Man City treble: Are Guardiola's men the best team of the Premier League era?

By Sports Desk May 18, 2019

Saturday's 6-0 win over Watford in the FA Cup final at Wembley made Manchester City the first men's team in history to complete a clean sweep of English football's major honours in the same season.

Raheem Sterling dispatched the decisive penalty in the shoot-out against Chelsea after February's EFL Cup final at the same venue finished goalless, while City edged out Liverpool in an epic Premier League title race by beating Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 last weekend.

Sterling and Gabriel Jesus then both scored twice on Saturday as City completed the treble, adding to a superb career body of work for manager Pep Guardiola.

But where does this City rank among the other finest teams since the Premier League rebrand of 1992-93 heralded the multi-million-pound era?

Five Omnisport writers have picked their sides.

Matt Dorman - Manchester United 1998-2001

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rode a wave of nostalgia in the early months of his return to Old Trafford and the hero of 1999 can be forgiven for indulging in past glories, such were the extraordinary feats he achieved alongside a squad of enviable depth and ability.

The now-United manager's last-gasp winner in the remarkable Champions League final triumph over Bayern Munich two decades ago completed an unprecedented treble and serves as the centrepiece of an unforgettable era.

David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and brother Phil comprised the Class of 92 that blossomed late in the last millennium and delivered three straight Premier league titles, an FA Cup and that sought-after European crown.

 

Peter Hanson - Arsenal 2001-2004

History will ultimately show Arsene Wenger as a revolutionary who later failed to evolve. But boy, at their pomp Wenger's Arsenal were a dream to watch.

The pace and guile of Robert Pires, the lung-busting runs of Freddie Ljungberg, the colossus defending of Sol Campbell, the power and never-say-die attitude of Patrick Vieira, the endlessly talented Dennis Bergkamp and, last but not least, the world-class Thierry Henry, arguably the best we have ever seen in England's top flight.

The Gunners were an era-defining machine, grinding down opponents with their slick style and refusal to lay down their arms in any game. City's current vintage are a joy to watch, but for me Arsenal's 'Invincibles' remain the cream of the Premier League crop.

Liam Blackburn - Chelsea 2004-2006

City finished third in Guardiola's first trophyless season but there was no need for an adaptation period with Jose Mourinho, who immediately took English football by storm, leading the Blues to the 2004-05 title and ending a 50-year wait for a top-flight championship.

The foundations had been laid for Guardiola long before he came in but Mourinho had to swiftly find a winning formula with a squad overhauled since Roman Abramovich's takeover 12 months earlier - and the Portuguese built an all-conquering team that lost just one league game in his first season before retaining their title in the next.

Mourinho, who commanded the respect of big characters like Petr Cech, John Terry and Didier Drogba - succeeding where many future Chelsea managers failed, also reached two Champions League semi-finals only to bow out at the hands of Liverpool on each occasion thanks to Luis Garcia's 'ghost goal' and a penalty shoot-out loss.

 

Joe Wright - Manchester United 2006-2009

Mourinho raised the bar with Chelsea between 2004 and 2006. Alex Ferguson went one better, with the finest United team he assembled.

They weren't treble-winners, but they conquered England, Europe and the world. Three league titles 2006-07 to 2008-09, an EFL Cup, a Champions League and a Club World Cup speak volumes about the strength of this squad.

The defence, in front of Edwin van der Sar, was the greatest Ferguson ever had. Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick controlled midfield; Owen Hargreaves did the rest. Ahead of them, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo were dazzlingly ruthless.

Jamie Smith - Manchester City 2017-2019

European success still eludes Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium but, judged solely on domestic performances over the last two years, City are the finest team of the Premier League era.

Their points totals say it all. City obliterated the competition in becoming the first team to reach 100 points last term and they almost matched that haul despite the phenomenal pressure exerted on them by Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, winning 14 games in a row to retain the title.

The domestic treble had never been done by a men's team in England before and while Arsenal's Invincibles were an amazing side, they were not quite the relentless winning machine built by Guardiola.

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    The Magpies are searching for a new manager following the failure to agree a deal with Rafael Benitez, whose three-year spell at the club is set to end when his contract expires on Sunday.

    Mourinho has been without a job in football since he left Manchester United in December 2018 and was linked with the vacancy at St. James' Park.

    But in an interview with The Coaches' Voice he gave a clear description of the kind of job he does not want to take on.

    "The only thing I know is what I don't want," said Mourinho.

    "What I don't want is crystal clear. I am quite pathalogical in the sense that I have to play to win. Then, if I win or if I don't win, that's my problem and the players and the club and the structure. But I need a project where the feeling is I play to win.

    "If someone gives me a wonderful, amazing 10-year contract and says the objective of the team is to stay in the first part of the table, and if you finish seventh or eighth or ninth it's perfect, that's not for me. That's not my nature.

    "It's not me. My next is to fight to win."

    Mourinho was linked with Juventus before the Italian champions appointed Maurizio Sarri as their new head coach, and the former Inter and Porto boss said he is open to working in a new setting when he takes his next job.

    He offered a reminder of his unparalleled success as a manager in Europe's top leagues, while hinting that a role in charge of a national team is not out of the question.

    "I'm quite flexible to adapt," said Mourinho. "I'm quite flexible to sometimes go against my own ideas and choose the right way to succeed.

    "I am until now the only manager that won the league in England, Italy and Spain. You need that flexibility, that control of the environment. You need to adapt to the reality of the club, of the competition, even socially you need to understand the needs, the aims, the motivations of everyone.

    "That's why I say that I'm really rich with this kind of experience – that's why I don't close the door to a new country, to a new competition because I've always liked this feeling of the unknown and this feeling: can I win?"

  • Foden can replace me at City, says Silva Foden can replace me at City, says Silva

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    Former Spain international Silva announced his decision to leave the Etihad Stadium at the end of 2019-20, which will be his 10th and final campaign for the Premier League champions.

    Foden has made 38 first-team appearances during his two seasons in Pep Guardiola's senior squad and his performances have seen him earmarked as a star of the future.

    Silva sung Foden's praises as he discussed his departure from City, telling reporters: "I'm sure he's going to be a fantastic player. He's a very nice man and he will be a good replacement for me.

    "Apart from his natural skills, he's a very competitive person. He always wants to win and that makes a very good footballer.

    "When you're young, you always ask people with experience. I've given him lots of advice, like how to move on the pitch. He's taken the information in and he's getting better day by day."

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    Silva's announcement comes in the wake of Vincent Kompany's decision to swap City for his boyhood club Anderlecht, where he will be player-manager next season.

    Speaking at the launch of a campaign to stop domestic violence in his native Gran Canaria, Silva spoke about the challenge that awaits his club in replacing the man who won four Premier Leagues, two FA Cups and four EFL Cups during his 11 years as a City player.

    "It's going to be very difficult to replace a player like Vinnie, on the pitch and off it," said Silva, who has made 396 appearances for City, scoring 70 goals.

    "He was an excellent warrior for City. But with the new generation we will find another one, another Vinnie.

    "You always need experienced footballers around to help you. But City's future is in safe hands with Bernardo [Silva], Raheem [Sterling], Leroy [Sane] and Phil there."

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    ROUND-UP

    Ajax and Netherlands midfielder Donny van de Beek has emerged as alternative target should Real Madrid miss out on Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to Marca. Pogba has also been linked to Juventus and Corriere dello Sport claims the Frenchman and the Serie A champions will ask Adidas to intervene in a bid to bring him back to Turin.

    - According to Tuttosport, an agreement on salary has been reached between Juventus and De Ligt. Juve are increasingly optimistic a deal will be reached with Ajax.

    Tottenham have not signed a player since 2018 but the Champions League finalists a poised to complete a club-record transfer for Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele, says the Telegraph. A £55m transfer is set to be finalised, with Spurs also closing in on Leeds winger Jack Clarke, according to the Daily Mail.

    - Marca says Barcelona are preparing for lengthy negotiations as they try to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou from Paris Saint-Germain following his €222milllion move in 2017.

    - Premier League champions Manchester City and rivals Manchester United will battle it out for Leicester City centre-back Harry Maguire, who is rated at £65m, Sky Sports reports.

    AC Milan are confident of signing Lucas Torreira from Arsenal, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. Milan want to reunite Torreira with former Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo on an initial two-year deal with the option of a permanent €30m transfer. France Football also says the Rossoneri are also a possible destination for Lyon captain Nabil Fekir.

    Manchester United are considering a move for Sevilla's Wissam Ben Yedder should Romelu Lukaku join Inter, according to France Football.

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