Manchester United’s loss at home to Leicester City means it is mathematically impossible for Solskjær’s team to catch their city rivals at the top of the league; this would be Manchester City’s seventh top division triumph and their fifth in the Premier League history, still a lot of Manchester United but in the end but clearly highly earned. They were neck and neck with Liverpool in the previous two seasons and were successful.
Then they got a lesson from Liverpool last year, and it was probably gone by February or so, and to come back from that, and everyone thought Liverpool were going to be the major chasers again this year, but injuries have completely wrecked everything they were going to achieve.
To come back from that and win, and to solve the concerns, particularly at the back, and they’ve done it brilliantly with Ruben Diaz, Joao Cancelo, Zinchenko, and Johnstone, who has shown a revival in their career, fitness, and form. Gundogan has been outstanding in midfield. All of this has been accomplished without the use of a natural striker for most of the season, and I don’t believe there are many other teams in Europe, let alone England, who could achieve the same level of success.
If we go back to November and look at the standings, they’re not even in the top 10 after eight matches, and they only gained 12 points from those first eight. What changed after that for them to go on an extraordinary winning streak? Well, I believe it’s two things:
The first, and most essential, is Ruben Dias. It was crucial for him to come in and strengthen a connection with John Stones. As we all know, Liverpool’s success was built from the backline, and Manchester City’s success this year was also built from the backline, which is not something we used to say about Pep. Everyone used to criticize him for not thinking about the defensive side of the game enough; he just wanted to score more goals than everyone else. Well, he modified it a lot this year. Along with bringing Dias in, Pep simply modified the mentality of two central midfielders seldom moving past the frontline, which meant that teams couldn’t get out. They had a fantastic combination and, of course, they started scoring goals. So it only takes one opportunity on the other end, and City got it on all of the instances when they needed it.
Pep has truly refined his coaching method from a team standpoint, despite his early success with Bayern and City. It was interesting to look at the table since we had seen it from November to perhaps a little earlier today. That he adjusted his style of play a little, realizing that you don’t have to remain up in every attack, that you don’t have to go for every counterattack and go a little back. As every observer has stated, the defense played a significant role in this.
While nothing can be taken away from Manchester City, Liverpool being much weaker and Chelsea coming later with Tuchel coming on made it a little easier, but nothing can be taken away from them. Not only do they have great players, but they also have the quantity, and we’ve watched some of the games when other clubs rotate their squads and you can see what sort of players they’re sending out, and when Manchester City sends out a squad on rotation, you just get the feeling that this side could be in the top four in England as well.
So there is quality all over the place, and Pep has seen that when you start winning and thinking, “Should I take this squad to a Champions League trophy and say I have to do something but I can’t just use my Pep style,” and I believe it is a tribute to any coach that you can change as much as you can improve. Nobody predicted that the Manchester City guys would go on such a run, but we knew they would go on some type of run; they were simply too brilliant not to. Obviously, Liverpool hasn’t been able to do the same due to their defensive troubles, but City was always going to put together a run, and they were always going to be the team to beat once Liverpool suffered the injuries. That was obvious, and it wasn’t at the start of the season, but what a reversal.
We believe that everyone is aware of the emergency Foden, Mahrez’s form began to improve, we saw Bernardo Silva on the bench multiple times without getting game time, and there were others, and we even saw Sterling lose his form. We saw Gundogon exceed and become City’s top Premier League scorer, but we also saw Sterling, who was one of the first names on the team sheet and one of the first names on the English team sheet, lose a lot of forms probably from Christmas onwards, and they just took him out at times and put others in, and that’s when you realize the difference in the level of player coming in was just too much for the others. The odd thing is that there has been a number 9 revolution in German football, and everyone in Europe is talking about it. They’re on their way back now, lead by Lewandowski, who has been sealed by Bayern. They’ve been resurgent, and we believe Pep Guardiola will now search for a number 9 to push them to the next level.
When compared to Manchester United’s second team, we must state that they have improved their style of play, as seen by the fact that they can show more than their style of play. With Pep Guardiola, you always know what you’re going to get; you know they’ll keep playing and doing what they’re doing, and the victories and points will come as a result of their style of play. We believe that going into the following season, everybody who wants to compete for the title must have a distinct playing style.
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