Few could have imagined what Manchester City would become…
30 years ago, the club were competing in English football’s third tier. For several seasons, the club struggled, constantly bouncing from promotion to relegation. Several players came and went. Off the pitch, the club underwent a major upheaval, where a new chairman was introduced. Staff and personnel shifted, and Manchester City even changed their ground from the historical Maine Road to the newly-developed City of Manchester Stadium.
Despite these struggles, Manchester City pressed forward. They would maintain their status in the top-flight of English football, and after some successes, they attracted more high-profile players. The club’s continued success caught the curiosity of the Abu Dhabi United Group, and by 2008, the rest became history.
15 years later, City had the most historic season in English football. During the 2022/2023 season, Pep Guardiola and his players battled against Premier League rivals Arsenal and Liverpool. For months, the Gunners and Reds challenged the Sky Blues, while the London club maintained top position for most of the campaign.
Manchester City faltered at times, falling to Manchester United and Tottenham at the start of 2023. They also dropped points against Everton and Nottingham Forrest, and surprisingly lost to Southampton in the EFL Cup Quarter-final. City were undeterred however, and continued to press forward. It was then that they went on a remarkable run, and one that will be remembered in English and European football forever.
Overcoming their initial dips and mismatches, City then hit its stride in March and April, where they continued to win match after match in convincing fashion. In the Premier League, they thwarted title contenders Arsenal both home and away. They dismantled Liverpool at home, and grinded out results on days where they did not play the most convincing football. This near perfection allowed the Sky Blues to start building a gap at the top of the table, and ultimately, it saw them secure yet another Premier League victory under Pep Guardiola.
City rode its success in cup competitions, too. Having been eliminated in the Carabao Cup, the focus was immediately shifted towards the FA Cup and Champions League. In the former, City defeated Arsenal in the Fourth Round, thus depriving the Gunners of another trophy in 2023. Victories over Burnley and Sheffield United in the quarter and semi-finals respectively would then follow, with the reward being a final showdown against Manchester United.
This was the first time the FA Cup Final would feature a Manchester Derby, and having already secured the Premier League title for the 2022/2023 season, Manchester City were eager to add more silverware. While the match would be close, the actual state of play was never in doubt. City overran their rivals, and United were no match for a constant press and threat on goal. The Red Devils would be defeated, and the Sky Blues completed a domestic double.
Manchester City then became the second club in English football to complete the treble, winning the Premier League title, FA Cup, and Champions League. Rival fans will suggest that this achievement was bound to happen, but the process was far from straightforward.
Having won their group in the competition, City were paired with RB Leipzig in the Round of 16. After earning a difficult 1-1 draw in Germany, and having missed several chances, errors were learned from and Leipzig never stood a chance in the second-leg. Manchester City came flying into the match, and overwhelmed their opponents. Leipzig were dismantled and embarrassed in Manchester, losing 7-0 on the night.
City’s reward was to face Bayern München. Like the Leipzig contest, City allowed their opponents minimal opportunities to score and won the home leg 3-0. The away match ended in a draw, and while the 1-1 match was tense, Bayern never came close to threatening City’s performance.
Manchester City were then paired with Real Madrid in the semi-final. Like the previous two matches, the Blues earned a 1-1 draw on the road, and recorded another dominant home performance where they won 4-0. The three ties had something in common. Despite struggling in some instances, City’s squad banded together and worked hard to overwhelm their opponents. It was this belief in each other, and their impressive defensive record throughout the season, that saw them win their first Champions League title.
City would face Inter in an Istanbul-hosted final. Like most of the other matches, Manchester City dictated the rate of play. If they were to lose, it would be their own doing. But ultimately, a capitulation never came. Manchester City maintained composure, and powered through. They had done it. They had won the Champions League and their first-ever treble. History was made.
These successes, however, were not enough in 2023. Having won the treble, the Sky Blues then pushed for more silverware. In August, City competed in its first UEFA Super Cup, where they faced Europa League winners Sevilla. Having started sluggishly, allowing the Spanish side to take the lead and numerous occasions to extend their lead, City’s defence stood somewhat firm and formed the foundations to equalise. The final was ultimately won in a penalty shoot-out, and the squad’s belief in each other, composure in defence, and their flying attacking force saw the club win their fourth piece of silverware in 2023.
City then completed their unprecedented season when they participated in their first FIFA Club World Cup. Japanese and Brazilian opposition stood in their way, and much like the opponents they faced throughout the year, they overcame the challenge with relative ease. City won a semi-final 3-0, and final 4-0. The victory meant that Pep Guardiola’s men had once again made history.
Throughout 2023, Manchester City promoted a message of togetherness. Players of different nationalities and backgrounds came together, competing in England’s and Europe’s most difficult competitions. Despite their differences, they banded together, and they persevered.
Overall, the Sky Blues had a remarkable season in 2023. They won their first Champions League title. They completed a treble. They would claim the UEFA Super Cup, making them the best team in Europe with both the Champions League and Super Cup titles. And they completed the set by winning the FIFA Club World Cup.
An unprecedented, historic season, making the chants from the terraces a reality. Manchester City truly are the best team in all the land in all the world.
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