Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley the following Saturday (June 3) before facing Inter Milan in the Champions League final in the Turkish city of Istanbul a week later. Not since Manchester United completed the treble of title, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999 have an English club managed the feat — and neighbours City would become only the second team from England to win the three major honours in one season.

Not that completing the treble is the be-all and end-all of City’s season. They have established themselves as the dominant force in the Premier League over the past decade or so and their 4-0 dismantling of holders Real Madrid in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final just over a week ago is likely to go down as one of the most devastating displays in recent memory.

Although their performances on the pitch have been excellent, in February they were “referred to an independent commission” by the Premier League after being charged with 115 alleged breaches of the domestic top flight’s rules between 2009 and 2018.

This has led to questions over whether there needs to be a caveat in the history books when it comes to City’s successes in recent years.

The Athletic has surveyed Premier League fans and:

  • A majority said City’s most recent title win should have an asterisk next to it
  • Most credited City’s spending power as the reason they are champions again
  • Just over half of respondents say they understand what City are charged with
  • But four-fifths believe Guardiola is the best manager in the Premier League.

The charges

Among those 115 charges, City stand accused of failing to provide accurate financial information — “in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue)” — and of breaching the Premier League rules on profit and sustainability in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The now three-in-a-row Premier League champions said they were “surprised” by the charges and distanced themselves from a suggestion they had failed to engage with the investigation.

This has led nearly 60 per cent of the Premier League fans surveyed by The Athletic to conclude City’s most recent title win needs an asterisk against it. In other words, when people look back at the final table for this season, there should be an explanation of the charges underneath.

But 27 per cent said it will only be tainted if the charges are proven, while nearly 16 per cent decided the allegations are historical and therefore not linked to the current success.

More than 52 per cent said the top driving factor behind City’s title win was their spending power. Over 35 per cent put it down mostly to Guardiola’s coaching, while only three per cent thought it was largely due to other clubs failing to mount a significant challenge.

When asked if they understood just what City have been charged with, more than 52 per cent said they did, with over 43 per cent saying they had some understanding of the situation as opposed to knowing all the ins and outs.

Of those surveyed by The Athletic, more than 42 per cent believe financial fair play is in place to stop clubs buying success, while close to 31 per cent felt it was introduced to protect historically-successful teams from new-money challengers. Nearly 27 per cent said it was to prevent clubs from going bust.

The football

Opinions may have been split regarding City’s impending legal battle with the Premier League, but there were no such issues when it came to supporters being asked about Guardiola’s abilities.

Just under 80 per cent of the thousands who participated in the survey said the Catalan is the best manager in the Premier League, with close to 70 per cent saying he has changed English football for the better since his 2016 arrival at City.

And only 30 per cent of those who answered felt City’s dominance will continue once the 52-year-old eventually leaves the club.

And in an equally complimentary measure, over 54 per cent labelled City as the best Premier League side they have ever watched, surpassing Arsenal’s 2003-04 team of Invincibles, who went a whole league campaign without losing a match, and the many title-winning squads assembled by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Given the above, it should not come as a surprise that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of the supporters surveyed believe City will go on to lift the FA Cup and Champions League too this season.

Interestingly, just over 14 per cent reckon United will have what it takes to beat them at Wembley but that City will still be crowned champions of Europe for the first time. Fewer than one in 10 predict they will do the domestic double but lose a second Champions League final in three years and only four per cent think they are going to get beaten by both United and Inter.

When asked to single out the most effective player in City’s squad, the overwhelming majority, perhaps understandably, picked Kevin De Bruyne.

The now 31-year-old Belgian has established himself as one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever midfielders since joining City in the summer of 2015 and so often plays football on another level to those around him. This is why over 63 per cent of supporters picked him as the most crucial cog in City’s machine.

Despite scoring 52 times in all competitions in his debut year with City and breaking a long-standing Premier League record for most goals in a single season (36), Erling Haaland took just under 17 per cent of the votes, narrowly beating midfielder Rodri.

Amusingly, Sheikh Mansour, the club’s owner, received less than one per cent of the vote when it came to the most important part of City’s triumph.

The future

As for next season, the consensus is that City will dominate again. And when asked to pick who their most likely title challengers will be, Arsenal, who had an eight-point lead over Guardiola’s side in January, narrowly came out on top.

More than 35 per cent expected Mikel Arteta’s side to put up the biggest fight in 2023-24, with over a third of respondents opting for Liverpool. Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United received less than 15 per cent of the vote and Newcastle, who will play in the Champions League next season for the first time in 21 years, had slightly over 10 per cent.

Despite the majority of supporters picking Arsenal to run City closest this time next year, Liverpool came out on top when fans were asked to name the next club (other than City) to win the Premier League.

They had 29 per cent of the vote there, compared to Arsenal’s 24 per cent.

(Photos: Getty Images)