Former Leeds United, Manchester City and England full-back Danny Mills has labelled Gary Neville ‘totally wrong’ for his recent comparison of City and Manchester United. Neville risked angering Sky Blues fans by suggesting that their club would never compare to the Red Devils due to the roots, history and fanbase.
United fans have been put through the wringer lately with last season’s problems refusing to go away. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick have given way to Erik ten Hag in the dugout, but his reign is off to the worst possible start after defeats to Brighton and Brentford.
City, meanwhile, have won each of their first two Premier League matches and sit comfortably at the top of the table. Speaking to The Diary of a CEO podcast, Neville has been critical of United’s hierarchy but sought to remind rival City fans that there are some fronts on which he believes they can’t compete.
“Pep Guardiola is a genius,” he admitted. “The football is mesmerising. The operation is slick. It will bring criticism from football fans and Man City fans, but it’ll never, ever be Man Utd. It can win more trophies but it can never be bigger in scale or size. It doesn’t have the roots, the history.”
Mills, who contested Manchester derbies against Neville and shared an England dressing room with him for three years, has since put forward a counter-argument.
“Fanbases take a very long time to grow,” he told Express Sport, in association with Sky Bet. “Man United are not one of the biggest clubs in the world because of the Class of ’92 and Sir Alex Ferguson. You’ve got to go back to the Busby Babes and everything else.
“City don’t have that history but if they continue this way, their fanbase will grow and grow as they win more trophies. If Man United continue to play the way they do, their fanbase will dwindle because kids won’t want to support them anymore, they’ll want to support Man City because that’s what kids do. It’s down to history.
“To say that they’ll never be there is totally wrong. Man United didn’t just appear as one of the biggest clubs in the world, neither did Liverpool. It’s built over the course of time. Once upon a time, Nottingham Forest were one of the biggest clubs in Europe but look what happened to them. At the moment City don’t rival them for commercial prowess but there’s no reason to say that can’t happen.
“Man City have enjoyed success for around a decade so realistically, in terms of success, they’re 10 years old. In terms of success, United are over 50 years old. In another 40 years, where are City going to be? Gary Neville has got no idea where either team will be. Things will change over the course of time.”
Ten Hag has a daunting task ahead with Liverpool preparing to visit Old Trafford on Monday and a turnaround needed immediately. The three summer signings made so far have failed to make a positive impact and, although others are thought to be on the way, they are unlikely to sign in time to face the Reds.
As for City, they face Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon with managers Guardiola and Eddie Howe both vying to preserve their unbeaten starts. Fresh debate is likely to be sparked as two of the league’s wealthiest and most controversial owners prepare to battle for three points.
The Sky Bet Fan Hope Survey asked fans from all 20 Premier League clubs their views on the way their clubs are run.
Manchester City fans are understandably very pleased with their club’s hierarchy, with a staggering 99% of City fans believing their club is well-run and 88% hoping their owners remain at the club.
As it turns out, Manchester City has been ranked as the second-best-run club in the league, taking 16% of votes from all Premier League fans, behind only Liverpool (26%).
Somewhat surprisingly, 70% of City fans would prefer to have an owner who funds their club ethically even if it meant less money for them, despite speculation that their owner’s funds originated from shady sources,. Nevertheless, it appears City fans are content with their ownership structure, with 83% believing their owners care about the fans.
It appears that Newcastle fans are willing to turn a blind eye to their financiers, with 59% stating they do not care where their owners’ money comes from. This is a stark difference from the overall 76% of Premier League fans who’d prefer an owner who funds their club ethically, even if it means less money.