Man City expulsion: Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Spurs and Watford among winners of re-allocated trophies

Dave Tickner
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates a win

The interlull demands content, and we can’t pretend we don’t much prefer the latest narrative to hit the top spot after last week’s risible efforts.

Pretending Gareth Southgate might be Manchester United’s top choice to replace Erik ten Hag was just too silly and too convenient and above all too abysmally dull to ever get the juices flowing, but it was better than what the back end of the week had in store for us with the genuinely unhinged flag-gate ridiculousness. That sorry episode was among the more batsh*t we’ve ever encountered and we’ve now lived through several poppygates.

The whole thing reached a startling level of daftness when politicians of all stripes started getting very seriously involved with a row concocted entirely by some lunatics on Twitter, and then Peter Shilton provided the real jump-the-shark moment (ironic, really, given his own historical issues with jumping) when he, England’s most-capped male footballer of all time, declared the colours of England’s flag that he had apparently proudly worn on the shirt for every single one of his 125 appearances to be red, white and blue.

So yeah, that was all a load of absolute bumgravy. But now, as we stumble into week two of the international break, comes a far better storyline, with renewed talk of Manchester City getting the boot from the Barclays for all those FFP misfortunes.

Now this strikes us as the very ideal kind of interlull filler. One, obviously, because it concerns fans of many clubs and not just Man City. There are obvious reasons why fans of pretty much everyone else have skin in this particular game.

But second, and most importantly for interlull content, a huge strand of the City story is the fact that nothing has happened for ages and nothing probably will happen for ages yet. That’s frustrating for those who want to see punishment dished out, but if you’re trying to fill the long, barren days of an international break where England are playing only friendlies, then a story that can become more of a story specifically because nothing is actually happening becomes irresistible.

So we’re all in on the City expulsion chat, and also by the way delighted that ‘expulsion’ appears to be the buzzword that everyone has decided goes best here. It’s a pleasing word to say.

READ MOREMan City stars reassigned after FFP ‘expulsion’: Foden to Chelsea as CB gets ‘dream’ Liverpool move

How, then, to take advantage of this piping hot news line?

Well, we had great fun a couple of years back with a counterfactual that stripped away all Chelsea’s pots and pans of the Abramovich era after it turned out he might not have been the altruistic good guy we all thought he was.

So let’s do that again, but with every City bauble since their takeover. You’ll be pleased to know our methods will be every bit as subjective as we set about re-allocating all their post-2009 silverware with thorough and dispassionate academic rigour except for the times we really want a different specific outcome for our own reasons. Enjoy.


2010/11 FA Cup
City’s first ill-gotten gain of the Abu Dhabi era came with victory over Stoke City at Wembley in the 2011 FA Cup final. Let’s rewrite history. City’s run started with needing a replay to get past Championship Leicester, so it’s the Foxes who take their place in round four where they, like City, get past League One Notts County at the second attempt having been held to a draw at Meadow Lane.

But that’s where the fun ends for Leicester, sadly, as they go down to top-flight Aston Villa in the last 16. Villa then land City’s plum draw in the quarter-finals against the only non-Premier League side left in the competition, Reading. From there it’s a semi-final against Manchester United for the Villans, and the first opportunity to use real-world results to pretend this guff is in some way scientific or in any way valid. United took four points off Villa in 2010/11, so it is they who progress to face Stoke at Wembley. United beat Stoke home and away in the league and thus the first but not the last City bauble makes its way across the city to their hated local rivals.
New winners: Manchester United


2011/12 Premier League
“Agueroooo! I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again. So watch it, drink it in… wait a minute. What’s this? There’s a VAR check apparently and yes, it looks like City’s sponsorship deals are a toenail offside there. It’s cruel for City, but all we can ask for is correct decisions. The goal and indeed the entire season-long battle to create this scenario and with it perhaps the most memorably single moment in the entire history of the Premier League are now struck not just from the record but from existence itself. Manchester United are Premier League champions again.”

Not everything about this brave new City-less world is going to be better. We haven’t even got to Gerrard’s slip yet.
New winners: Manchester United


2012 Community Shield
Right, at this point we have a decision to make. Is our City-less Premier League Universe (PLU) the same one where we’ve already nabbed all Chelsea’s trophies? Or is it a whole other new PLU? Can Chelsea get new trophies here? That doesn’t seem right, but we’re also not entirely sure we can be bothered cross-referencing everything we do here against not one but two alternative versions of reality, only one of which is actual reality. We’ve got our limits.

So what we’re probably going to do is just any time we find ourselves potentially awarding a trophy to Chelsea simply go with any other option available. Ergo, new 2012 Premier League champions Manchester United take the Community Shield. It’s up to you whether they beat actual 2012 FA Cup winners or alternative PLU 1 FA Cup winners Liverpool in the Traditional Season Curtain-Raiser.
New winners: Manchester United


2013/14 Capital One Cup
Fun one, this. In the real world, Wigan got a 5-0 spanking in round three. In our world, Wigan get a bye to round four, but here they fall to Newcastle, who again get the better of second-tier opposition in the form of Leicester in the last eight. That sets up a lovely semi-final between Newcastle and West Ham. Their league games that season give us a perfect template for a two-legged semi-final, and a goalless draw at St James’ Park would appear to give the Hammers the edge, but in January of that season Newcastle went to Upton Park or the Boleyn Ground or whatever they were calling it then and won 3-1.

And that means we’ve got a Capital One final with narrative out the wazoo as Newcastle take on Manchester City’s real-world victims Sunderland. And Sunderland beat Newcastle home and away that season, ergo…
New winners: Sunderland


2013/14 Premier League
City’s malfeasance really does rob of us some iconic moments. We’ve already lost the most dramatic moment of Premier League title history with AGUERRRROOOOOO after-timed out of existence, and now we lose the funniest moment of Premier League title history with Gerrard’s Slip now just a footnote as Brendan Rodgers’ brilliant side buckle and swash their way to Premier League glory to end that long wait for another league title.

And they get to celebrate in front of their fans rather than on Zoom, while Gerrard’s storied playing career gets the missing piece that allows him to leave the game satisfied and without the need to spend his post-playing career desperately trying to manoeuvre his way into the Liverpool manager’s job.
New winners: Liverpool


2015/16 Capital One Cup
There’s a lot of Capital Ones and Carabaos to go round in this City-free world, a world which is very similar to the world without lawyers that Lionel Hutz imagines in The Simpsons.

The 2014 winners Sunderland benefit again from City’s vanishing, with a 4-1 third-round thrashing now obliterated as they go through to face Palace in the last 16. With four points against Palace that season, Sunderland move on again to the last eight and further success against Championship side Hull. That puts the Black Cats into a semi-final against Everton and it’s a thriller to be fair.

Using as we must their league games for that season as the fairest possible guide, Everton appear to have the tie wrapped up after a 6-2 November win at Goodison but end up holding on grimly for a 6-5 aggregate win after Sunderland’s 3-0 win at the Stadium of Light.

A stone-cold classic and it again sets us up with an absolute doozy of a local derby final between Everton and Liverpool which, obviously, Liverpool win on the basis that the Goodison clash between the two that season ended in its traditional draw while Liverpool secured their equally traditional Anfield victory.
New winners: Liverpool


2017/18 Carabao Cup
West Brom benefit to the tune of third-round walkover and fourth-round victory with City no longer around, but they come unstuck against Leicester in the last eight. The Foxes get the better of Championship side Bristol City over two legs to reach the final against Arsenal.

In real life, City gave Arsenal a 3-0 schooling at Wembley. In this reality it’s a tough one to call with Arsenal and Leicester both picking up victories over the other during the course of the season. Arsenal’s was by a single goal, however, and in August. Leicester’s 3-1 win in May is clearly the more relevant here, so two years after their fairytale league triumph Leicester also now have a Carabao on the mantlepiece. A great story.
New winners: Leicester


2017/18 Premier League
This is one we fully expect to see claimed in real life by the new Premier League-winning manager. Because that new Premier League-winning manager is Jose Mourinho, who was already weirdly proud of his achievement in finishing 19 points behind Man City and will hardly be quiet about it now.

Mourinho’s side only just squeak home, though. In the actual table they finished four points clear of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, but Jose’s United were daft enough to collect three of those points against City. Spurs on the other hand, unlike more recent times, were not so silly as to constantly pick up meaningless points that don’t count against Manchester City. They got righteously spangled home and away which leaves them just a point behind the new champions. Spursy, that.
New winners: Manchester United


2018 Community Shield
Another crossing of the streams in the Chelsea-less and City-less PLUs. In real life, City won the 2018 title and Chelsea the 2018 FA Cup. In our different but only very, very debatably better world, United actually did the double. So that means their Community Shield clash is in fact now against Spurs, who are now the 2018 Premier League runners-up. With us? Good.

Now this could be a tricky one to dish out but luckily the 2018 Community Shield took place in August 2018 and the ever-mischievous fixture computer was kind enough to give us a Manchester United v Tottenham fixture in that very month. Seems obvious that this must be the basis for our decision-making here, anything else would be mere pointless guesswork and we’ll have none of that here.

What’s fun about this is that Spurs won that league game at Old Trafford 3-0, so in our reality they’ve won the Community Shield without actually winning a trophy. We’re positively giddy about the imaginary Discourse we’ve just triggered here about what exactly constitutes a ‘major trophy’ but then remembered that actually none of that matters because in this universe Spurs have already won the 2016/17 Premier League title. Starting to think that maybe we should just keep City and Chelsea to be honest.
New winners: Tottenham


2018/19 Carabao Cup
So very many Carabaos. League One Oxford are our recipients of a third-round bye before Fulham sort them out in round four. Next up is Leicester, who took four points off Fulham in the league and thus ease through to the semi-finals here. League One Burton Albion suffer much the same fate against Leicester as they did against City, although probably without the 9-0 bit.

Leicester, who are proving to be unlikely beneficiaries of this new world, go on to face Chelsea in the final. Luckily (for us) we don’t even need to worry about whether Chelsea exist or not because it’s Leicester’s cup anyway. They took four points off a Chelsea team that no longer exists and we’re not going to tie ourselves up in metaphysical quandaries about the merits of that. We’re simply going to congratulate the Foxes on yet another piece of silverware.
New winners: Leicester


2018/19 Premier League
Once we accept the obviously correct position that stripping all City’s honours from 2008-2018 also requires by definition the loss of all subsequent ones until and unless a real world reset wipes the slate clean, then this becomes the easiest of all to reallocate.

It is, quite obviously, Liverpool. We shouldn’t really need to go into too much detail about why it’s Liverpool. They finished one point behind Manchester City and a genuinely ludicrous 27 points clear of anyone else. You can tinker round the edges all you want, you can even criticise our unimpeachably scientific process in some of these decisions if you absolutely must, but this is Liverpool’s title.
New winners: Liverpool


2018/19 FA Cup
Watford were the obliging Wembley victims as City completed the first and yet now non-existent domestic treble. It’s fitting really, because absolutely nobody really talked about it at the time because they didn’t do the Quadruple and that’s all anyone cares about now. Wiping the one and only domestic treble in English football history out of existence feels like it’s something that should cause more of a ripple in the fabric of the game than this. Ah well.

Given Watford wait in the final, it’s surely all eyes on City’s path to see who gets their hands on the grand old trophy now (SPOILER: No it isn’t) with Rotherham reprieved in round three after shipping seven at the Etihad. They go out in round four to Premier League side Burnley, themselves now able to wipe a 5-0 defeat from the record books, with League Two Newport also falling victim to Sean Dyche’s team in the last 16.

On the established basis that Premier League teams always beat Championship teams in the FA Cup, Burnley then sort out Swansea to reach the last four. That sets up an unlikely semi-final against Brighton, and an even unlikelier place in the final for Burnley who took all six points off the Seagulls in the league that season.

And so it’s Burnley v Watford in the most Championship Play-Off Final-looking FA Cup final of the last 40 years and bugger me sideways if it isn’t Watford, with their four points against Burnley, who saunter off with the big prize.
New winners: Watford


2019 Community Shield
It’s Premier League champs Liverpool against FA Cup winners Watford now, so this is easy enough surely? Let’s apply a veneer of rigour, though. Liverpool and Watford met twice in 2019, once in February and once in December and thus roughly equidistant from their hypothetical Wembley curtain raiser in August. Liverpool won those games 5-0 and 2-0, so with pinpoint scientific accuracy we can split the difference and deduce that Liverpool would definitely have won the Community Shield clash 3.5-0.
New winners: Liverpool


2019/20 Carabao Cup
Not another one. Let’s rattle through it. Preston now go through from round three, Southampton go through from round four, and then beat Oxford in the last eight while we question every single life choice that led us to this moment for the second time. Southampton then face Manchester United in the two-legged semi-final and here we hit a snag. Both league games ended all-square, 1-1 at St Mary’s and 2-2 at Old Trafford. Away goals are of no value here, so what can we do?

We must, with some reluctance, head to the league table and give it to third-place United over the mid-table Saints. We’re not happy with this messy way of doing things when we’ve been so careful and precise elsewhere, but hey ho.

United obviously beat Villa in the final. We don’t need science for that. We did worry a bit when we saw a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford but luckily United turned them over 3-0 at Villa Park so that’s sorted.
New winners: Manchester United


2020/21 Carabao Cup
Those who remember the time we wrote 3000 words just to retrospectively award Spurs the 2016/17 Premier League title might have thought we’d be above doing the same thing just to try and get Ryan Mason a Carabao. Well those people don’t know us very well at all. Of course that’s precisely what we’ve done.

We’ll not bother going through too much rigmarole here, we’ve already decided the outcome. Let’s not get too bogged down in City’s now illegitimate route to the final and who takes their place; they beat Manchester United over two legs in the semis, and it’s reasonable enough to assume United would have taken care of anyone else who came along at that point. “But then is it not reasonable to think United also have too much for Ryan Mason’s Spurs in the final?” Haha you might make that argument given United ended the season second and Spurs ended it seventh but you’d be horribly, embarrassingly wrong.

This was, after all, the season when Spurs won 6-1 at Old Trafford. You can’t just ignore form-lines like that. And that was with boring old misery meme Mourinho in charge, rather than a likeable 29-year-old former midfielder in charge of his second game. Spurs win this handily because if there’s one thing we know about Spurs it’s that they are good at winning trophies.
New winners: Tottenham


2020/21 Premier League
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Premier League-winning manager. Despite finishing 12 points adrift of City and foolishly picking up four of their 74 points against the now ex-champions, United still finish clear of Liverpool whose disastrous season spent shambling about the place without a defender in sight now at least comes with the consolation prize of finishing second in the Premier League as well as second in the Champions League. What team wouldn’t be happy to finish second to such fine folks as Manchester United and Real Madrid in this shiny new world we’ve created where problematic, hated clubs never win anything?
New winners: Manchester United


2021/22 Premier League
Not quite as straightforward as 2019, but not far off. Liverpool have always been City’s most conspicuous victims given the nature of the Klopp-Guardiola rivalry and this was another Premier League season where it was those two, daylight, and then a sorry bunch of stragglers fighting in undignified manner for minor placings and European spots.

Liverpool were once again a solitary point behind the now disgraced City, and while the gap to third-place Chelsea was a bit smaller this time around it was still 18 points. It’s still a heck of a lot. And that’s if Chelsea even exist in this universe, which frankly we can no longer remember and also our head hurts.
New winners: Liverpool


2022/23 Premier League
We won’t lie, we’ve scrabbled around desperately here for a way not to give this to Arsenal. One, because it is obviously funnier if they don’t win it, but equally importantly it would be very funny to see the domestic treble, that Sir Alex Ferguson declared impossible and which in this reality has of course never been done because City didn’t do it in 2019, completed by Mr Erik ten Hag.

We’ve tried and tried and tried to finesse the nine-point gap that exists between second-placed Arsenal and third-placed United after removing City from the calculations but we may have to admit defeat. To make matters worse, the nine points we start with balloons to 12 when you consider that Arsenal got slapped silly home and away by Man City while United carelessly beat them 2-1 at Old Trafford.

Maybe Arsenal would simply have bottled it much earlier and even more dramatically had City not been around, but it’s a stretch and even we have a minuscule semblance of professional dignity. Arsenal, then, it must be. Look at the state of them. Celebrating like they’ve hypothetically won the alternate-reality league. Pathetic.
New winners: Arsenal


2022/23 FA Cup
Leg two of the now snapped-from-reality City treble saw them beat United at Wembley to win the FA Cup. But of course we must go right back to January first. They crushed Chelsea 4-0 in the third round, so it’s the beleaguered, hapless Blues who take a place in round four against Arsenal. The Gunners took six points off a truly terrible Chelsea team in the league, so they go into round five.

Now City certainly didn’t have a straightforward start to this cup run against Chelsea and Arsenal, but from there it took a distinct turn for the straightforward. That’s good, it makes our lives much easier. Few doubts exist that Arsenal would have made their way through Bristol City, Burnley and Sheffield United with the same serenity as City, who won those games 3-0, 6-0 and 3-0 again.

So it’s an Arsenal-United final and a lovely slice of early Barclays nostalgia. And this time at least we can at least give it to United rather than Arsenal without being too silly about it all. There was a win apiece for the old rivals in the league that season, but United’s Old Trafford win was 3-1 and Arsenal’s at the Emirates was 3-2. Taking the average of those two games, we get a decisive 2.5-2 victory for United at Wembley to gain some revenge for their league disappointment.
New winners: Manchester United


2022/23 Champions League
Fans of our Chelsea retconning may remember that European trophies are fiddly as all f*** in these, so we could really have done without City ending their long wait for continental glory to be honest. Sake.

But we’ve come this far, haven’t we? Might as well soldier on. First and most obviously, we have to go right back to the 2021/22 Premier League table. And there’s good news for Arsenal. We’ve already removed last season’s title bottle job from history, now we can go back and excise their top-four bottle job from the previous year. In this new world, they merely bottled third place which is nowhere near as bad.

So Arsenal go into the Champions League but we don’t really need to worry about them. Our pressing concern resides with Liverpool, who as the Premier League champions take City’s pot one place and win their group instead of finishing second in a different group as they did in the real world.

As a seeded group winner, Liverpool get City’s RB Leipzig last-16 draw instead of the Real Madrid unpleasantness they endured in real life. That takes them through to a quarter-final against Bayern Munich. Obviously we don’t have as much data for these match-ups as we do for domestic entanglements, and this is not one that throws up an obvious, intuitive victor given both sides’ proud and extensive history in the Big Cup.

But what we do have is a 2018/19 last-16 tie in which Bayern emerged the happier from a goalless first leg at Anfield before Liverpool stunned them 3-1 at the Allianz. That’ll do for us, so Liverpool take their place in the last four. Here, alas, fate takes a Final Destination-style sh*t on the Reds from a great height. They may have survived two more rounds but there is no avoiding that date with Real Madrid destiny. That really quite crushing last-16 defeat in the real world becomes a semi-final defeat in this one, meaning it’s a Mourinho derby in Istanbul as Real take on Inter for the big prize.

Pretty easy this one. Real Madrid have helpfully been in the same Champions League group as Inter twice in the last four seasons. And Real Madrid have won home and away in both seasons. They are European champions for a 15th time.
New winners: Real Madrid


2023 UEFA Super Cup
Seemingly straightforward this one as Real Madrid take on Sevilla, but their 1-1 La Liga draw in October is awkwardly close to the actual date of the Super Cup and makes things slightly difficult. Only slightly, though: Real Madrid have victories over Sevilla in May of that year and February of this. They, narrowly, add the least important of UEFA’s pots and pans to their collection.
New winners: Real Madrid


2023 Club World Cup
Let’s not mess about here. We’re very, very tired now. UEFA holds a 16-4 lead over CONMEBOL here, and nobody else has ever had a look in. The Champions League winners have won the last 11 World titles and 16 of the last 17. We are entirely comfortable with simply awarding the 22nd and currently last of City’s invalid trophies to Real Madrid and moving on with our lives.

And so there it is. Manchester United and Liverpool both add three more Premier League titles to their collection now City don’t exist, which is pleasing for doing absolutely nothing to shift the needle on their battle for all-time supremacy. Arsenal get a first since the Wenger glory days. Leicester get a couple of Carabaos to round out their trophy haul from an improbable era of success, while there’s also justice for Ryan Mason. Watford’s FA Cup win is a nice touch, and who among us isn’t happy to see plucky little Real Madrid add to their haul?
New winners: Real Madrid