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Manchester City Shows Sheikh Mansour Value of Soccer Investment

Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan watched his team play at home for the first time since spending more than 350 million pounds ($542 million) on new talent and was shown his investment may be paying off.

City, starting with 10 players acquired since Sheikh Mansour’s 2008 takeover, beat Liverpool 3-0 last night for its biggest win over the 18-time English soccer champion in 73 years. The victory lifted City into fourth place in the Premier League.

Argentine forward Carlos Tevez, signed for 25 million pounds last season, scored twice in the second half after Gareth Barry had opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a goal that brought the City owner out of his seat in celebration.

“It’s the first time the Sheikh has been here and he witnessed a fantastic night for Manchester City,” coach Roberto Mancini said after the match at the City of Manchester Stadium. “I was pleased to show him a good game. That was important.”

Sheikh Mansour has committed about 1 billion pounds to City after buying the team from former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2008 for 210 million pounds, U.K. newspapers including the Times of London have reported. In January, he converted a 350 million-pound loan into equity as the club announced a loss of 92.5 million pounds, the second highest in English soccer history.

While funds have been used to improve the stadium and training facilities, Sheikh Mansour’s outlay on the team has attracted the most attention.

Big Spenders

Starting with a U.K.-record 32.5 million-pound purchase of Brazil striker Robinho on the day of the takeover, City has outspent every other Premier League team in its attempt to buy its way to a first league title since 1968.

James Milner, the latest acquisition, made his presence felt within 13 minutes of his debut. The England midfielder raced past Liverpool’s defense and pulled the ball back for his former Aston Villa teammate Barry to score.

Liverpool, which has debts of 351 million pounds and is up for sale, failed to convert any of its five attempts on target and manager Roy Hodgson had to field questions about players trying to leave the club rather than reinforcements.

Midfielder Javier Mascherano was omitted because Hodgson said he “wasn’t in the right frame of mind” after Liverpool rejected an offer from Barcelona for the Argentina captain.

Mascherano, who last month informed team officials of his desire to leave the U.K., “might be unhappy for a long time” unless Barcelona increases its bid, Hodgson said.

The former Fulham coach, who joined the Reds in July, has had to rely on free transfers and raising money through player sales to boost a squad that’s trying to rebound from Liverpool’s worst league finish in 11 years.

Talent Benched

City by contrast could afford to leave out 75 million pounds worth of attacking talent. Emmanuel Adebayor and David Silva were on the bench, while Mario Balotelli watched from the stands because of an injury.

Liverpool, with striker Fernando Torres making his first start of the season, took more than half an hour to manufacture its first effort on goal. In that time, City carved out several chances to extend its lead before half time. Tevez, Adam Johnson and Yaya Toure all went close in an opening 45 minutes played almost exclusively in the visitor’s half.

“We were always fighting to get into it,” Hodgson said. “We just have to accept we’ve had a nightmare tonight.”

Just as he had for Barry’s opener, Milner supplied the pass that led to the second goal. His corner was headed down by Micah Richards before Tevez’s feint touch took it past goalkeeper Jose Reina after 52 minutes.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard tried to rally his team and struck a post with a shot, while City goalkeeper Joe Hart made a double save from Torres and David Ngog. City then put the result beyond doubt in the 68th minute.

Martin Skrtel, yellow carded in the third minute for a foul on Johnson, brought the winger down in the penalty area and Tevez converted the penalty, which Sheikh Mansour celebrated as enthusiastically as he did the opener.

“I wish he could come every week,” Mancini said. “We needed this win to believe in ourselves.”

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