The biggest compliment to runaway English champions Manchester City and their manager Pep Guardiola came from the latter’s stiffest adversary. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho admitted that it would be tough for his side, or anyone’s, to stop City even next season. Mourinho was stating the obvious about the enlarging gulf between City and the rest in what is supposedly the most competitive football league in the world.
The league table reflects their supremacy. City, galloping like unbolted prize-horses towards the century mark, are set to surpass the best-ever tally set by Mourinho’s Chelsea (95). But more than the points-table, it’s the manner in which they have amassed the points that makes City such a compelling team to watch.
Not since Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles has a bunch of individuals stirred the hearts of the audience as Guardiola’s batch of 2018. City, this season, finally have an identity they never had despite the riches of the Sheikh Mansour era. Their football is a fusion of ideas that Guardiola picked up while at Barcelona, and later at Bayern Munich. At the surface level, City sparks spontaneous comparisons to the Catalan side, especially the short-passing, high-pressing tenor and tempo. But the subtleties are different.
City is Barca plus the freedom and enterprise of Bayern. It is, actually, German football packaged with a glazed tiki-taka cover. With this template, Guardiola is building not just a side, but a dynasty, like he did at Barcelona or like Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.
The lone heartburn for City was losing to Liverpool — the only team that managed to stall them consistently this season — in the Champions League quarterfinals. There could be further consternation if Liverpool knock out Real Madrid to the title.
For European success is what Guardiola and his men would really crave now, and they seemed legitimate contenders before the Liverpool faux pas. A determined Guardiola would further bolster his team, especially the slightly creaky defence, this transfer window, and come back recalibrated for another tilt at European glory — one that could guarantee City’s name in the pantheon of greats.