Manchester City is in the conversation as the best team in English history. Admittedly, it is never a good idea to argue across eras in sports. Each period has different tactics, quality of competition, financial backing and even rules. The implication of VAR applies heavily to the latter.
However, what Manchester City can accomplish this season is a rare feat. Combine that with the club’s domestic dominance over the last decade and the Sky Blue half of Manchester would like a seat at the table with the best. The Invincibles of Arsenal in 2003/04 did something unprecedented by going undefeated in an entire Premier League campaign. Manchester United’s famed 1998/99 season won the first, and so far only, treble by an English club. These are just two examples of great teams over the last couple of decades. There are plenty more seasons of dominance from different clubs.
Yet, what makes this Manchester City team special is the fact that it is showing individual seasons of dominance year in and year out. That caps off this season with what could be a treble, taking the exclusivity of the achievement away from its biggest rivals, Manchester United.
Here is the case for what makes the current Manchester City one of if not the best team in English history.
Manchester City makes case as best team in English history
To clarify, this one spell of greatness does not make Manchester City the greatest club of all time. City, even if it does go on to win the Champions League, FA Cup and Premier League, would have fewer titles in each of those competitions than multiple other clubs. Namely, Manchester United would have more. Therefore, Manchester City would not even be the most successful club within a five-mile radius.
However, in talking about particular eras, the Pep Guardiola spell at Manchester City is starting to look similar to the 1990s under Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United won eight Premier League titles in the first 11 years under the renamed top flight. In total, Ferguson led United to 13 titles over 21 years. Before then, the vaunted Liverpool teams of the 1970s into 1980s won 10 titles in a 15-season span. By comparison, Pep Guardiola has only been at City for seven seasons, including 2022/23. However, a win in this campaign would make it five from seven, a comparable ratio to Ferguson’s beginning at United and the Dalglish and Paisley reigns at Liverpool. Plus, City is the only Premier League club to hit the 100-point mark.
The issue with comparing Ferguson or the Liverpool managers to Guardiola is that the two instances in the past were elongated. These were literal decades of runs at the top of English soccer. Guardiola’s at least, by comparison, is much smaller. But, perhaps it is more consistent. Liverpool did win seven titles in a nine-year span, and that was under three different managers. Could Guardiola reach that? Perhaps. That is all in the future, which is never easy to predict in soccer.
The one thing favoring those two teams over this batch of Manchester City talent is the Champions League. Both Liverpool and Manchester United won multiple European Cups or Champions Leagues in the aforementioned spans. It is one thing to consistently win on home turf, but European competition is a whole different level. Granted, it is a cup competition. One or two bad games can spell the end of a campaign. But, that makes the rewards feel better. This would be particularly true for Manchester City, as it has been close to lifting that trophy in the last couple of years.
Adding the Champions League to Pep Guardiola’s cabinet at Manchester City would give him every major trophy possible for a Premier League club, excluding the UEFA Supercup and FIFA Club World Cup, which both require a Champions League victory to get into.
Individual season of brilliance
Fittingly, Guardiola seems to be on the verge of that elusive UEFA Champions League in a historic season at the Etihad. Both individually and as a team, Manchester City is a machine. That cliche may be overused with this City team. But, truthfully, it is the best descriptor for how this team functions.
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Starting defensively, Manchester City’s domestic campaign has been sensational. The club only has five games this season in which it conceded more than one goal. The last team to do it was Tottenham Hotspur on January 19. Spurs lost that game, 4-2, as Guardiola’s offense carried the weight in the second half.
The midfield is simply brilliant — Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish and Ilkay Gündoğan provide Guardiola with endless options. On his day, de Bruyne makes a case for earning the title of the best player in the world. He has 18 assists in the league this season.
Then, up top, the story of City’s season continues to bulldoze his way through the Premier League. He is turning arguably the most-competitive domestic league into his weekly training session. With games still left to play, Haaland broke the single-season scoring record in the Premier League. He failed to score in just 10 games that he played in. His four hat tricks in a single season are also a record. In the UEFA Champions League, he has 12 goals in eight appearances. A five-goal outing against RB Leipzig helped that.
All this brilliance individually yields success as a team. That is what makes Manchester City’s current squad rival the historically elite.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Paul Marriott
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