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Man City stake claim as England’s greatest club side

By AFP - Jun 27,2023 - Last updated at Jun 27,2023

Pep Guardiola manager of Manchester City holds the Champions League trophy (AFP photo by Marc Atkins)

LONDON — Manchester City’s class of 2022/23 have staked their claim to be ranked as English football’s greatest ever team after the treble winners’ historic Champions League triumph against Inter Milan.

City’s tense 1-0 victory in Istanbul on June 10 made them only the second English club after Manchester United to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in a single season.

But Pep Guardiola’s stars are not the only team with a strong case to take that prestigious honour.

United’s own treble winners, Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and Liverpool’s legends of the 1980s all have deserving cases in a fascinating debate.

Stating City’s credentials comes with a barrage of jaw-dropping statistics.

They won 44 of their 60 games in all competitions this term, completing a hat-trick of Premier League titles and claiming a fifth in six seasons.

Arsenal’s eight-point lead in the title race in early April was reeled in with contemptuous ease as City sealed the title with three games to spare, eventually finishing five clear of the Gunners on 89 points.

Guardiola’s men plundered 150 goals in all competitions, the most of any team in Europe’s top five leagues this season.

Erling Haaland grabbed the headlines for his 52-goal haul in his debut season, that included setting a single-season Premier League record of 36 goals.

But City’s brilliance comes from a collective effort.

Rodri was the unlikely goalscoring hero against Inter in Istanbul and City needed goalkeeper Ederson to produce a series of important saves to conquer Europe for the first time.

Last weekend, Ilkay Gundogan’s double delivered the FA Cup, while Kevin De Bruyne has been the standout individual of Guardiola’s glorious seven years in charge.

So how do the other contenders stack up against City in the battle to be the best of the best?

Powered by “Class of 92” youth academy graduates David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, United could also call on Roy Keane, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole and Jaap Stam.

Yet, the Red Devils had to wait until the last day to win the 1998-99 Premier League, beating 2-1 Tottenham at Old Trafford to finish one point ahead of Arsenal on 79 points.

Alex Ferguson’s men also beat Arsenal in a memorable FA Cup semifinal before going on to lift the trophy against Newcastle in the final.

But their crowning glory came in a remarkable fightback to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the Champions League final.

Goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the final seconds at the Camp Nou prompted the exhausted and overjoyed Ferguson to exclaim; “Football, bloody hell!”.

If United’s treble was a rollicking rollercoaster ride of emotions, Arsenal’s unbeaten 2003-04 icons were the model of consistency and quality.

Arsene Wenger’s team won 26 and drew 12 of their 38 league games to take the Premier League title by 11 points as they became the second English team after Preston in 1888/89 to go through a top-flight campaign without defeat.

Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires provided the eye-catching elegance for the Gunners, while Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell added the muscle.

“To remain unbeaten in a championship like the England now is really unbelievable,” Wenger said.

But despite their incredible season that Arsenal side suffered a shock Champions League quarterfinal defeat to Chelsea and bowed out in the FA Cup semifinals against United.

In the midst of their reign over English football in the 1970s and 1980s, arguably Liverpool’s finest vintage came in 1983-84.

Joe Fagan’s side swept to the title by 13 points, winning 22 times and losing six in a 42-game schedule.

Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen were all at their peak as Liverpool beat Everton in the League Cup final.

The Reds then defeated Roma in the European Cup final — in the Italians’ own Stadio Olimpico no less — to win the European Cup and claim a treble of their own.

Liverpool devotees would point out that was their fourth European crown in eight years and their third successive top-flight title.

City’s challenge now is to establish a European dynasty to rival that of the Reds four decades ago.

“You have to win in Europe to be considered a great team and we did it,” said Guardiola.

“I don’t want to disappear after one Champions League. We have to work hard next season and be there.”

 

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