Manchester City’s incredible success in recent season has perhaps been slightly underrated – simply due to the resources they have at their disposal. It’s not as easy as it looks on paper, though, and Guardiola deserves credit for not only carefully assembling a side so supremely talented and balance, but also for taking City to that next level in the footballing ladder.
He’s done it in fine fashion too. And no, not through wearing chinos on the touchline, but getting his team to play beautiful football.
It’s difficult trying to whittle down the number of good Guardiola performances at City because – spoiler alert – there’s been an annoyingly large amount of them. 90min has managed to nail down a few and compile a list of the best of the best – don’t say we never do anything for you.
As good as City were at the time – compared to the glory days of Stephen Ireland and Michael Johnson at least – the team Guardiola inherited in 2016 was a little bit rubbish.
Watching the Cityzens put together a comeback at the Etihad against Barcelona was a sign of things to come, however, as Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne scored to cancel out a Lionel Messi goal and give City the win.
With people questioning his methods after a slightly rocky start, this was a way to silence the haters around England.
After plenty of criticism of Guardiola for trying to implement his silly and frankly absurd philosophy of playing actually good football in England during his debut season with City, the side responded competently the following year.
‘Competently’ meaning they knocked seven shades out of most teams they faced in the Premier League that year, racking up just the 100 points.
Spanking Liverpool 5-0 just four games into the season set an early precedent and reminded critics that Guardiola’s City were barely even getting warmed up, with Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane leading the charge in a dominant performance.
The gap between City and the chasing pack closed up considerably the following season, providing fans with one of the greatest Premier League title races to date.
Having seen Liverpool work up a ten point lead atop of the table by January 2019, City dug in deep and ended the Reds’ 20 game unbeaten run with a resilient 2-1 victory, which was key in the title race having clawed their lead down to just four points with the win.
Little over a month later, Guardiola unleashed his side on Chelsea to flirt with the top of the table once more in a six goal mauling.
The Cityzens made it 4-0 inside the first 25 minutes in an unrelenting display that saw Aguero come away with the match ball.
High scoring games are great fun, but as football royalty Neil Warnock famously said, sometimes ‘you’ve gotta f**kin’ die to get three points’.
Not all games go to plan, but a patient City bided their time and remained calm thanks to the influence of Guardiola in May 2019 against Leicester. It was this patience that allowed for a moment of magic from Vincent Kompany, who rifled the ball in from distance to all-but wrap up a Premier League title.
Having wrapped up the Premier League, City went one further and became the first side to complete a domestic treble.
In true Guardiola fashion, there had to be a footballing masterclass and subsequent walloping in there. Unlucky Watford; you tried, but when you make a cup final against this kind of Man City, you’ve no chance.
Thanks for coming lads.
Six in May, eight by September. Jim Ross was probably screaming at his commentary table for Guardiola to show some mercy and stop the damn match.
City dished out another football schooling to Watford just months after the first, putting eight past the Hornets as Guardiola racked up his biggest winning margin since joining in 2016.
Honestly Watford, just don’t bother showing next time.
It’s not a list involving City’s best wins if there isn’t a derby win in there. And in even more fitting circumstances, this one came in the League Cup – their prized possession.
In the first of a two-leg semi final, Guardiola’s City completely outplayed Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at Old Trafford. Better yet, they did so without even bothering to play a striker.
A month later, little City showed up at the Santiago Bernabeu with the task of derailing Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16.
When Real pulled ahead after an hour, things looked bleak. But the fight and the composure Guardiola had instilled into City by this point had paid dividends, as goals from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne staged a monstrous comeback.
Better yet, they won the second leg too.
The steel that was on show in the last 16 in 2020 was deployed against Paris Saint-Germain in the semi finals on Wednesday night.
Having been played off the park by a nothing short of phenomenal PSG in the opening 45 minutes, Guardiola galvanised his side for the second half and they were able to stage a comeback of epic proportions, bagging two vital away goals and turning the tie on its head.
Considering how good PSG were in the first half, it makes City’s second half performance more remarkable.