As he prepares to take on Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League Group D opener, Jose Mourinho is predicting a glorious future for the Blues.
The rise of the former Maine Road residents has been nothing short of rapid since they were bought by Sheikh Mansour in 2008, with vast improvements being made both on and off the pitch. Prior to this takeover, even the most ardent of fans would have considered watching the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Yaya Toure week-in and week-out beyond their wildest dreams.
However, through Mark Hughes and now Roberto Mancini, a host of top players have been lured to the Etihad Stadium over the past four years, and the latter now has one of the best squads in Europe. And with this has come silverware: the 35-year-long wait for a trophy was ended when Stoke City were defeated in the FA Cup final of 2011, and even more impressive, last season the Blues pipped neighbours and archrivals United to win the Premier League title on goal difference.
Having crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage last season, much more is expected from City this time round, but they have once more found themselves in a difficult group. Borussia Dortmund and Ajax will have to be dealt with if they are to make the knockout stages, whilst an even bigger test lies in wait in the guise of nine-time Champions of Europe Real Madrid.
City travel to the Spanish capital to kick off their campaign on Tuesday night, and there is little chance Mourinho will be underestimating the English champions. Indeed, the former Chelsea coach clearly rates the Blues as contenders to add the Champions League to their list of honours, if not this season then certainly in the very near future.
“I don’t think it is very different to Chelsea,” said the Portuguese. “Since Roman (Abramovich) bought the club, (Claudio) Ranieri was the first coach, then I came and we won the first league, some cups and some more titles. Carlo (Ancelotti) then came and they continued to win and finally they won the Champions League.
“With City it started off with Mark Hughes, they started spending money and buying good players. Then Roberto came and he has done a very good job. He has created a great squad, the first cup then the first title arrived. I don’t know if it is this season or next season with Roberto, or with another person in the future, but normally in the direction the club is going, sooner or later they will win the big cup.”
City may feel this is the perfect time to face Real. Whilst Mancini’s side have yet to find their best form this season, the Bernabeu club have made their worst start for over a decade, with just four points collected from as many games. Mourinho, though, is the master when it comes to the Champions League, having won the trophy with Porto and Internazionale. He is now aiming to become the first coach to win it with a third different club, but his words on City are evidence that he feels there is a new super power capable of delaying his ambitions.