I don't begrudge Manchester City their newfound wealth. If any set of fans deserve a chance at success - other than ours, of course - it's theirs. Or at least I think so, anyway. I mean, think how unbearable the Mags are and they just think they're a big club. Now imagine sharing a city with Manchester United. It must be tough being a City fan.
Or at least, it was. Not now. When they beat us on Sunday, I was gutted obviously. We'd pushed a team with an unlimited pot of money, with a squad full of superb players, all the way. At the end though, amidst the disappointment, I didn't feel bitter. Although City have bigger fish to fry these days, I bet their fans are still savouring every single cup win, be it League Cup, FA Cup or Premier League title.
It's easy to forget, but it wasn't too long ago that they weren't just a poor top flight side, they were languishing in the third tier of English football. Meanwhile at Old Trafford, Fergie continued stacking the trophies up. Their wealth, brash, new and "artificial" as it may be, is their only chance of ever coming close to their rivals. Let's face it, we'd love the chance to follow suit.
City might be able to draw on the world class talents of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo these days, but it wasn't always so. Back in the 1998/99 season, it was the rather more modest talents of Shaun Goater who was firing them up the league. "Feed the Goat and he will score" they sang when Manchester City plied their trade in the old division two. For the most part, there were over 28k singing it too; a remarkable average attendance given they were in the third tier.
That's why when I hear, "Where were you when you were shit?" aimed at the blue half of Manchester, it irritates me a bit. I know it's just a wind up, but it betrays an ignorance of the club and its history. They may wear blue, but they're not Chelsea. Their fans have always been there. They're a people's club. A supporters' club. Just like ours really.
On Sunday, they may have been less visible, less audible, but this was something like their sixth or seventh visit to Wembley in the last three years. It's not a novelty anymore, like it was for us. It's also extremely expensive. It's hard to imagine being in their position, but you can see why the majority didn't make a weekend of it. That said, we still out sang them for almost the entire game. They've got a bit of work to do on the vocal side of things. There's no excuse for that.
In the main, the elements of their support I did encounter were a fantastic bunch; friendly, humble and respectful of Sunderland. Well, the feeling is mutual. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for them and while it left me dejected, I applauded our players and then theirs when they lifted the trophy. If we have to lose to a side in a final, I'd sooner them than Chelsea or Manchester United.
Ultimately, City the club may have changed dramatically, but the support hasn't. I like that. I'd like to think it'd be the same here if we ever had the chance to build a side like theirs. I'd also like to think we'd still be perceived as the same and not derided for having spent money to try and compete. I mean, how else are you supposed to?
So when they beat us on Sunday, I felt gutted, proud of our players and a bit jealous of the City fans but also applauded their players as they lifted the trophy. Fair play to them. I hope they go on and dominate United for a few years yet. Then I can start to hate them...