Yaya Toure ranks deposing bitter rivals Manchester United as one of the greatest achievements during his time at Manchester City as he prepares to leave the Premier League champions.
City have won the league three times during the Ivorian’s eight-year stint at the club as well as four domestic cups and have become one of the highest-profile clubs in the game.
“When I came to City, we could not compare, they (United) had so many trophies, so many Champions League finals,” said the 34-year-old, who is leaving the Etihad at the end of the season.
“But that was the purpose — to come to City, to put United in the shadow, although that would be difficult. The semi-final was a big part of it.”
The semi-final referred to was in the FA Cup in 2011, a tense derby against United which Toure settled with the only goal early in the second half.
City went on to win the final and end a 35-year wait for a trophy, validating the vast expenditure lavished on the club since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008.
“United were in our way,” said the midfielder. “We had to remove them, they were such a force.
“Coming into the game they had such confidence, they thought they were going to beat us. I’ll never forget it, they missed big chances. At half-time we were nearly fighting in the dressing room.
“We said ‘go out and play like men — or we go home again and say to (chairman) Khaldoon, ‘thank you, we’ve eaten the money but we move on because this club will never achieve’.
“We had that chat and you saw a different City in the second half. That’s why we won the game. It was brilliant, awesome.”
Toure is set for a huge ovation as he plays his final home game for City against Brighton at the Etihad on Wednesday.
The Ivorian has been one of the club’s most influential players since his arrival from Barcelona in 2010 and was a driving force in the Premier League successes of 2012 and 2014.
His influence has decreased since and he made only nine appearances, all off the bench, in this season’s title win.
“I am very sad about it,” said Toure, who is not planning to retire. “I wanted to be more part of it on the field, not out of the field.
“But look in our dressing room and they are all competitors now, with the will to win and to achieve. It’s a great ability, and I love it.”
Manager Pep Guardiola has assured Toure of a starting spot on Wednesday and a number of tributes are being planned.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits from Richard Barrett)