From Despair to Dominance: David Bernstein Reflects on Manchester City's Meteoric Rise

In an exclusive interview with, former Manchester City Chairman David Bernstein reflects on the club's remarkable journey from adversity to dominance. Bernstein's leadership, combined with Sheikh Mansour's investment and later Pep Guardiola's managerial prowess, transformed Manchester City into a powerhouse in English football. From restructuring to innovative practices influenced by Arsene Wenger, the club's rise underscores a commitment to excellence and stability.

Louis Hobbs
Louis Hobbs

Last Updated: 2024-02-27

Neil Goulding

10 minutes read

The Visionary Leadership of David Bernstein

In an exclusive interview with, former Manchester City Chairman David Bernstein reflected on the remarkable journey of the club from the brink of despair to the pinnacle of success. Bernstein, who played a pivotal role in saving the club during his tenure from 1998 to 2003, offered insights into the transformative changes that laid the foundation for Manchester City's unprecedented achievements.


"At the time when I was taking it over, we were way behind Manchester United and they had just won the treble," Bernstein reminisced. "I used to say, tongue-in-cheek, that my hope was Manchester would become the Milan of England and we’d have two great clubs. Little did I think that we’d leave Man United behind us. Nobody could have foreseen that."


Under the leadership of Bernstein, Manchester City underwent significant restructuring, including the orchestration of the club's move to the City of Manchester Stadium, a decision that proved pivotal in reshaping the club's future. "What we did was move from a club that had very little structure to one that’s in a much better place," Bernstein emphasised.

Pep Guardiola’s Managerial Mastery

Reflecting on the club's recent dominance under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola, Bernstein hailed the Catalan manager's exceptional managerial skills. "Pep is a great manager. He’s great because he’s able to handle that level of player and he’s done it at Barcelona, Bayern, and City," Bernstein praised. "He’s clearly a very tremendous manager."


Guardiola's tenure has seen Manchester City rewrite the history books, with the possibility of winning a record fourth consecutive Premier League title and repeating their incredible treble-winning feat of last season. "They could win the top division for a fourth time in a row, which has never happened before and win the Champions League twice in a row which no English club has ever done before," Bernstein acknowledged. "Those two things would make City regarded as the greatest English team ever. It’s incredible to keep that hunger."


pep ucl.jpeg

Image credit: ESPN

Stability and Structural Transformation

Bernstein also highlighted the importance of stability and continuity in management, drawing parallels with the struggles faced by clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United following the departures of Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, respectively. “Arsenal haven’t really replaced Arsene Wenger, it’s taken a long time for them as well as United with Sir Alex. They’ve done terribly since Ferguson’s left”, he added. 


During a pivotal moment in Manchester City's history, the club faced significant challenges, including the prospect of a merger with Wimbledon and discussions with Rangers about becoming a feeder club for the Scottish giants. However, under the leadership of Bernstein, the club embarked on a transformative journey that saw them transition from Maine Road to a new era of success. 

Wenger’s Influence on Man City’s Evolution

Bernstein went on to talk about the importance of establishing a stable base, acknowledging that without the structural changes implemented during his tenure, the club's subsequent achievements would have been improbable. Reflecting on his experience, Bernstein credited a meeting with Arsene Wenger for providing valuable insights into training methods, hydration strategies, and dietary considerations. 


“You need to have a stable base. I had the privilege of meeting Arsene Wenger at the Arsenal training ground, and I had two hours with him on my own and I learned so much from him in terms of training methods, usage of water, diet. All sorts of things. He was way ahead of the game at that stage. Things caught up, but he was ahead of the game. He gave me a lot of thoughts and ideas that we implemented”, Bernstein mentioned. 


Wenger's forward-thinking approach left a lasting impression on Bernstein, influencing the implementation of innovative practices that contributed to Manchester City's rise to prominence. Through strategic planning and investment in infrastructure, Bernstein and his team laid the groundwork for the club's future success, setting a new standard for excellence in English football.

Sheikh Mansour’s Investment

Furthermore, David Bernstein's recent book chronicling his five-year tenure at Manchester City sheds light on a transformative period in the club's history, highlighting the stark contrast between the dark days of financial struggle and neglect before the arrival of current owner Sheikh Mansour and the era of unprecedented success that followed. 


Bernstein acknowledged that many younger fans may not fully grasp the extent of the club's hardships prior to Mansour's investment. "In a way, it’s one of the main reasons I wrote the book because a lot of people - especially younger people - will think City’s success started when the Abu Dhabi people invested into the club," Bernstein revealed. He outlines the dire state of affairs upon his arrival, highlighting the club's dilapidated infrastructure, financial woes, and lack of competitive prowess. 


"The club was in a really bad state when I took over. It was still languishing somewhere in the 1920s or 1930s really," Bernstein remarked. Despite the challenges, Bernstein and his team laid the groundwork for transformation, including securing the deal for a new stadium, a crucial turning point in the club's fortunes. Mansour's investment injected much-needed resources, propelling Manchester City into a new era of prosperity. "We laid the foundations for the success that came afterwards," Bernstein suggested. The significant improvements under Mansour's ownership, from state-of-the-art facilities to on-pitch success, stand as a testament to the transformative impact of his vision and investment.


sheikh mansour.jpeg

Image credit: PA

Reshaping Manchester City’s Destiny

His involvement with Manchester City stemmed from a deep-rooted passion for the club and a keen desire to effect positive change during a tumultuous period. Recounting his decision to join the board during Fanny Lee's tenure, Bernstein reflects on the challenges faced during those initial years. "There was a lot of pressure. The fans were very unhappy, quite understandably," Bernstein recalls. When approached to take over as chairman, Bernstein faced a difficult decision, torn between loyalty to Lee and the opportunity to steer the club in a new direction. "It was a very difficult thing to do because I was very close to him," Bernstein acknowledged. 


Yet, he recognised the potential for transformation amid adversity, viewing the club's struggles as an opportunity for meaningful change. "The fact things were so bad, there was little resistance to change," Bernstein noted. With a sense of responsibility and determination, Bernstein embraced the challenge, leveraging his clean slate to instigate much-needed reforms. 


Reflecting on the scale of change and the evolution of football economics, Bernstein expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be involved during a pivotal moment in the club's history. "I was very lucky to be involved when I was because the club at that time you could understand it," Bernstein reflected. Despite the enormity of the task at hand, Bernstein's unwavering commitment and strategic vision laid the groundwork for Manchester City's subsequent resurgence and ascent to footballing prominence.


Manchester City's rise from adversity to dominance stands as a testament to the vision and determination of individuals like David Bernstein, whose efforts laid the groundwork for the club's unprecedented success. As the club continues to set new benchmarks under Pep Guardiola's guidance, their legacy as one of the greatest teams in English football history seems assured.

Recommended Articles

Exclusive - Robbie Fowler backs Darwin Nunez
Neil Goulding
Senior Sports Reporter
Updated: 2024-02-14
3 minutes read
Sammy McIlroy
Neil Goulding
Senior Sports Reporter
Updated: 2024-02-01
3 minutes read
Louis Hobbs
Louis HobbsLead Journalist

Meet Louis Hobbs, our esteemed authority on all matters sports-related. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Louis effortlessly emerges as our go-to expert. His particular expertise in the realms of darts and snooker sets him apart and brings a level of insight that goes beyond the ordinary. Louis also holds a deep affection for all things related to US sports, with a special emphasis on basketball and American football, which stand out as his particular favorites. His content may not resonate with you, if you don't consider Lamar Jackson the most skilled player in the NFL.