FA Cup victory shows Manchester City are a team to love, admire and fear.
Emphatic win against Watford showcased Pep Guardiola’s men at their well-grooved best, full of invention and good habits.
Welcome to the new order. Domestic games: played 51, won 43. dOMESTIC trophies: three out of three. Five-objective hauls 11. defeats since Christmas: one.
Scan the history books, fan back to the huge city clubs of Victorian occasions, wait on the red-shirted times of the most recent 50 years. English domestic football has never observed anything very like this single-season hit from Manchester City. It turns out we truly do all live in a sky blue world at this point.
City were not only splendid at Wembley; they were bewildering. They were sleepily great; great in a way that appears to suggest more extensive conversation starters of a donning existential nature concerning why, and how, anybody could have amassed a team this annihilatingly fine.
At times it was exciting. At others, it was somewhat excruciating. With 50 minutes on the clock, as Watford’s players gazed upward from their quest for the sky blue shirts and pondered, dubiously, some sort of rearguard from 2-0 down, some method for disturbing the grand footballing machine pushing them to the edge of this game, they may very well have seen the Manchester City substitutes heating up.
Sergio Agüero, Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sané can-canned along the touchline, observing inertly, sitting tight for the call. It is anything but difficult to envision the sentiments of those Watford players as they returned to pursuing and harrying, the profound lactic consume in the calves, the seconds beginning to slither or more each of the sorts of vertigo.
This was a glorious day for Manchester City and a historic one for English football. City’s triumph finished a first historically speaking men’s domestic treble. What’s more, this shocking team is a team to cherish, as well, so brilliantly well-scored, so brimful of creation and great propensities.
On occasion, its key note is perseverance, a group of players so infatuated with their own processes they just would prefer not to stop. Forty minutes on from that minute with the City subs, the game had for sure changed significantly. Rather than 2-0 the score was 6-0. How would you stop a rising tide?
The third goal was the most cruel. With De Bruyne now on the pitch, Watfordbasically fell apart. All that chasing: suddenly the yellow shirts were wide open on the halfway line, City on the ball with an embarrassment of green space to run into. Two passes took the ball to De Bruyne. A jink left Heurelho Gomes on the floor. It was hard to watch. Gomes is 38 now. He remains the same loose-limbed gangle of a goalkeeper, a bundle of boots and gloves whose every twitch seems to express some profound state of gloom. He turned to watch as De Bruyne clipped the ball into the back of the net and the day turned into something else.
Wembley had been a love, delicate, relaxing spot before commencement, the concourses thronging with squares of yellow and fixes of sky blue. The Watford fans were there hours before commencement, pressing out Wembley Way with banners and custom made signs, something about that association with 1984, Elton, spangles and all that, inclining up the retro-enchantment shtick.
As ever, the arena itself was taking care of business for these events, split into fuming, banner decked parts, and detonating with pre-coordinate tongues of flame from the pitch-side fireworks.
So, all in all, something happened that resembled sport, which was by any definition sport however felt increasingly like an announcement of intensity. There had been a lot of talk before this diversion about the gathering of the alphas, Troy versus Vinnie. Deeney himself had spoken about his own brandishing dualism, the need to reach down and locate that other individual, Angry Troy.
In the occasion, there was scarcely any Troy whatsoever – spare the odd close-up of astounded Troy, depleted Troy, Troy on the edge of another person’s snapshot of history. Raheem Sterling was brilliant all through, as were Ilkay Gündoğan, De Bruyne, and David Silva.
As the goals began to mount, the Watford fans stood and clapped and roared their players on. They might as well have been shouting into the storm. This City team is an irresistible force, both of sport and of political will; beautifully constructed, massively over-resourced, equipped with its own gold-plated helicopter gunship of a management structure. This has been an act of will, a regime in action. But what is its end point? Whom does it glorify? Is it a surprise that the best manager in the world, with limitless backing, and a supremely well-informed executive around him, can win like this?
Before the end, the Premier League’s eleventh best group should have meandered in from an alternate dimension of professional sport altogether. Their record against City in the last three seasons read: played seven, lost seven, joined score 30-4.
In any case, at that point, a club of Watford’s scale exists, basically, as a feeder to City’s level of football. Their compensation bill is £200m every year not exactly the treble-victors. Watford pitch to endure and thrive: City are confined in what they can spend just by the principles of enormous football account, and maybe not even by that.
The blue shirts danced their way to the last whistle and afterward danced on after it. For the present, this is one minute to brilliance in this team and these players. There has never been an FA Cup quite like this. There has, it appears safe to say, never been an English team quite like this either.