Nick Westby: Must-watch viewing sees Manchester City trying to catch up global superpower rivals

VISIONARY: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
VISIONARY: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
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Pep Guardiola is stood at the whiteboard, 22 red and blue magnets are in front of him and his hand is darting between the spaces at a rapid speed, his mouth is moving even faster.

Kevin De Bruyne is beside him, sweat dripping from his forehead after the exertions of the first 45 minutes as he nods like an obedient dog showing unconditional love to his master.

The Belgian international hardly says a word and the exchange lasts barely more than 10 seconds, but the message has been relayed and understood.

Four minutes into the second half, De Bruyne finds the space his manager was telling him about and unleashes a venemous drive that nearly rips the net off its moorings and gives Manchester City an unassailbale 2-0 lead at Leicester City.

The scene is from the Amazon Prime documentary All or Nothing: Manchester City a behind-the-scenes look at the club’s 2017-18 campaign which just so happened to be a record-breaking title-winning season for Guardiola’s men.

It is a documentary that has divided opinion among its viewers.

One school of thought is that it lacks the journalistic integrity commonly associated with the documantary genre.

Critics – many of them journalists, funnily enough – have viewed the eight-part documentary as a sanitised advert glorifying Manchester City.

There are grounds for the theory.

The infamous tunnel bust-up between City’s players and those of Manchester United following City’s win at Old Trafford last December is not even mentioned.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Insights into Guardiola’s vision are not greeted with the follow-up questions that the viewer craves to know the answers to.

The controversial souring of the relationship between the Catalan and club legend YaYa Toure is not even explored.

But All or Nothing does not purport to be a cutting edge piece of investigative journalism.

If anything, it should be viewed as entertainment.

Behind-the-scenes access to sporting clubs in this country is all too rare, particularly those that take you inside the dressing room where the planning takes place and the emotions are at their most raw.

Nick Westby

Behind-the-scenes access to sporting clubs in this country is all too rare, particularly those that take you inside the dressing room where the planning takes place and the emotions are at their most raw.

Examples of it are restricted to one of Neil Warnock tearing into his Huddersfield Town players at Shrewsbury in 1995 and another of Peter Reid at Sunderland later that decade called Premier Passions, both of them memorable more for the amount of swearing than anything revolutionary football-wise.

But otherwise, the closest fans get to their club’s manager is on pre-match press days and in the post-match press conferences.

The novelty of this unfeted access is one of the reasons for the mixed reaction All or Nothing has received.

In America, where Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing series originated, audiences are used to this inside-the-ropes access.

Previous subjects of the show have been NFL teams like the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys, before the series ventured into the world of College Football with the Michigan Wolverines.

Documentary headliner: Kevin De Bruyne.

Documentary headliner: Kevin De Bruyne.

The style is the same as the Man City one; glossy, unchallenged and very romantic.

Therein lies one of the reasons Manchester City have allowed Amazon Prime where no broadcaster has gone before – because a series like this is a wonderful advert for their club and for their sport.

Manchester City are not trying to win fans in this country by allowing a documentary team behind the curtain. They are certainly not trying to win friends in the red half of the city, or further west to Liverpool.

What they are trying to do is make up on decades of missed revenue streams to those global superbrands by appealing to mass audiences across the world.

All or Nothing is a giant advert for Manchester City, one the Premier League champions want the world to see. United and Liverpool are huge brands in America and the Far East. City are still playing catch-up.

They may have the rest of the Premier League trailing in their wake on the football pitch; but in terms of merchandising and sponsorship they have ground to make up.

In that regard, from a City perspective, All or Nothing is a marketing masterstroke.

Closer to home, and for those of us who just want to be entertained, this programme takes you inside the thought-process of one of the greatest footballing minds of his generation and how he operates with world-class players like De Bruyne.

Even if there are no probing questions, even if there is a meme doing the rounds where he looks like David Brent in The Office as he runs down the dressing room, Guardiola has gravitas and his vision of football is revolutionary and refreshing.

Whether you think it sanitised or a shameless advert; the access to Guardiola alone makes it a must-watch.

And another thing...

Tiger Woods versus Phil Mickelson for $10m. Makes you feel a little sick doesn’t it?

Twelve years ago, it would have been palatable. Back in 2006, Tiger and Phil had won four of the last six majors between them. They were the best two players in the world and a duel between the two of them would have been closer to being worth the money.

But holding it now, after a five-year period in which they have won only once between them, feels a bit like dragging boxers out of retirement for one last fight.

They are still hugely competitive, of course, and in a sport dominated by a band of twentysomethings from their own country, it shows just how much box-office appeal these two ageing warriors still command, after nearly a quarter of a century of sparring.

It is just the obscene amount of money that turns the stomach. Neither man needs it, and it does little for golf’s reputation.

Let them play... but do something better with the prize pot.