David Mooney, one of Monsieur Salut’s confrères at ESPN FC and also in the day job (news editor of news editor at Imagine FM), is a lifelong Manchster City fan. He is a published author on City and the creator of the Blue Moon Podcast. Fittingly, after we saw that sensational strike at the Emirates the other night, not to mention the other one against us at Wembley, he names Yaya Touré as the finest player he has seen in sky blue. He likes the success Abu Dhabi gold has brought his club, misses Maine Road a bit, likes Sunderland well enough whe we’re not winning 1-0 and thinks we may just about escape under Big Sam …
Salut! Sunderland: Doing well in the Champions League, on course for and widely tipped for another title [recent results have included disappointment] yet still there’s speculation about a managerial change. What’s your assessment of Pellegrini – and the speculation?
David Mooney: I’d question just whether City are on course for a title. They’re bleeding points without Kompany in the team and the manager is (rightfully) coming under pressure for being unable to organise his defence. Without the captain (who’s injured 50 per cent of the time), City fall to pieces and Pellegrini just can’t seem to stop it happening. It’s been widely reported Guardiola is poised to join, and he does have a good relationship with our Director of Football and CEO so it seems likely, and there are few who would grumble at Pellegrini being moved on despite his success.
People (maybe Arsène apart) have a soft spot for City that they don’t for other moneybags clubs, notably Chelsea. If I am right, how have you risen above that level of dislike?
I’m not sure that’s entirely true, too. I think City are less hated than Chelsea or United, but I think that still stems from decades of cock-ups in the 80s, 90s and 00s. Whether or not that good feeling remains, I’m not sure – EVERY team has booed Sterling this season, despite only QPR and Liverpool having any real reason to.
But let me put you on a spot: is the money of a few, Sheikh Mansour and Abramovich and a handful of others, a force for good or ill in the game?
Full disclosure: of course I would like it, I’ve seen my team benefit from it. But… It’s wonderful for the game while prize money is as it is. If teams can continue to get wads of cash for winning, so much more than even runners-up, they can buy the best players and continue to win – and that cuts off the rest. City would NEVER have had the chance to experience a Premier League title or regular Champions League football and I think it’s only right every other club has that chance, too.
With Financial Fair Play, that’s no longer allowed – the drawbridge was pulled up right behind City; ask yourself as Sunderland fans whether it would be fair if a Sheikh Mansour character invested in the Black Cats and wasn’t allowed to do what has been done at City now. Of course it isn’t; and I wouldn’t begrudge any club that chance having had the last eight years in the sun ourselves.
Go on: do you ever miss Maine Road and days when you didn’t turn up expecting to win every game?
Maine Road days?! That was still the case in 2007! I miss Maine Road, but not really the football that was on show. It was a delightful hotchpotch stadium that was like home. The Etihad is lovely and all, but many still miss Maine Road.
Who is performing especially well this season and where are the remaining weaknesses that still allow occasional wobbles as against Liverpool?
The weakness is the defence. Mangala and Otamendi haven’t been great without Kompany and City haven’t had a clean sheet without the captain this season – he’s now missed more games than he’s played, too. Although he’s gone off the boil in recent weeks, De Bruyne has been a revelation and Aguero has been great when he’s been fit.
Do you enjoy being able to look down on United?
I’m not really one to get into rivalries, to be honest. I’m more enjoying United fans that were born in the late 80s and early 90s discovering that they are just a football club.
What have been your highs and lows of following City?
The biggest highs include watching Aguero score THAT goal and, similarly, the being at Wembley for when Paul Dickov scored against Gillingham in 1999 to equalise in the 95th minute. However, perhaps the most exhilarating moment was being invited onto the open top bus tour for the club’s title win in 2014 – and along with four other fans, we had the strangest and yet most brilliant evening ever. The biggest low was watching the club sink to its lowest ever position back in 1998.
And how do today’s stars compare with Frannie Lee, Colin Bell and the other greats of the past?
It’s difficult to say without having seen the old stars, but I’d hazard the guess that they are probably neck-and-neck. Many will hold the Bell-Lee-Summerbee era as the best because it was the first successful spell in the club’s history that a lot of people can remember – successes before that aren’t in living memory.
Name the best player you’ve seen in City blue?
Without a shadow of a doubt it’s Yaya Toure. He’s single-handedly won games at times and has always been there in the most crucial trophy wins.
And any who should have been allowed nowhere near the place?
There’s many for this title, but I’m going to nominate Steve McManaman. Yes, he played for City. Well, he stood and pointed a bit for City.
Are you surprised at Sunderland’s present predicament or did you see it coming?
It’s been coming for years, hasn’t it? Every season, I think that the inevitable 1-0 defeat will be the last because I can’t see how Sunderland will escape – and yet they have done, which is a credit to them I guess. I wonder how long the quick-fix manager cycle can last, though I also think Sam Allardyce might do well by Sunderland and that speedy turnover could be finished for a while.
Beyond that, any thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the, fans, the city, the region, Big Sam (not to mention other links between us, eg Niall)?
I’ve only recently started to hate Sunderland because of that pesky 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light EVERY year. Other than that I’ve always found the fans to be in good humour and if we can just write off our away game, we’ll be square!
That League Cup final: great day out, great hope at half time and honour in defeat for us but what about you – just another day at the office?
Definitely not! City are successful these days, but not so much that we can start turning our noses up at trophies and that League Cup final was an excellent match. It was a great half from Sunderland, but individual brilliant from Toure and Nasri were what won it; and the celebrations were just as strong as they were after the 2011 FA Cup or the 2012 title win.
What will be the top four this season, in order?
Christ knows! Let’s go: Arsenal, City, United, Tottenham/Leicester – I’m going to feel daft putting Leicester in there, but I genuinely think they can do it.
Spare no feelings: the bottom three? if not in either (!) list, where will SAFC finish?
I actually think Sunderland will survive – I think you’ve a better chance this year than any other previous year. I’m going with Aston Villa, Swansea and Norwich.
Is it time to stop bothering about diving, the feigning of injury, crowding refs, trying to get opponents sent off , given how widespread these and all the other forms of cheating and gamesmanship have become? If not, how do we stamp it out?
I’m sick of talking about it every week to be honest. If we’re going to get rid of it, the best thing to do is make it retrospectively punishable by a suspension. Or if a player dives to win a penalty and it affects the outcome, we later allow the team done against to boot balls at the offending player for half an hour or something.
Name one step MCFC or the authorities generally should take to improve the lot of ordinary supporters.
Stop charging £60 for tickets and allow fans to go to more games without remortgaging their house.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I’ll be there! We can’t defend, you can’t defend – so bet on both teams to score! I’ll say 3-2 home win.
* David Mooney on himself: I’ve been following City since my dad forced it upon me in the late 80s! I’m one of ESPN’s City correspondents and have written several books on the club (see http://www.davemooney.co.uk/books), including one where I interviewed all of City’s 1999 playoff final winning team.I’m the creator and one of the hosts and producers of the Blue Moon Podcast, too.
Interview: Colin Randall