The Guardian: If Liverpool’s brilliance falls short, when will relentless City be caught?
-Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2019/may/11/liverpool-manchester-city-title-raceThe first time Manchester City found themselves in this position, entering the final game of the season with the Premier League title still up for grabs, it will probably always be remembered for what happened when a team once regarded as English football’s Slapstick XI found out it was not just that lot on the other side of the city that could conjure up football‑bloody‑hell moments.
Even after all the wild and eccentric stories of the past week, from Jürgen Klopp machine-gunning swear words into various television cameras, trying to make sense of the night of all nights at Anfield, to the teary Mauricio Pochettino, down on his knees, genuflecting to Tottenham’s fans in the Johan Cruyff Arena, I still cannot recall too many occasions to match the seminal day when City won the Premier League with the last kick of the season.
One was Manchester United in the 1999 European Cup final and everything, to be specific, that George Best missed when he decided in his wisdom that the game was over and – true story – left the stadium at the 90-minute mark. The other is Arsenal winning the old First Division at Anfield in 1989, with Michael Thomas running through the middle, Brian Moore’s voice picking up speed in the commentary box (“It’s up for grabs now!”) and another of those moments when, well, you can almost feel sorry for all those daft teacakes who don’t “get” football.
In the Premier League years, though, what could really beat the final-day drama of City’s first title of the modern era? “The only word to describe it is bedlam,” my match report began on that May afternoon in 2012. Though I must confess there was an intro of an entirely different nature sitting on my laptop, waiting for the button to be pressed, a few seconds before Sergio Agüero gave us what has become known as his 93:20 moment. “Manchester City will never forget the day they blew the Premier League title,” it read. Then Agüero pulled back his right foot and, with one last swish at goal, irrevocably changed the landscape of English football.
That was City’s first league championship since 1968 and if they win at Brighton on Sunday it will be their fourth title in eight seasons. Pep Guardiola could then, in theory, become the first ever manager in England to win a domestic treble when his team take on Watford in the FA Cup final next Saturday and, if everything goes according to plan, that would make it 10 major trophies from a decade under the ownership of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, including five in the last 15 months. Not as many as their owners would have liked, perhaps, when City have rubbed up against the Champions League like sandpaper. Still enough, though, to leave the clear impression that, domestically, they are going to take some shifting for as long as Abu Dhabi is bankrolling the club. And, unfortunately for all the other clubs in the Premier League who hold their own ambitions, there is absolutely no indication that arrangement is going to change any time soon.
There is certainly a valid question to be asked about who, realistically, will be capable of stopping City in the coming years if Liverpool reach 97 points by beating Wolves on Sunday, accumulating what would be the third highest total there has ever been in a 38-game season, and it still would not be enough for Klopp’s team to have their first decent look at that elusive trophy – 3ft 5in high, 25.4kg and 24-carat silver – and remind themselves what it is like to call themselves the champions of England.
That, in short, has to be the next aim for City if they wrap up everything on Sunday: utter domination. It would be the first time the club have ever retained the title, but can they go on to win it three, four, five times in a row? Can they emulate what Liverpool did in the 1980s? Or Manchester United during the peak years under Sir Alex Ferguson when the trophy seemed to find its way back to Old Trafford like a homing pigeon? If it does remain in City’s possession – a club, lest it be forgotten, that did not make any provision for a trophy cabinet when they moved grounds in 2003 – how long before Liverpool, or any other team, release that grip?
None of this is to overlook the possibilities that are open to Liverpool tomorrow afternoon, especially when the last week should have reminded all of us why, in football, it is dangerous to assume too much...