“City, Manchester City. Nobody knows your name,” was long the chant of their crosstown rivals, the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Football Club”. Times have changed. That song no longer rings out at Old Trafford and it no longer rings true. Manchester City are among Europe’s elite and are globally renowned. Through their owners, City Football Group, they are also part of a global network that has now expanded to seven clubs. This week CFG added another member in the form of China League Two side Sichuan Juniu, a Chengdu-based club in China’s third tier. The feeling had been that China was the next step for the global network that began with the investment into Major League Soccer side New York City in 2015 and then A-League side Melbourne City a year later. Both of these clubs took the City name and a close approximation of the Manchester side’s kit, in New York they also took former City players Patrick Vieira and Claudio Reyna as manager and director of operations. This extended football family has also seen players move to Manchester from satellite clubs. Jack Harrison, currently on loan at Leeds United, arrived from New York and Aaron Mooy, now at Huddersfield Town, and Daniel Arzani, now on loan at Celtic, both from Melbourne. The step up from the Chinese third tier to the English Premier League is too vast so if not for players what are City’s reasons for extending into Chinese football and why Chengdu? Manchester United could see China turn from red to blue as Man City buy Chengdu club While everyone was expecting a Chinese club, Chengdu was not the city that most had speculated. But it is a city of eight million people in a region that is under-represented in Chinese football. Nearby Chongqing, a city of 30 million people, has Sichuan’s sole CSL side. Chengdu used to have one, once known as Chengdu Blades when they were owned by Sheffield United. That ended disastrously but there’s no reason for CFG to fear the same for Chengdu City, Sichuan City or whatever they eventually call the club. The Chengdu Longquanyi Football Stadium might not be Yankee Stadium or Melbourne’s AAMI Park but it is one of China’s few football-specific stadiums. That’s going to help build a culture, as will gaining promotion. David Villa and Andrea Pirlo quickly followed the City name in New York but Chengdu will have to wait for star names – China League Two clubs are not allowed foreign players. Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid return to the top in China at expense of Leo Messi and Manchester United Investing in the domestic game may pay off in the long term but the new club is not City’s only approach to cracking China. One of their partners in the Chengdu club are robotics firm Ubtech, City’s official “robotics partner”, and the other is China Sports Capital, a joint venture between City Football Group’s minority owner China Media Capital and investment firm Sequoia. The club has two offices in China, following up their Shanghai office opened in March 2016 with another in Shenzhen last year. They have also partnered with a private school in Beijing, have a deal with CSL sponsor Ping An Insurance and have sent tens of coaches over to assist their partners in the Ministry of Education deliver football to hundreds of thousands of children across China. City agreed to do the same in Shenzhen after inking a Memorandum of Understanding with the Shenzhen Sports, Culture and Tourism Bureau. Manchester United banking on selling experience to China with deal for Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang centres #JiuniuYifang Sichuan Jiuniu 0-2 Dalian Yifang, the quarter-final second leg of CFA Cup，hightlights. pic.twitter.com/pEiXTinKTi — Football China (@footballchina) 25 July 2018 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> Not forgetting the fans and the football team, Manchester City also has 12 official supporters’ clubs across China, and claim a “regular audience of 45 million” for City games. Arsenal, whose Shanghai office predates City’s by three years, have taken a very different path. The club opened a restaurant in Shanghai last year and APAC director Hadrien Perazzini said that they are “looking for a second location. We’re planning on expanding outside of Shanghai as well.” Arsenal also has a partnership with state broadcaster CCTV. Just this week Spurs confirmed they will be in Shanghai in the summer, following Liverpool to China’s biggest city. Manchester United are expected to confirm their return in the coming weeks and recently signed a deal for three fan experience centres in the mainland. Manchester City faithful learning lessons United supporters know all too well – Premier League success comes at price of ‘proper fans’ It’s not just the English Premier League, either. PSG opened a fan experience centre in Shanghai while Borussia Dortmund has a full-time coach working in Shanghai alongside an increasing number of interactive fan events. BVB are one of six Bundesliga clubs with offices in China and the league itself is about to join them with a Beijing office. Spanish and Italian sides are following suit. Even the MLS is looking East, with the San Jose Earthquakes partnering with Dulwich College Shanghai for their coaching. Everyone is looking to get in on the act and more are set to follow. The current ruling regime supports football and foreign football in turn loves it back. In 2016, the Chinese Football Association released a 50-point, 35-year plan aimed at developing the sport to turn China into a footballing powerhouse. How long that will be adhered to when the leadership changes is not a question anyone is asking. Not while clubs are making money and a name for themselves.