Yaya Toure ranks Manchester City’s eclipsing of Manchester United as one of the greatest achievements during his time at the club.
The veteran midfielder is to leave the Etihad Stadium this summer after eight mostly successful seasons in which City have emerged as one of the strongest forces in the game.
City have won the Premier League three times during that period as well as four domestic cups, but the supplanting of neighbours United at the top carries as much significance for Toure.
The 34-year-old said: “When I came to City, we could not compare, they had so many trophies, so many Champions League finals.
“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.
Toure said: “United were in our way. 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 the 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.
He said: “I am very sad about it. 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.
“You can only have 11 players to play, and those who are not playing are not happy.”
Manager Pep Guardiola has assured Toure of a starting spot on Wednesday and a number of tributes are being planned. There will also be a lasting legacy with a pitch the City Football Academy training complex named after him.
Toure, who is not planning to retire, said: “Seeing a football club do something like that for one player is very special, to keep you alive and to say thank you.”
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said: “The word legend can often be misapplied, but in describing Yaya’s status as a City player there is no more appropriate a term.”
:: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak joined Yaya Toure at the City Football Academy to rename a pitch at the club’s training ground after the midfielder. Al Mubarak unveiled a Yaya-inspired mosaic beside the training pitch to celebrate Toure’s eight years at the club ahead of his final game at the Etihad on Wednesday night.