Manchester City are European champions. They are Treble winners. They are immortals. They are the best this country has ever seen, even if there are questions over how they got there.
Well they had to work for that one against Internazionale, didn’t they? Simone Inzaghi has some great individual talent at his disposal, but even with Nicolo Barella, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni, the Italians are nowhere near City’s level – on paper anyway.
But football games aren’t played on paper, if you weren’t aware. Inter did not look like massive underdogs in Istanbul. They pressed efficiently, limited City’s chances, made their possession look pointless for the most part and nullified the threat of Erling Haaland, who only had one decent chance in 90 minutes.
It was an Arsenal bottlejob that handed City the Premier League, an Ilkay Gundogan brace that gave them the FA Cup, and it was a loose ball latched onto and finessed into the back of the net by Rodri that won City the Champions League, and ultimately the Treble. Well, Rodri and Romelu Lukaku, who blocked a close-range effort from his teammate Federico Dimarco and missed an absolute sitter at the death.
City were good enough to win, but they rode their luck a bit on the night. It has to be said they deserve a bit of fortune given their relentless form and imperious performances since the turn of the year. Hell, they rode their luck a hell of a lot less than Manchester United did in 1999. The Red Devils were the only treble winners in English football before City beat Inter and that incredible achievement is no longer theirs alone.
Obviously, this puts a dent in their history, in Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy, but there is no asterisk over what that side achieved when that is absolutely not the case with City. The 115 charges hanging over them could make all of this worth bugger all, but speaking about the here and now, it has to be said that this team is the best we have ever seen in England.
Pep Guardiola is the best in the business and it is fitting that Manchester City finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy when they are at their absolute best under the Spaniard. They have won the league with 100 points and dominated English football for half a decade, but there is no doubting the current Guardiola system has made them unbeatable. They are hard as nails, they are streetwise, and the “proper defenders” protecting Ederson have made them solid as a rock off the ball, which they have not always been. And when they are breached, blimey, City have Ederson between the sticks. The Brazilian made a few humungous saves to get his team over the line against Inter.
And then there is the goalscorer Rodri. This guy epitomises everything about this City team. He is strong, composed, technically gifted, and a bit of a sh*thouse.
Rodri’s strike, which wasn’t exactly a “Solskjaer has won it” moment, came on the best night in Manchester City’s history. Not even another Kevin De Bruyne injury could stop them. The Belgian was forced off against Chelsea two years ago and lightning would strike once again when he left the pitch in the first half in 2023, but thankfully for him, his teammates managed to get over the line this time.
Charges and asterisks aside, City can and should keep on winning as long as Guardiola is at the helm. Winning the Treble is obviously one of the most difficult things to do in sport, yet this group of players will probably do it again. Guardiola has built a colossal winning machine and he has finally got the one thing that was missing from making this Manchester City side immortal. They are now, and that must sting if you are associated with Manchester United.