City hoping success heralds start of golden era

LONDON - Manchester City's long-suffering fans released decades of frustration and dreamed of a new era after their expensively-assembled team won the FA Cup on Saturday to claim their first trophy for 35 years.

As Manchester United went through the familiar routine of winning another league title, albeit a record 19th, City will remember their neighbours' recent domination of English football started with the 1990 FA Cup, the first of 25 major trophies they have won under the guidance of manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

City supporters, starved of success since a 1976 League Cup triumph, could hardly contain themselves as the final whistle blew on the 1-0 victory over Stoke City at Wembley.

City's manager Roberto Mancini was asked whether his team could take over the mantle of success from United.

"We want to try," the Italian told a news conference. "It is very difficult in England because there are so many good teams at the top.

"And there are only three competitions to win - the league, the FA Cup and the League Cup. We have won the FA Cup, and it is our second satisfaction in four days after getting into the Champions League. It was very important to win this trophy today."

With 300 million pounds invested in the squad and much more available from owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan to strengthen it further, City fans are hoping this victory will spark their club's own golden era more than 40 years since they last regularly won trophies.

Since the wealthy Abu Dhabi sheikh bought the club in 2008 and installed Mancini as manager halfway though last season, City have moved within touching distance of United, Chelsea and Arsenal, England's dominant clubs in the last decade.

PROUD LEGACY

City boast a proud legacy of success but have never established themselves as a truly dominant force, only winning the league twice - the last time in 1968.

When Al Nahyan bought the club he vowed to make them the best in the world and, although they have not yet mounted a genuine title challenge and have been criticised for being overly defensive, this could be the first step.

Mancini will hope to keep talismanic striker Carlos Tevez, who played a major part in the victory over Stoke but has been linked with a move away from Eastlands.

City's England goalkeeper Joe Hart, Spain forward David Silva and Ivorian Yaya Toure, an attack-minded defensive midfielder who scored the winner against Stoke and in the semi-final victory over Manchester United, should also be stalwarts for years.

"This is why we bought him," Mancini said of Toure whose salary, which British media reports have put at more than 200,000 pounds a week, makes him one of the highest-paid players in the world.

His thunderous shot not only won the match but ended City's years of failure which have been celebrated by a famous banner at Old Trafford, updated each season to indicate how many years have passed since their neighbours' last success.

Asked whether he thought the banner should now be removed, Mancini replied with a smile: "It's time."