When Manchester United became the first English team to win the continental treble twenty four years ago, Manchester City, then playing in the third tier of English football, stared on in disbelief. Today, the Citizens are celebrating their own historic trophy triple. Fast forward to the present.
The Sky Blues, who spent many years playing in the shadow of their Red Devil rivals, are now proudly puffed out in the upper echelons of English and European football after capturing the Premier League, FA Cup, and their first ever Champions League.
The orchestra, led by the Catalan conductor Pep Guardiola, was incredibly well-rehearsed and talented, and everything happened as part of his master plan to give the devoted Etihad Stadium supporters memories they would always treasure.
After paying £100 million to acquire Jack Grealish, Man City paid little more than half of that sum to trigger the striker Erling Braut Haaland’s release clause from Borussia Dortmund. As Julian Alvarez joined his new colleagues for the first time since joining in January, so did Kalvin Phillips, Manuel Akanji, Sergio Gomez, and Stefan Ortega.
Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Raheem Sterling were all allowed to leave the club last summer, with the first two going to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal and the latter signing for Chelsea. A number of fringe and academy prospects also left the club permanently, including Pedro Porro, who is now at Tottenham Hotspur, going to Sporting Lisbon, as well as Romeo Lavia, Gavin Bazunu, and Sam Edozie going to Southampton. Fernandinho, a longtime City midfielder, also said goodbye as Ilkay Gundogan was named the team’s new captain.
Unsurprisingly, the first few weeks of City’s season were dominated by the introduction of Haaland, who had an immediate impact and scored just 12 minutes into his team’s debut, providing the lone goal in a 1-0 preseason friendly victory over Bayern Munich. The Norwegian was unable to leave his impact, though, as Liverpool won the Community Shield 3-1.
Liverpool beat Man City 3-1 in season curtain-raiser
Liverpool won against Manchester City 3-1 to bag their first trophy of the season in the FA Community Shield which doubles as the curtain-raiser of the 2022-2023 Premier League season. pic.twitter.com/egjCrKxc6z
— Voice Of Meta-VOM (@Voiceofmeta) July 30, 2022
As Guardiola’s team amassed 13 points from their first five Premier League games, two fewer than early pacesetters Arsenal at the top, they quickly put aside their loss to last season’s title rivals. Haaland, who made his Premier League debut against West Ham United on the opening weekend, scored a Premier League record nine goals during this time span, including back-to-back home hat-tricks in triumphs of 4-2 and 6-0 over Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest, respectively. With his first two league goals against the latter on his complete debut, Alvarez also shone, but the Norwegian won Player of the Month for August.
Manchester City’s forward Erling Haaland has won the Premier League Player of the Month award for August. The 22-year-old Norwegian scored the most goals in the opening month of a Premier League season in the competition’s history. pic.twitter.com/apNVHDoJkv
— Sports China (@PDChinaSports) September 16, 2022
Haaland scored 19 goals in his first 13 matches in all competitions, so to say the least, his early contributions to City were significant. In the first three Champions League group stage matches for the Citizens, the 22-year-old scored five goals, including a stunning acrobatic match-winner against previous club Dortmund to help Guardiola’s team make a solid start to Group G. After taking a 15 days hiatus from competition following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, City won the Manchester derby 6-3 at the Etihad in early October thanks to two hat-tricks from Haaland and a local player named Phil Foden.
When the two teams met at Anfield, there were 13 points separating Man City, who was in second place, and Liverpool, who was in 10th place. However, it was Liverpool who defeated Man City, handing the defending champions their first Premier League loss of the year and snapping their 21-game winning streak. Mohamed Salah scored the lone goal in a narrow 1-0 victory. However, the Citizens recovered impressively, winning five of their following six games across all competitions.
With one game remaining, a scoreless draw at Dortmund gave City the advantage in their Champions League group, and a 2-0 victory over Chelsea helped them move from the third round of the EFL Cup. However, in their penultimate game before the World Cup break, Guardiola’s team lost shockingly 2-1 to Brentford at home, allowing Arsenal to pull ahead of them by five points in the Premier League standings.
Man City utilized the month-long international break to allay any concerns about Guardiola’s future, and to the joy of every Citizen supporter, the Catalan manager signed a two-year contract extension at the Etihad until 2025. Argentina won the controversially arranged mid-season World Cup in Qatar, led by Lionel Messi. City’s new signing Alvarez won a medal for his achievements, scoring four goals in seven games, including a brace in an important semifinal victory over Croatia.
⏱️ FT | 🇦🇷 Argentina 3-0 Croatia 🇭🇷
🇦🇷 Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez with a brace send Argentina to the World Cup final
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 13, 2022
The Citizens began their season with thrilling victories over Liverpool in the EFL Cup’s fourth round (3-2) and Leeds United in the top flight (3-1), but they missed the opportunity to close the gap to league leaders Arsenal after being held to a 1-1 home draw by relegation threatened Everton. As a result, the Gunners ended 2022 with a seven points advantage at the top.
Guardiola and company began the new year with back to back victories over Chelsea, following up a 1-0 Premier League victory away with a crushing 4-0 FA Cup third round home victory. Three days later, City lost 2-1 to Man United at Old Trafford thanks to a contentious equalizer amid a quick-fire late comeback from the hosts, leaving the Sky Blues eight points behind table-toppers Arsenal. However, a heavily rotated City side suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Southampton in the EFL Cup quarterfinals, with Nathan Jones ultimately the one who prevented the Citizens from winning the quadruple.
Joao Cancelo unexpectedly joined Bayern Munich on loan until the rest of the season at the end of January after losing his usual starting position under Guardiola after the World Cup. The full back’s exit came at the same time as Rico Lewis, a young academy product, and Nathan Ake, who quickly became a vital part of Guardiola’s squad.
🗣️ “For me, it’s a great opportunity to show what I can do and to give my trust to the manager.”
Rico Lewis says he is using his opportunities to try to impress Pep Guardiola. 💪 pic.twitter.com/RrhvKbRi3R
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 24, 2023
The news that Man City had been charged with 115 alleged Premier League financial rules violations after a four years investigation into sponsorship income, revenue, and operating costs shocked the club as it began a hectic schedule of games across three competitions. The Citizens vehemently deny the allegations.
If City were found guilty by an independent tribunal, severe penalties, point deductions, and even ejection from the Premier League were all mooted as potential punishments, with other top flight teams supposedly favoring the latter. Indeed, until a decision is made public, City’s trophy victories will have a bold asterisk next to them by rival supporters. Guardiola nevertheless managed to restore calm and steady the Sky Blue ship during a period of intense turmoil and uncertainty by stating that he is “fully convinced” the club is innocent and that he is more committed than ever to leading the Citizens.
The Catalan’s uncompromising attitude was transmitted to his team, who went on to compile an exceptional 25 games undefeated streak in all competitions over a four and a half month span that started with back to back 3-1 Premier League victories over Aston Villa and Arsenal. Despite having played one more game than their championship opponents, City surpassed them and ascended to the top of the Premier League thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Grealish, and Haaland as they defeated the latter at the Emirates Stadium.
With easy wins over Burnley of Vincent Kompany and Bristol City of the Championship in the fifth round and quarterfinals, Man City advanced to the FA Cup semifinals with a 9-0 aggregate score. Haaland, a prolific scorer, notched a hat-trick against the latter just four days before scoring five goals in a resounding 7-0 second-leg victory over RB Leipzig in the Champions League round of 16. This brought his total to 39 goals across all competitions and broke Tommy Johnson’s 94 years club record for most goals in a season for City.
After an international break, the in form Citizens regrouped and defeated Liverpool and Southampton with four goals each. They then defeated Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter finals 4-1 on aggregate, with arguably one of their best performances of the season, a convincing 3-0 first-leg victory at the Etihad.
A superb Riyad Mahrez hat-trick helped City defeat Sheffield United 3-0 in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley to close out the month of April with three noteworthy victories. Then, a brilliant performance in a 4-1 top of the table victory over Arsenal helped Guardiola’s team seize control of the Premier League title race, moving to within two points of the top with two games remaining. Haaland became the first English top flight player to score 50 goals in all competitions in a single season since Tom ‘Pongo’ Waring 92 years earlier when City eventually won 2-1 against Fulham to reach the summit.
Kevin De Bruyne scored twice as Manchester City took a giant step toward retaining the Premier League title with a dominant 4-1 victory over leaders Arsenal in Thursday’s top-of-the-table clash at the Etihad Stadium.https://t.co/p8UnK1b6DC#EPL #PremierLeague #ESPNCaribbean pic.twitter.com/dZzUwuJWKK
— ESPN Caribbean (@ESPN_Caribbean) April 26, 2023
With a goal in the 3-0 victory over West Ham United in May, Haaland broke two more records, becoming the first player in Premier League history to score 35 goals in a single season. He did so by surpassing Andy Cole (34 goals in 1993/94) and Alan Shearer (34 goals in 1994/95). The Norwegian’s scoring prowess waned toward the end of the season, but Guardiola had other stars in his squad ready to step up, none more so than Gundogan, a stalwart of the postseason, who scored four goals in two Premier League victories over Leeds and Everton to put City on the verge of winning the title.
The win over Everton came in between City’s matchup with Real Madrid, the defending champions, in the Champions League semifinals. After a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, City defeated the team who heartbreakingly eliminated them at this stage a year prior with a 4-0 second-leg victory to secure their spot in the championship match in Istanbul.
Arsenal ultimately gave in to pressure from City to maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League, and after a very promising season, a disastrous end destroyed their title aspirations. A disheartening 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest gave Guardiola’s team its third straight top flight title without kicking a ball, in fact, only two league victories in seven games. A day later, after defeating Chelsea 1-0, City raised the Premier League trophy in front of a joyful Etihad crowd.
Guardiola’s heavily rotated Citizens team lost to Brentford and Brighton in their final two league games with two important finals on the horizon, but they weren’t deterred going into the first ever Manchester derby FA Cup final at Wembley. They defeated Erik ten Hag’s team 2-1, thanks to two long-range volleys from captain wonder Ilkay Gundogan, including a 12 second opener.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) June 4, 2023
Sunk in yet, @ManCity fans? ✨
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) June 4, 2023
After winning two domestic titles, Man City’s last challenge was to end their agonizing wait to win the coveted Champions League trophy, the one trophy necessary for them to be considered one of the best teams to ever play the beautiful game. In his 52nd game of the season, midfield guru Rodri opened the scoring with a sweet strike on the 68 minuteS mark. City then played out a tense final 20 minutes, seeing an Inter shot cannon off the crossbar and Ederson make two superb saves in the dying seconds, to seal European victory and become only the second English team to win the treble in history.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) June 10, 2023
ERLING BRAUT HAALAND Best Player of the Season
It just had to be @ErlingHaaland! 🌟
— Manchester City (@ManCity) June 12, 2023
One more? Even Erling Braut Haaland, who had established himself as a goal-scoring machine in his native Norway, Austria, and Germany prior to moving to the Etihad last summer, has been “surprised” by the heights attained by Man City in a genuinely spectacular record-breaking debut season.
Haaland has adapted to English football like a duck to water, scoring a record 36 goals in just 35 Premier League games to win the Golden Boot award and finishing 13 goals ahead of last season’s joint-top scorers Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min. In contrast, a number of Pep Guardiola’s signings have needed a year or more to adjust to life under the Catalan manager.
More than any other player, the Norwegian also contributed with four goals in domestic cups and 12 goals in 11 Champions League games, bringing his incredible total of goals in all competitions to 52 in 53 games.
Man City managed to score a lot of goals last season despite lacking a natural striker, but the addition of Haaland to the attack has elevated Guardiola’s team to a new level. His innate talent to move in and around the penalty area and his capacity to leave his imprint on games with so few touches of the ball have been lauded by supporters, teammates, and commentators alike.
Haaland, who is only 22 years old, became the first player in Premier League history to win both the Player and Young Player of the Season honors in the same season. He also won two Player of the Month titles and was voted Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. The City No. 9 will undoubtedly become a serious contender for the 2023 Ballon d’Or with another spectacular start to the upcoming campaign, though World Cup champion Messi will pose stiff competition.
Although the Scandinavian superstar deserves all the praise, City’s roster also included a number of other noteworthy performers. In fact, playmaker Kevin De Bruyne had another strong season with 29 assists, the most of any player in Europe, and John Stones improved greatly after assuming a hybrid midfield role alongside fellow star Rodri. Nathan Ake also had a breakthrough year as a first-team regular.
A moment we'll never forget! pic.twitter.com/i8WUdrNXkl
— Manchester City (@ManCity) June 11, 2023
Ever since Man City qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 2011, they have had a love-hate relationship with the competition. Before Manuel Pellegrini advanced to the semifinals, Roberto Mancini was unable to get the Citizens through the group stage. Since then, there have been many highs and lows in Europe’s top club competition under Guardiola’s guidance.
And it’s true that VAR heartbreak in a quarterfinal loss to Tottenham in 2019 was followed two years later by a close 1-0 loss to Chelsea in their first-ever final, before Real Madrid shocked the Citizens with a spectacular semi final comeback at the Bernabeu last season. Guardiola’s team did learn from those failures, though, and they came back much stronger to finally cross the threshold of sporting immortality.
The wait is over…
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) June 11, 2023
The greatest moment in Man City’s 129 years history was marked by captain Ilkay Gundogan hoisting the Champions League trophy, 53 years after club legend Tony Book lifted the Cup Winners’ Cup. Owner Sheikh Mansour, who was present for just his second game since his consortium acquired the club in 2008, witnessed the historic occasion.
One of City’s most significant goals, along with Sergio Aguero’s dramatic title-winning shot in 2011/12, was Rodri’s game winning goal against Inter. The entire Citizens squad has also written their names in the history books as treble champions, a remarkable accomplishment that will bind this close knit group forever.
When the City team reunites with the club’s supporters to celebrate their treble win in an open-top bus procession through the streets of Manchester on Monday, Noel Gallagher famously sang, “The Manchester rain will taste like champagne.”
Under Pep Guardiola, probably the greatest manager of all time, Man City has flourished. In his seven years as manager, the Citizens have won 14 trophies, solidifying them as the best club team in all of football.
Securing a Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League treble is no small accomplishment, especially after defeating both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to win the European championship and defeating three of the so-called Big Six teams to win the FA Cup.
For Man City supporters, the ability to rule the football world with a visually appealing brand of football is a sight to behold. Their club has now earned the right to be ranked among the best teams, and they have all the resources necessary to maintain their dominance at the top of English and European football.
The independent commission’s report on City’s alleged financial violations should be released as soon as possible, but nevertheless, Manchester is undeniably blue and the team to beat going into the 2023/24 season.