Manchester City have not won a major trophy since 1976 when they won the League Cup. The League cup is only rated as a fourth priority by big clubs now and the same was true back in 1976. To go 33 years and counting without winning and getting close once to winning a trophy is not the hallmark of a big club.
A period of twenty five years is sufficient to classify or re-classify a club as big or small. In the period of twenty five years up to and including 1976 it is fair to say that Manchester City were a big club as they achieved League, Cup and European success, attracting large crowds in the process. Since then they can only really point to a losing Cup Final appearance in 1982.
Manchester City have dropped down to the third tier of English football and worked their way backup to the Premiership. This inconsistency and total lack of appearances in European competitions are the features of a small club. in addition a high turnover of managers has illustrated the downturn in fortunes of this formerly big club.
This question has become a debating title because of the massive Arab investment taking place in the club. Even with this finance they have not been able to attract the marquee signings that they hoped for. Indeed the ones you would expect a big club to achieve. This is not to say that they have not attracted some very good players who will significantly increase the playing standard at the club. Success and then consistency of successin domestic competition followed by European success will be required to re-classify Manchester City as a big club. They have the ability to attract big crowds and the huge investment gives them a far bigger chance of doing this. At present however they seem more concerned with trying to win a Manchester derby than winning the Premiership.
There is still discussion over whether Chelsea are a big club following their massive financial boost and they have won 2 Premierships and a number of FA cups. So they have set the standard of what manchester City need to reach to have themselves referred to commonly as a big club. Mark Hughes is sensibly building up the team gradually, but even though they have made a good start to this season there still remains much doubt as to whether they can secure a top four spot this season which would be the absolute minimumfor a 200million investment.
It is important not to be fooled by the money as other clubs have flattered only to deceive. Manchester City do appear to be in a very good position to reclaim the title of big which it is fair to say has diminished in the last 33 years.