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Manchester is the centre of the EPL universe


THE ICING: Manchester City's Yaya Toure (right) and Mario Balotelli celebrate after scoring against Stoke City in the FA Cup final in London last week

It's business as usual as another season draws to a close in the EPL. Manchester United clinch yet another title, while they prepare to face Barcelona on home soil - albeit not Mancunian soil - at Wembley next week. But for now, satisfied with winning the League for a 19th time, they have put a stop to the favoured Liverpudlian chant "Come back when you've got 19!" - a chant which had been being sung by the Merseyside neighbours for all too many years now.

Time was, Liverpool were the club with the most League titles (18) and everyone else was playing to meet their standard. United have achieved this, so their victory this season is more than just another league;it is historic.

History has also been made by their Noisy Neighbours, Manchester City. They say money can't buy happiness but try persuading Blue Army fans of this sentimental axiom this season. Celebrations after their FA Cup win last weekend left onlookers in no doubt about the joy the game can bring. And in the case of City and its lavish spending, there is little question money has played a huge part in the dream-come-true end to a rather turbulent season. Even the most hardcore cynics amongst those watching the Cup final struggled to hold back a tear, as the tension climaxed in an emotional finale: Yaya Toure's goal ended City's 35-year wait for major honours. Yaya was quoted in the Manchester Evening News branding this success every bit as sweet as the Champions League trophy he won with Barcelona (he was part of the Barca side that beat United 2-0 in Rome in 2009): "I've played a lot of finals, but I think this one is amazing because the club has gone so long without winning anything".

Even Carlos Tevez looked happy, draped in his traditional Argentina flag, and the impending unknowns eclipsed, for now at least, by celebrations and camaraderie (Yaya and Carlitos were a few weeks ago reported to have emptied bags of flour on teammate Balotelli's Maserati, responding to the Italian's persistent pranks). In spite of the various agents and men of football insisting the Argentine wants a move, and with issues ranging from player suspension due to positive doping tests to more run-of-the-mill dressing room divisions, the consensus is that manager Roberto Mancini has accomplished an extraordinary achievement. In just one season the club looks set to finish third, has reclaimed a Cup for the first time in decades, and the much craved spot in next season's Champions League can almost already be relished.

The only people happier than City fans right now are . . . local rivals, Man United! Proof, as if any were needed, that what pays in football is an established manager working consistently and steadily for over 20 years, running the squad tightly. Alternatively, what may also pay off is a new manager with deep pockets and a bunch of publicly dissatisfied superstars voicing discontent for most of the season. Either, or both. The old adage that there are no formulas in this game is confirmed once again and the combination of these yin and yang approaches will no doubt turn Manchester into the football capital of the UK next season, with the rise of the Manchester derby and everything this rivalry entails likely to become the dominating fixture of the EPL.

As football in the North of the country blooms, London falls. Arsenal have to measure their final fixture's result against Manchester City to avoid finishing fourth and being forced to play qualifiers in order to partake in the Champions League. Spurs ended a historic campaign badly, taking on some of Europe's biggest names during CL clashes to no avail they finally dropped a place in the Premier League, missing out on a return to the Champions League next season altogether. West Ham face ongoing turmoil due to their relegation;as if the heartbreak wasn't enough in and of itself, they will come under increasing pressure to forego the Olympic stadium given attendances are expected to fall dramatically.

QPR by contrast join the Premiership under the guidance of Lakshmi Mittal, hailed as richer even than Roman Abramovich, amid speculation that it will not be an easy ride. Says Ben Hunt of FanHouse UK: "Given the potential wealth of QPR, with Mittal being named as the country's richest man, it is difficult to portray them as the underdogs.... There is also the distinct possibility of them being disliked for the very people they have in charge;shareholders (Bernie) Ecclestone and (Flavio) Briatore could be on a losing battle when it comes to impressing football fans who have no time for brashness... Should there be a number of high-profile arrivals at QPR in the summer, such lavish spending will be frowned upon in the same way Manchester City have been deemed to have overspent to stockpile players. "

And so the game goes on. According to figures published by David Conn in the Guardian, the Premier League collectively lost close to half a billion pounds last year with "by far the biggest lost at Manchester City, where Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi put his dynastic oil millions into bankrolling a £121m deficit". Yet if QPR are to model their incursion into the Premiership, the future could look bright. Just look at Yaya's smile: after a rocky introduction to English football finding himself in the spotlight for his staggering £200, 000-a-week contract, the Ivory Coast international believes the critics have been answered: "In the summer I was told our target was to go through to the Champions League and to win something for this club, " he said. "My dream has come true now".

The Global Football Column by Marcela Mora Y Araujo

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